Camp Martin Johnson and Bluegill Lake

Not a hoot and an easten holler from Big Bass Lake was Bluegill Lake. What many people may not know is that Camp Martin Johnson was also involved in this lakefront. Within their camp they had a Bluegill Lane. In fact, their layout (pictured elsewhere on the BBL and Beyond- Under Category CMJ) included Big Bass Lake, Little Bass Lake, and Bluegill Lake!

I understand that some of their activities on Bluegill Lake included that of fishing. I don’t think many speedboats use that lake as opposed to Big Bass Lake which is filled to the brim with them.

Perhaps some former CMJ staff or kids will enlighten us as to what else they used Bluegill Lake for?

Dan Schultz: We used Blue Gill in several ways during my stay at CMJ. When I was a camper, waterskiing was on Blue Gill. Eventually, this moved to Big Bass Lake. I don’t remember anyone fishing.

The camp director’s house was on Blue Gill for a while as well. This house, named Broadway after camp director Jerry Broadway, eventually became a camper’s cabin. First, the older boys stayed there. In about 1971 or 1972, we moved the older girls from Four Winds Island to Broadway and sent the boys to Four Winds. The girls were getting harrassed and stalked out on the Island so we made the switch.

We also visited the cemetery that abutted Blue Gill at night to tell ghost stories to the kids. This activity did not endear us to the community. However, I guiltily admit that it was fun.

Fishing at Bluegill Lake

IMG_20170927_001326 whenever I fish at bluegill Lake, I row out to the middle of the lake and  dab my hook with peanut butter. Perch go for this more than bluegill do. After about two hours of fishing I have enough to make a good dinner. Bluegill Lake is just to the east of Big Bass Lake. One day I hope they make a channel between the two Lakes because they’re in such close proximity to each other.

Pine River Picnic

On the way to the Pine River we had an emergency stop near Bluegill Lake for Mark who had forgtten to go back at camp. Soon we were on our way again. once at the Pine River the kids started playing Frisbee Golf or hiking nearby trails. a couple of the boys helped me prepare lunch. that day we had cold belly wash, great hot dogs, potato salad, and hamburgers. a feast fit for princes.
after lunch we had a skipping stone contest, a wash the dishes contest using four buckets, a towel and wash cloth relay race, and roof ball over the restroom roof. Then it was time to return to camp for a swim. Before we left Mark gave that look again and I pointed him in the right direction.

A Martin Johnson Thought

Have you ever wondered what Martin Johnson thought of his camp after deeding it over to the Hyde Park Y? What was it like to fulfill a lifelong dream by hearing a lot of boys about to jump into Big Bass Lake for the very first time?

I can almost see Martin sitting on a log in front of his house with a warm satisfying smile as he took a few quick puffs on his pipe. And then many years later when his dream turned into a nightmare with the selling of his beloved camp with the treachery of the Hyde Park Y a gentle rain fell which were his tears from heaven.

And still today, if you really listen closely, the wind carries the laughter and joy of those many boys who experienced camping on the shores of Big and Little Bass Lake and Bluegill Lake as well. Camp Martin Johnson Forever!

Bluegill Lake Autumn by Jerry

I enjoy aweekend with a friend who has a cottage on Bluegill Lake. We have great beer, good conversation, several hours of fishing, and a good chess game each night.

This lake doesn’t get a whole lot of coverage but on my time up up from Royal Oak it’s like heaven on earth. I like taking a canoe out on the lake. Not for fishing but exercise. Bout time for lunch so I’d best be heading back. See ya!

Bluegill Lake

Bluegill Lake is another reason why Camp Martin Johnson should NOT have been sold. The camp owned nearly 70% of the land around the lake and this should have been sold off to perpetuate the existence of the summer camp. Sure, the camp once held water skiing here but Big Bass Lake could also have accommodated that or even Little Bass Lake.

Bluegill Lake, at the time, was largely underdeveloped and many home sites could have been purchased to keep the camp going strong, Yes, the camp would have lost some major acreage but it still had plenty left to make the camp more than viable.

Today, perhaps a channel could be constructed between Big Bass Lake and Bluegill Lake such as the one that exists between Big and Little Bass Lake. Even the five Sauble Lakes have channels between each of them. I think that a link between Big Bass Lake and Bluegill Lake would only enhance the latter. They are in very close proximity one to the other. Thoughts on this idea?

Remembering Camp Martin Johnson

The camp had a great sailing program and took the kids through all phases of sailing. The water front was always filled with many activities. Chief among them was swimming. They also had water skiing, canoes, rowboats, and swimming classes. The kids had a blast at camp. Natalie Cole and Bryant Gumbal attended camp at Big Bass Lake. Their property extended to both Little Bass Lake and Bluegill Lake. They also owned Four Winds Island and built seven buildings there which still exist to this day.The only thing I don’t miss about camp was that bugle blowing at 6 AM. It was only a recording too!

“Camp” Bluegill

Camp Martin Johnson use Bluegill Lake for water skiing for some time before switching to Big Bass Lake. The camp directors house was located on Bluegill Lake. The camp not only used Bluegill Lake but also big and little Bass Lake. It took heads from the YMCA in Chicago to the property once owned by Martin Johnson. And Bluegill Lake figured prominently in all the camps activities.

The Selling of Camp Martin Johnson- Part One

I have been asking many questions of late about why Camp Martin Johnson was sold. In 1976 the camp celebrated its 50 anniversary and things were going quite well at that time with up to 500 campers attending CMJ and then a scant four years later it was being sold. The Hyde Park YMCA came up with these reasons:

(1) Dwindling Enrollment: That reason I find hard to fanthom giving what was said a mere four years earlier.

(2) Financial Problems: Funds for transporting the kids 350 miles to camp but that always existed. They also cited stiff and rising real estate taxes as well as strict Michigan Building Codes. Yet these all existed in previous years too.

(3) Too expensive to Operate. A slight raise in fees would have solved that problem.

Four years earlier NONE of these were mentioned as problems. Mike Reynolds has informed me that schools in Ludington and Scottville often rented the camp for various purposes in the off season and that was additional income. The Hyde Park YMCA also gave an alternative option of using Pinewood Camp also in the area but would not that camp have the same financial problems? The real culprit in all this was the Chicago Metropolitan YMCA which had the final say on CMJ.

Initially, in 1926 the camp was sold by Martin Johnson himself for the fee of $9,000 of which he was to receive a 6% annual anuity of about $545. Johnson’s lawyer urged him to sell the camp to the YMCA for $50,000. But Johnson had a God inspired vision for his property to be used by boys and girls for camping. He was also to retain his personal house to live in at the camp.

If the camp was in financial problems why not sell some of the land off of Bluegill Lake or even Little Bass Lake to pay for the taxes and upkeep while retaining the main camp area around Big Bass Lake?

I would also be interested to learn about the will of Martin Johnson and if it allowed selling the camp for any reason. In Part Two tomorrow morning I have even more questins to purpose about the selling of this camp. Presently this seems to be the only website that is active about the camp. Former campers can send pictures to my email address page on the menu.

Which Lake has the Best Fishing?

This is Seaman Lake Where leisure time resort is found. A question. Which area lake has the best fishing? Is it Big bass lake, Little Bass lake, Sauble lake, Seaman Lake, Alice Lake, Harper lake, Loon lake, Heart Lake, Bluegill lake, or Wolf lake? Which one has the best fishing and let us know why by way of a comment.


Apparently three Camp Martin Johnson campers abandon their fishing poles at Bluegill Lake for lunch. What happens if they get a bite? I suppose it comes down to a manner of the word bite. Is one bite more important than the 100 bites at lunch? The truly ones thankful for this option are the worms which are kept dangling in anticipation of the final result.

Big Bass, Loon, and Bluegill Lake

I’ve often wondered why there was never an attempt made to construct a channel between Big Bass Lake and Blue Gill Lake just to its East?  The difference between the two lakes is not that great and it would make for a great addition to both lakes.

Loon Lake is just to the South of Big Bass Lake and was once home to a roller rink on the western shore of that lake.  With all the tourism in this area one would think that a new roller rink would be a great attraction in this area.  Maybe even greater with Big Bass Lake as its host? 

Maybe the movers and shakers around Big Bass Lake will consider that channel between Big Bass and Bluegill Lakes?  It might then rival the Sauble Lakes chains within their four channels.  Just a thought!