Do you love big bluegill?
Lisa and I fish from one of our canoes every chance we get. I have been in and out of these versatile boats all my life. The first major purchase I ever made with money earned mowing lawns, doing odd jobs for neighbors and helping out in my Granddaddy’s cabinetry shop was an old Grumman aluminum canoe. It was a great boat and as far as I know, is still being used by whoever I sold it to, or whoever they did. It is exactly what you should expect from the company that built the F-14 Tomcat and the Apollo Lunar Module. Over these many years of crawling in and out of canoes with paddles, PFDs, tackle boxes and lunch coolers, I have learned a few things about the gear that I think works best. I’ll share what I have learned; you tell me what you know. Good trade?
I was told once that an expert is a “former drip under pressure”. I claim no ownership of the title. We learn from our mistakes. Let’s just say that over the years I have learned A LOT and leave it at that. I am putting this out there simply to stimulate an interesting discussion and hopefully pick up some new information that might keep me from painfully learning it on my own.
PADDLES: As far as paddles go, unless you are competing in an Olympic event or are looking for high performance… whatever bargain you can find will be sufficient. I have used long-bladed beavertail and Voyager designs in Canada as well as short and wide blades (in my younger, dumber years) for white-water. For the canoe angler who is focused on catching fish rather than making miles or running the rapids, a quality paddle of the right length and with a square bottomed blade will work fine. Since we are not trekking the Boundary Waters, weight is of little significance. Wood, aluminum and plastic or whatever is fine. I will add this tidbit though, even on short jaunts to farm ponds or small lakes I always carry two paddles for myself. One is the right length for paddling in order to get somewhere (armpit to floor while standing up straight) and the other is a very short paddle used to maneuver while fishing. This one I can use one-handed if needed. Of course Lisa has her favorite paddle and the third acts as a spare in case of a mishap.
PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices): The first thing to say about these is; HAVE THEM and WEAR THEM! I have had the tragic duty to work many drowning incidents. I have never responded to a fatality water incident where the victim was wearing a PFD, never. I wish there was as much money spent on PFD awareness as there is on seatbelts, they are just as important. Get one that fits you and be sure it is rated for your TRUE body weight. Most of mine have mesh on the upper part of the vest to make them more comfortable and pockets on the lower to make them handier. “Nuff said?
TACKLE BOXES: I am a klutz. I wish I wasn’t, but the truth is I can stumble while standing still. Due to this I have to have a tackle box that is as “dump-proof” as possible. The snazzy boxes with drawers that accordion out and leave every piece of tackle exposed and susceptible to being dumped out are a no-go for me. Even the two sided ones I can manage to spill everywhere when I forget to get the latch done up and flip it over. I use a soft-sided tackle bag with multiple small boxes. Each box will hold six to twelve lures depending on their size or a good handful of jig heads and whatever goes on them. This way, when I spill a box, I can gather it all up pretty quick. Besides, when I am running a river or a creek and want to scout ahead on foot or work an area from shore I don’t have to carry the whole bag. The boxes are arranged with different styles of tackle in each. I pick out what I might use and stick them in my pants pocket or the cargo pockets on my PFD and set out. On a shelf in my rod and reel room (everyone has one of those, right?) I have thirty or forty of the smaller size boxes loaded with tackle and labeled. Thinking about where I am going to go, I select boxes equipped with what I might want to use and swap out what was in the bag from last trip.
RODS/REELS: I am at heart a Panfisherman, more specifically a Bluegill fisherman so light or ultra-light gear is my game. Wanting to go light weight generally means spinning tackle. I like a rod of no more than five and a half feet long and two-piece. The short rod stays completely in the boat when brushing (or bashing) against the bank in swift currents and two pieces allows me to break the rod down for transport over portages or other four-wheel-drive type situations. I have made rod tubes with a short loop of bungee cord on the end to slide the broken down rod into. Stretch the loop over the reel and it stays in while dragging or chasing, the boat.
I enjoy fishing level-wind/bait casting gear as well. I have specific rod and reel combos I use in my canoe in this category. Again, all the rods are five and a half feet or shorter, as light in action as I can find and generally two piece designs for all the reasons listed for spinning tackle. I have several small and bantam weight bait casting reels I use specifically in my canoes. I have lots of other rods and reels, but all the ones I use in the canoe fit a similar mold.
COOLERS: In my experience it is better to have two smaller coolers rather than one large one. It helps with balancing out the weight on longer trips and you don’t have to interrupt fishing to toss your partner a drink or a bologna sandwich… and vise versa. This is also handy if you don’t like your lunch mixed with your bait, just saying. The convenience store cheapo styrofoam type will work, once. I recommend splurging a little or watch for a sale at Wally World and get two coolers that fit long ways either just in front or behind you as you paddle/fish. That way you can reach them. Lash them in place with a short length of cord.
These are a few things I have learned from my trials and errors over the years. There are lots of other things we can discuss like, what equipment to carry in a waterproof bag on longer trips/floats (first-aid, emergency gear), what to bring and how to pack for overnight floats, what shape/size/hull design makes for the best all around fishing canoe.
Catching fish from a canoe just seems more personal to me… closer to the water, closer to the fish. Canoes are just plain cool and they make fishing just that much more fun. I haven’t checked to see if there is already a canoe fishing group on the site yet, but it might be a cool idea.
What are your thoughts on gear for canoe fishing?
I'm actually a kayaker, but I've been thinking about getting a canoe, just so I can take my kids out as well.
I have some pretty interesting stuff for my kayak. I've made and installed an anchor trolley. This allows me to use one of four different methods to secure my position in the water, and the ability to run the connection point up to the bow or the stern, to allow me to face a certain direction. I can connect an anchor, a brush hook, a drift sock, or a stake-out-stick to my anchor trolley. Of course, the drift sock doesn't hold my position, but it does allow me to slow down my drift.
I've got a depth-finder installed. I don't always see fish, but it gives me water depth, bottom type, and water temp.
Keith,several years ago I found a Coleman Scanoe and added it to my flotilla. I use it in the summertime on our local river at the Crappy Cabin when the river level gets to low for a john boat. It's made out of RAM-X plastic , it's a flatback and can handle a 5 hp motor, I have a 3 hp but prefer to use a troll motor because of twisting the handle instead of pulling a rope. Now I'm in the process of wiring the canoe to move the battery forward to help in weight distribution, sometimes I go by myself and I need weight in the front, not only do I fish out of it I also use it to get me through the dead water to get to the shoals where we anchor it out and do a lot of wade fishing for the fat smallmouth in the river. We never go over 10 miles in a trip but we still try to go as light as possible. Here is a photo of my buddy from Oklahoma that come to fish the river with me. Catch me on the water. LOFR
try looking on riverbassin.com those guys over there really trick out the old town guide canoes. If I were not such a round boy I would have one.
Very nice, Keith. Thanks for taking the time to share all this with us.
1. On paddles, I prefer one that is inherently buoyant. I've never tinkered around with long, double enders but some people swear by them. They fling a little less water, perhaps....
2. For PFD's I like the new micro light ones. They wear like almost nothing.
3. Gimme a seat with a back rest. That is a must.
4. A fishing vest is also a must. Here I'm referring to the ones with a bunch of pockets. The more mesh in the construction the better. These will let you keep all the sundry tools and doohickeys which fishermen invariably need close at hand. There are some PFD's now that are a hybrid, and the include the appointments of the fishing vest.
5. For coolers in a canoe, I prefer the soft-siders. With freeze packs or water frozen in soda pop bottles as "ice", they can squeeze in pretty well. I just try keep in mind that they are coolers and not freezers, then plan accordingly.
6. I also like everything stowed. Neatly. And near to hand.
This can present some challenges in a canoe, as there is only so much room around your seated position. You basically have to create a "cockpit" arrangement, with everything in reach but secured. Keeping everything in segmented boxes is a great idea and facilitates this. Some monkey hammocks and rod holders would be a minimum for me, were I back in a canoe as my main gig. Keeping rods short make's a difference, too, as you note.
7. The one other piece of gear I am keen to get next is a pair of waterproof surf boots. Not dive booties but shin-high neoprene boots, soft footwear with actual soles. These are used buy surfers and shore anglers. They are soft and keep sand completely out, but they offer protection for your feet. There are two things I don't like:
a. Having my feet wet and exposed in a small boat.
b. low top shoes when pursuing activities out of doors.
Didn't mean to start a discussion and then bail on it! I have been awful busy the last week or so.
I appreciate all the posted comments and the information provided. LOFR posted a photo of his canoe, those of you with rigs... let's see your set-ups!
I have had a book titled "Building the Six Hour Canoe" for a long time. It is a stich and glue type plywood boat. I have always wanted to try it out. Might make a good project. It has variations for decking it and doing a flat back version as well.
I have two canoes. An Old Town Discovery that is about 14 feet. It is a good, wide, boat with a keel. It has a center seat and when I ordered it, I got the rowing packeage with it. It works great when Lisa nad I take turns "guiding" each other. I also have another that is a Mohawk I think... its 16 feet, fairly narrow and with a smooth bottom. Its perfect for slipping down small creeks. It "oil-cans" so the initial stability is good.
Those of you who have expressed intrest in buying a canoe should do some thinking about what you want to do in it. This will greatly inform your decision on make and model. That... and how much money you can spend. Canoes are like anything else, you get what you pay for... BUT having a cheap canoe with a few quirks is better than no canoe at all!
So... show us some pics of your decked out canoes either in the yard or in action.
I have a 17 ft.Grumman I bought in 1968.I use it quite a bit.I now have it 2 trolling motors(1 fore and
1aft)2 sponsons for stability(bought from Clear Creek in Minn.)and I have a bass seat mounted on
front seat.My buddies named the craft "drown your ass quick".I am 78 and used this craft last week.
I'm trying to figure out a better way to haul my canoes. I used to have a pretty decent canoe trailer but it was always a hassel trying to get it into some of the places I like to fish. I also used to have an eight foot utility trailer with a rack on it... again a hassel to haul into backcountry type spots. Lisa's little SUV has a rack on top and that works OK for day trips to places with decent road access. For longer trips we like to take my full-size, 4X4 pick-up with the full size bed. I usually just put the canoe on top of the bed and tie it down. I get concerned about of stable it is on long, highway speed, trips.
What type of racks or set-ups do you guys have? Photos would be good.
Three days ago, I went on a kayak float with a bunch of other gents from my area. I had my yak strapped into the bed of the pickup, just two straps, traveling at 75 mph. I didn't have any problems, except when I hit a bump and the yak shifted just a bit.
I load my yak backwards, stern-first. I place the first strap in the tie-down points at the front of the bed, running the strap over the stern of my boat, but under the line attached to the carry handle. Once that is tightened down, the stern is secured from sliding left or right, as well as backwards. I do the next strap by hooking the hook for the strap on one of the hook attachments for chains on the hitch receiver, run the strap up between the tailgate and truck bed, through the carry handle amidships, starboard side on my yak, over the yak, through the second carry handle on the port side, and down between the tailgate and truck bed. I hook the ratchet to the other chain attachment on the hitch receiver, thread the strap through the ratchet, and cinch it down.
That works, but......
My boat tends to shift a bit left or right when I'm driving and hit a good bump, which happens often, as the roads in OK suck Vulture Butt.
I just bought new straps this past weekend. I might start running two straps up from the receiver, pass each one through the carry handle on that side, cross them over the top of the yak, and secure each strap to a ratchet on the tie-down on the opposite side of the of the back of the truck bed, thus ending the "shifting" problem.
If this doesn't make sense, let me know. I'll load the yak up, and either take some pics or shoot a quick video of it.
I thought I might bump this up and see what other info we might get from folks. There is already some good tips attached.
Well, since my last post:
The "new" way of strapping my kayak into the bed of my wife's truck worked like a charm. Rock Solid! No shifting, unless the straps were loose.
Unfortunately, about a month ago, my wife decided to trade her truck in and get a SUV. For now, I am currently without transportation of my kayak. It's to heavy for me to mount on top of my van by myself.
So, now I need to get a hitch mounted on my van, and get a small trailer to transport my yak with.
Well Allen... can you stuff it in the back of the van and flag the back end? Have you hit Pretty Water or Sahoma lately?
Keith, I've got so much fishing stuff in my van, I'd probably break a pole or two doing that, or loose some stuff out the back hatch as I'm driving. We have thought about doing that with her SUV, but she insists that I use a tarp or something to cover her seats. Honestly, I think the hitch and trailer idea is probably my best bet.
I haven't hit Pretty Water with my kayak since November or December last year. I have hit it from the bank and/or the floating platforms several times. I have hit Sahoma several times, also from the bank and/or floating platforms. The western-most platform has been extended out into the water some, supposedly the very edge of the platform is now over the channel drop-off.
Crappie are moving shallow in Sahoma. I've seen Bluegill holding underneath the crappie dock. I've even seen a bass holding under the dock, just in the tangle of brush at the top of the brush pile.