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 have spent many hours in canoes in the Boundry Waters as well as more local river floats and some lake use. At one point I had a Pat Moore solo canoe and I sure wished I still had it. That is another story. I currently own a fishing yak but I just got it and have not yet had it on the water. I expect good things though. I did haul it home in the back of my shortbed S-10 pickup and it is a 13.5' yak. I just tied it in with rope and put a 40# bag of salt in the end of the yak closest to the cab to help counter balance it and I hauled it 70 miles on the interstate at 70mph and I couldn't tell it was back there but it sure looked funny with so much hanging out the back though. If I had strap hooks on the truck bed floor in both the front and back I think I could haul it just fine anywhere and at any reasonable speed just by 2 strap. One front and one back. I do agree with your equipment list for 2 occupants for normal day trips. Tripping in the Boundry Waters is another very detailed list. ..... I expect only day trips and a small cooler in the rear of the yak for frozen water bottles for drinking and cooling and maybe a sandwich or 2 keep me fat. Water is my main concern and some cloths that will protect me from the sun. Pants with zip off legs and long sleeve shirt and a hat with a long flap to cover my neck and ears and good sunglasses. Maybe gloves to protect the hands as well. A leash for the paddle and flyrod and tie in the fly box in case of a roll over. A pfd goes without saying and it will be worn. Quick drying shoes of some sort.
...cloths that will protect me from the sun. Pants with zip off legs and long sleeve shirt and a hat with a long flap to cover my neck and ears and good sunglasses. Maybe gloves to protect the hands as well. A leash for the paddle and flyrod and tie in the fly box in case of a roll over. A pfd goes without saying and it will be worn. Quick drying shoes of some sort....
The big float I did last year, which I posted about above, had one other thing happen that I didn't post about. I got a nice sunburn on my legs. I usually burn myself once, at the start of the season. No more. I got some cloths like Ray posted out. Polyester pants, cargo pockets, zip-off legs, polyester long-sleeved shirt with a breathable, vented back, and a wide brimmed hat (I'm wearing the hat in my avatar pic). I prefer sandals. Only problem with the sandals, is they're cheap, and don't usually last the entire season. Last year, my sandals blew out in either August or September, but by then, the stores had clearanced out off their summer-wear stuff. Luckily, is quickly got cool enough for waders. I just noticed that summer-wear has returned to the stores, and I've already picked up two pair of sandals for this coming season.
I fitted my canoe similarly to this old illustration in In-Fisherman magazine. It's a 14.5 48# Royalex (foam-vinyl hybrid) canoe powered by a 30# thrust minn Kota TM (only paddle in shallow weed-infested ponds). Previously fitted w/ Fishing buddy sonar, I upgraded this year to a portable Lowrance graph. I found the Sit-Backer folding seats the best cure for a sore back! I store my gear in vinyl roll-up top bag and prefer 2- piece rods,,,
Nice boat Townie.....Mad River makes a good boat. I like the weight of canoes much better than the fishing yaks like I bought.
A must for canoe haul-ins. Forget pneumatic tires--go w/ foam...
If you are paddling a tandum canoe solo the best way is to sit in the duo front seat and make the rear of the canoe the front. That only works in a symetrical boat. When done this way, only a small amount of weight in the front is required to balance the canoe. The best way is to paddle from near the center of the canoe depending on how it is loaded.
I keep the trolling motor battery just behind the front seat & off to right side per diagram. Requires extending TM power cable but makes for perfect balance in the canoe...