Fishing friends die in tragic drownings in Kagawong waters

David Adamczak, left, and Kyle Jokinen, right, perished in a tragic Saturday morning fishing incident near the mouth of the Kagawong River. The pair were avid anglers of Manitoulin’s waters.

KAGAWONG – The news that two young men—avid fishermen who were known throughout the area for their passion for the sport—perished tragically when their canoe capsized early Saturday morning near the mouth of the Kagawong River sent shockwaves across Manitoulin. Kyle Jokinen of Whitefish was just 31 and David Adamczak of Espanola, just 29.

In a Sunday press release, the Manitoulin Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported that at approximately 2:15 pm on Saturday, May 9, officers, with the assistance of the Billings Fire Department, responded to a report of a deceased person found floating near the shore of Mudge Bay near Old Mill Road in Kagawong where officers soon located a second body, also near the shore. Police investigation revealed that two men had been fishing when their canoe capsized; neither of the anglers had been wearing a life jacket.

The online reaction, especially from the fishing community, was swift with condolences and tributes pouring in.

Both young men were anglers in the Manitoulin Expositor Salmon Classic and Manitoulin Ice Showdown. A statement from the official Facebook page of both tournaments, Fish Manitoulin, reads: “It is with immense sadness that we have learned of the passing of two of the area’s finest fishermen, Dave Adamczak and Kyle Jokinen. The men died following a tragic accident while fishing in Kagawong. Both Dave and Kyle were Ice Showdown and Salmon Classic regulars. Kyle could often be found fishing rainbows on Manitowaning Bay during the ice fishing season. Rarely a week went by when Kyle did not catch a trophy fish. This past year Dave placed seventh in the Showdown and during the Salmon Classic was the net man for the winning salmon. Our thoughts go out to family and friends of Kyle Jokinen and Dave Adamczak.”

“I had the pleasure of weighing in Dave’s (seventh place) big pike during the Ice Showdown and hearing him tell his story to Bob Izumi on camera is something I will always remember,” Luke Wassegijig, co-organizer of the Ice Showdown and an avid angler, told The Expositor. “Kyle too was an active ice fisherman in Buzwah; the last time I saw him he was catching rainbows just before ice out. The fishing community lost two very passionate and experienced anglers and I know we will miss them competing at the Ice Showdown. My thoughts and prayers are with their friends and families; they will be deeply missed by the fishing community here on the Island.”

Outdoorsman Neil Debassige of M’Chigeeng, producer and host of Fuel the Fire TV, is grieving the loss of his friend, Mr. Adamczak, whom he met through a mutual fishing partner.

The Expositor spoke with Mr. Debassige, ironically just as he was editing an episode of Fuel the Fire TV that featured Mr. Adamczak highlighting his love of shore fishing. It was a mutual love of shore fishing, in fact, that brought Mr. Adamczak and Mr. Jokinen together.

“There’s anglers, there’s people who like fishing and then there’s another class of fisherperson that I think inspire the rest of us with their determination and commitment to the craft, and he was one of them,” Mr. Debassige said of his friend.

Mr. Debassige said it was not uncommon for him to arrive at the Providence Bay Marina at 5:30 am in the summer months, ready to meet a charter customer and finding Mr. Adamczak already on the beach, having been there for some time, casting for his latest trophy fish.

Like Mr. Debassige, Mr. Adamczak filmed a lot of his adventures and was often seen with a GoPro attached to his person. His fishing exploits can be seen on his YouTube channel SuperDaveAngler.

“It’s so sad because it seems so senseless to have happened,” Mr. Debassige added. “You try to find rhyme or reason but there is none.”

Manitoulin Ontario Provincial Police attended the scene of a Saturday tragedy that took the lives of two fishermen in Kagawong. photo by Lori Thompson

The television host said he had been speaking with Mr. Adamczak the day before the tragedy who had told him of their plans to take the canoe to reach the shore, which they had confirmed with local authorities would be a legal way to fish and respecting the closure of the Kagawong River.

“There’s a narrow window for certain species and right now rainbow and Atlantics (salmon) are plentiful for a short period of time,” Mr. Debassige explained. “Their desire is what forced them into the canoe, and all just to catch and release.”

Mr. Adamczak was the assistant director of care at the Espanola Regional Hospital and Health Centre’s long-term care facility and a front-line worker in the pandemic.

Mr. Debassige shared that Mr. Adamczak had had a tough week in his fight to keep our most vulnerable citizens free from COVID-19 and that he was looking forward to spending some time participating in his favourite pastime to free his mind from stress.

“The last thing that someone of his stature and personality would want is for people not to fish,” he said of Mr. Adamczak. “That would be the exact 100 percent opposite of what he would want.”

“It’s so sad for the families, their loved ones, the fishing community and all of Manitoulin,” Mr. Debassige added.

Mark Moxam of Moxy’s Bait and Tackle near Lively was a favourite stop for both men. Mr. Moxam said he would see Mr. Jokinen at least a couple of times a week at his bait shop which is located close to Mr. Jokinen’s home.

“He had a huge passion for fishing,” he said. “He was a friend of the store and a very good fisherman, always in a great mood and eager to be out on the water.”

The OPP reminds the public that most drownings happen unexpectedly when small boats capsize or someone falls overboard. Use of an approved lifejacket or PFD (personal flotation device) is well documented to dramatically increase one’s chance of surviving a boating incident.

The investigation is ongoing under the direction of the Office of the Chief Coroner and the Forensic Pathology Service (OCC-FPS).