Monday, April 22, 2013
If you’ve enjoyed fishing all your life, you’ve got a great opportunity to say thanks and help preserve that way of life for the next generation. And if you’re just getting started, why not begin the right way, with respect for the water, your catch, and the young anglers who will follow in your wake.
Catch & Release
This should be pretty obvious, but recreational fishing can get out of balance in a hurry if everybody only practices Catch & Take. Not to say that there’s anything at all wrong with catching your supper, but be reasonable and let the rest keep swimming until the next time.
Structure or artificial reefs can have an unbelievable impact on fishing stocks. They provide a habitat for fish, crustaceans and shellfish where none existed before. Most states have reef program, so make sure yours is active and see how you can participate. Check this out: An artificial reef the size of an automobile can produce thousands of pounds of fish over five years.
Champion Water Quality
Remember that everything that goes into the ground has the potential to reach a waterway. To reduce the need for cleaning products, always wash your boat down with fresh water after every use. And when you do need to clean your boat, choose non-toxic options where available. Also, some lawn fertilizers can cause troublesome algae blooms, which can seriously damage fisheries. Always opt for low-phosphorous fertilizers to avoid those problems.
With government agencies and waterfront communities limiting water access for ordinary anglers and boaters, you need to be vigilant about defending your rights and speaking up. Make yourself known at neighborhood, city, county and state meetings. Sometimes a well-informed and persistent of anglers with a simple message of access is all that stands between a new gated community or a non-water-dependent development and the preservation of your local boat ramp.
Inspire Young Anglers
The earlier you teach a child about the joys of fishing, the sooner you’ll instill a lifelong desire to conserve and protect fisheries and become thoughtful stewards of the great outdoors. Just lead by example and you’ll be amazed at how your lessons take hold and inspire the next generation to preserve the future of fishing.
For more Fishing Tips visit Discover Boating..
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Which came first, the angler who liked to ski, or the skier who liked to fish? Whatever the answer, ever since that combination came about, there have been boat builders who have been trying to find the perfect balance of features to satisfy both desires. The result the popular hybrid boat style, appropriately called a Fish & Ski. Available in either fiberglass or aluminum, the key in finding the right boat for you is to decide which will be your primary activity.
If you’re an avid angler, you want to look for wide casting platforms with comfortable pedestal seats that can be stowed away when not in use. At least one good-sized livewell and perhaps even a baitwell, are must-haves, and you’ll get plenty of use out of lockable rod storage. Outboard-powered Fish & Ski models definitely need an elevated ski tow eye to keep the ski rope up off the motor. Also, look for an oversided in-floor locker to store kneeboards, life jackets and other watersports gear.
Most Fish & Ski boats will feature a full, wrap-around windshield so make sure your line of sight is below the windshield header. Flip-up seat bolsters and adjustable seats, along with a tilt steering wheel will also come in handy. Since this is a multi-purpose boat by its very nature, you should be able to do a little entertaining and cruising as well, so look for boats that offer good seating options as well as cupholders and perhaps a built-in cooler.
Styling & Storage
This is a pretty subjective category, but as far as styling goes, you should lean toward the main purpose of the boat — anglers will probably want high-gloss paint and themed graphics, while skiers will be looking for a mono-colored hull with accent colors. Storage should feature easy-to-open hardware on hatches, access doors wide enough for your biggest gear, and dedicated-purpose, built-in areas for tackle or watertight boxes for electronics gear.
If you plan on doing a lot of skiing, think about upgrading the outboard motor to 150-horsepower and up. No one has ever been out on the water with a boat full of kids and gear and thought: “I’ve got too much power.” Look for a well-balanced boat that doesn’t give you too much bowrise when you’re trying to get a skier out of the water. Top speed on these boats will be about 40-50 mph. Although Fish & Ski models may sometimes look like a bass boat, their DNA more closely resembles a bowrider with a deadrise of 18-21 degrees. Look for boats that turn smoothly and track well for the best watersports performance. Although you’ll probably want a boat with a trolling motor on the bow, you want to balance that with extra freeboard toward the front to help you operate safely in rough water.
*photo provided by Polar Kraft boat
Monday, March 25, 2013
When searching for the perfect offshore fishing boat, you need to focus on models that give you plenty of room for fighting your catch, while providing easy access to all of your angling gear and safety equipment. And if you’re going to be heading offshore, sooner or later you’re going to run into rough water — and that’s the time you be glad you made the boat’s seaworthiness a primary factor in your purchase decision. Obviously you’ll see a direct correlation between cost and overall length, so remember that you might be better off making sure you’ve got all the fishing features you will need as opposed to maximizing the size.
Look for an uncluttered cockpit that provides maximum fishing space. You will appreciated padded thigh-high gunwales and toe rails for safety when things get rough. Clever use of space will result in convenient seats for your guests while running that fold out of the way when it’s fishing time. If you will be trolling, you must include “comfortable helm station” on your must-have list since that’s where the skipper will be spending most his time.
If you’ll be fishing for species that go for live bait, it can’t be emphasized strongly enough how much you’ll be depending on your one (if not two) high-capacity, recirculating livewells. There’s no running back to the dock if you’re out in the open water, so make sure you bait lasts as long as you do. A large rigging station will also make your time on the water much easier — look for an oversized cutting board and dedicated, easy-access spaces for all your knives, pliers and lures. If you’ll be trolling, you absolutely must have outriggers and downriggers to maximize your chances for success. If the boat builder you’re considering doesn’t offer downriggers as an option, make sure the boat is pre-drilled to accept them. Dedicated “cradles” for downrigger weights is also a great idea.
Most offshore boats have built-in rod storage in the gunwales, along with several in the stern, and “rocket launchers” above the T-Top. Make sure everything is easy to reach, and the gear will not be in your way when stowed. Never hurts to have a couple of locking panels to secure your rods temporarily if you need to leave the boat at the dock. And when you land your prize catch, make sure you’ve got large, insulated fish boxes with macerators and overboard drains.
If you’re like most offshore anglers, you’ll likely be running as fast as conditions allow when you’re cruising the waters looking for fish. Many fishing boats have no problem cruising at 50 mph. If you’ll be fast-trolling for certain species, you will want a boat that doesn’t slog at pre-planing speeds. And here’s something else you will appreciate on those long, hot days on the water: Find a boat that “tracks” well, meaning it won’t need constant course correction. Since you’ll be running hard most of the time, nimble handling is a must for quickly avoiding random debris you’ll inevitably come across. Remember that you may be in rough conditions more often that you’ll be in flat calm seas. When you conduct sea trials, make sure you try a variety of conditions to make sure you’ll have an acceptably comfortable and stable ride.
For more fishing information, discover our activuty pages.
Image courtesy of Hatteras Yachts
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
If you are an angler living up north, you’ve probably spent the long winter ice fishing with your buddies. Nothing like the experience of cooking up a hearty meals and waiting to feel that tug on your jigging stick that indicates you’ll be pulling up a bass, pickerel, perch or pike.
However, as much fun as this is, we all look forward to ice out. It’s a new season filled with phenomenal fishing on lakes, ponds, reservoirs and rivers. Life is rejuvenated; a million species are moving, waking up and coming out in the warming landscape.
In addition to seeing all the organisms in the water start doing their thing one of the best things to do while fishing is to watch the migrating waterfowl, eagles, hawks, osprey, cormorants and loons. These birds are not only beautiful to watch, but play a role in locating baitfish. Of course, the electronic savvy angler really doesn’t need the birds, but you should still tune in to them for the information they are relaying. As good as your sonar is, it doesn’t swoop down to the water and fly away with lunch.
Spring turnover happens to be an awesome time for reeling in those fish. The fresh oxygen filled water brings most species of fish up and about like our first cup of coffee gets us moving.
Largemouth bass tend to hang back a little more — enjoying their winter retreat — compared to smallmouth, trout and pan fish. So if you’re only targeting largemouth, remember that they can be located in a number of different areas, making it a bit longer between fish. They could be in staging areas outside flats. Just like the rest of the year, they will always relate to cover — obviously weed lines have died but you can usually find a mound, some weeds that didn’t rot and float away, stumps, rocks, old tires etc.
Sometimes the winter ice has moved things around, changing an underwater stump or log location, which only adds to the fun of locating new spots. You’ll have the best luck with jerk baits (hard and soft) and stick baits. Fish using slow, erratic, pauses, twitches to trigger strikes while retrieving the bait.
A slow-rolling spinnerbait is also a pretty good bet when you’ve got a good assortment of hard structure. It’s not just the slow roll, but the pause and drop when it really starts working. Although you’ve probably read that smallmouth bass are supposed to be a bit lethargic at ice out, but something about a flashy spinner that really gets them going. On warmer days with sun, you should be able to tear it up on the flats. Once you get a few days of good sun, and the water temps edge up closer to 60 degrees, the bass are definitely heading shallow — from there it’s on!
Article and photos courtesy of New England fishing legend Dan Kenney (www.gofishdan.com)
For more fishing articles visit Discover Boating.
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
Tips For Boating In Shallow Water
One of the best bits of boating advice I’ve ever heard was from a crusty old fishing guide as we headed out of a marina near Key West, Florida. As we carefully navigated through the notoriously shallow waters, he pointed to a group of birds walking in the water only a few yards away from the tiny channel we were passing through. He said, “Never assume the birds have long legs.”
While you should always be aware of your surroundings when you’re at the helm, you should be on full alert whenever you’re entering an area with shallow or “skinny” water. Whether it’s an area that’s filled with boat-crunching coral like Key West or a muddy tributary to the Mississippi River, a cavalier attitude can get you grounded, stuck or worse. But with a little common sense and the following tips, you can boldly cruise skinny water with confidence.
Although boat electronics were once priced out of the reach of many average boaters, today there are lots of reasonably priced devices out there to help in shallow-water situations. For most folks, it will be a depth finder. But if your conditions are extreme, it makes sense to consult a chart…either electronic or paper. They contain valuable information called “soundings” that show the depths of any particular area you may be traveling. What you’re really looking for are the areas where the water suddenly gets shallower. Steer clear of those areas.
By all means, know your boat’s draft. That’s a number, normally measured in inches, that tells you how much of your boat is underwater, from the lowest part of your boat up to the waterline. The easiest (and most accurate) way to get this information is from your owner’s manual or the boat manufacturer’s website. In a pinch, you can estimate this number by dividing the overall length (measured from bow to stern at the waterline) by two. Keep in mind that unless you’ve got a jet drive, you’ll also have a spinning prop or two at about that depth, so always trim up when things start to get shallow.
This is where those high-tech polarized sunglasses really earn their keep. As you’re underway, you’ll be able to see a variety of different colors under the water. Look for drastic changes in color, and always be aware that darker usually means deeper. Some parts of the country have little jingles to help you remember such as: Brown, brown, run aground. White, white you just might. Green, green, nice and clean. Blue, blue, sail on through.
Even if you got through some skinny water yesterday without incident, you always need to check the tide schedule before trying it again. Many coastal areas deal with a significant tidal change of up to several feet, making low tide extremely treacherous when you’re shoving off. Worse still, you could snake your way to some great flats fishing, then find yourself stranded for hours until the tide comes back in. Don’t let this happen to you!
Unless you’re cruising on a pontoon, more than likely your boat has what’s called a “planing hull.” That means it will sit lower in the water until you reach an “on-plane” speed, which is different for every boat. Once on plane, your boat will lift and rise up out of the water, giving you a little more shallow-water clearance from the bottom. The problem is, if you’re running at planing speed and suddenly come up on a shallow area, your reaction will likely be to pull the throttle back completely. That can run you aground (as the boat drops off plane) or worse. Just run slowly and stay off plane if there’s a chance of shallow water. Better to bump something and be able to back off gently than run aground hard and risk damage to you, your passengers or your boat.
For more boating tips visit DiscoverBoating.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
If you live (and fish) near the coast, you always have to be aware of (and plan around) the ebb and flow of tides. And what can make your fishing expedition even more challenging is that tides don’t just make the water go up and down, they actually change the feeding habits of the fish and, more importantly, the areas where you’ll find them.
So, instead of the “hot spots” or “honey holes” your inland anglers may know like the back of their hand after countless hours of “research,” coastal fisherman have an additional factor to consider — they have to anticipate where the fish will be on a rolling 6-hour schedule of water moving up and down. Not to say one is harder than the other, but that in either case, you’d better know what you’re doing or you will wind up doing more fishing than catching.
GET A TIDE CHART
Back in the day, you would get a tide chart as a placemat under your plate at any early-morning breakfast place anywhere near a coastal launch ramp or marina. Now, you’re likely better served with a smartphone app with an up-to-the-minute calculation of your exact area’s daily tide schedule. The iPhone app Tide Graph is pretty solid, although not recommended as a navigational aid. You could also just go straight to the source and head to the NOAA tidal website. There are, of course, four tides over any given 24-hour period (two highs and two lows), and what you are looking for is a graph-style chart with a wavy line showing highs at the top of the curve and lows at the bottom. Your best shot at the fish will be right in the middle between high tide and low tide.
GET ON THE BAIT
Much like the quote widely (and erroneously) attributed to Willie Sutton — “I rob banks because that’s where the money is.” — you need to find the buffet where your fish species likes to dine. That means tracking down the areas where smaller fish and crustaceans will be pushed along with the incoming or outgoing water. Willie knew where the money was, and your predator fish will know where they can get breakfast. Likely spots for this will be creek or river inlets or where the flow of the water is at an angle, hitting a peninsula or sandbar. This is where “flats” fisherman find their happy place, especially as an incoming tide covers up previously exposed areas.
GO WITH THE FLOW
As the tide starts to ebb, the smaller fish that had been washed up into the flats have to head to deeper water or risk getting stranded high and dry on land. That’s when you start looking for a deep channel right next to the flats. It’s usually right where the wettest area is, because that’s where the last water was. As the water continues to drop, you should be able to see where and how the outflow is moving. If you can see it, so can your target species. Make sure you’re securely anchored and start casting upstream, so your bait can enjoy the ride down into the waiting chompers of the predator fish that will be facing the current. Catch fish. Celebrate. Repeat.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
If you’re searching for the perfect family boat, you may have run across a question that lots of folks have asked — what’s the difference between a deck boat and a bowrider? While both are great options for dayboating, each has its own strengths, so the best way to compare is to put them side-by-side and see what’s best for your family’s needs.
The first thing you’ll notice when comparing bowriders and deck boats is that they look a little different. But, other than the shape of the hull and forward deck, you can find similar styling options such as hull graphics and gel coat colors that range from wild to mild, depending on your personal tastes. As you are searching for your new boat, you’ll likely discover that certain manufacturers design boats that seem to match your family’s personality.
Because of the different hull shapes, bowriders and deck boats will tend to handle in a different way. Again, this is a personal preference. While deck boats will have flatter bottom and a little less bowrise (the lifting of the front of the boat when accelerating), bowriders will have some type of V-hull, which comes to a point in the front and generally turns more sharply, particularly at higher speeds.
If you’re shopping for a family boat, chances are at least someone you’ll be bringing along on the water will want to participate in some type of watersport. That can be anything from swimming to wakeboarding to tubing. Most deck boats and bowriders will have some type of “tow eye” at the back of the boat that’s bolted into the deck for you to secure a towrope. Many also give you the option of adding a tower or other type of elevated point of attachment point for the rope. Be sure to check out those features, along with the size and ease-of-use of the rear deck/swim platform.
You will usually have more seating and storage aboard a deck boat, compared to a bowrider of the same size. This is because the beam (width) of a deck boat is carried further forward, rather than tapering off to a point like a typical bowrider. Some people, however, prefer the styling and handling advantages of a bowrider. That’s particularly true if you will usually be hitting the water with a smaller crew and don’t need the extra storage and legroom.
While both deck boats and bowriders are built strong to withstand a wide variety of water conditions, there are inherent differences. On flat calm water or even a light chop, there is very little difference in the feel of the ride. Since this will likely be the type of condition you’ll see most of the time on protected lakes and rivers, it may not be a big issue for you. But the flatter hull of the deck boat won’t be quite as effective as the V-hull of a bowrider at slicing through waves if the wind should kick up or if you’re on bigger water like a bay. On the other hand, the width and stability of a deck boat are points worth considering, particularly if you have young children on board.
Find Your Bowrider here
Find your Deck Boat here
Thursday, January 10, 2013
New Online Tools Help Consumers Navigate Boat Purchase With Confidence.
Whether you’re a newcomer to boating or you’re a veteran on the water, there’s something about boat show season that rekindles your excitement during the chillier months and keeps you hanging on until that spring thaw has you counting down until launch day.
It comes around every year about this time, from January through April or so, and draws you inside for a climate-controlled look at gleaming new gelcoat, sparkling aluminum and an expansive collection of accessories and gadgets you never knew you needed.
For some of us, our visit will be aspirational…a good way to start thinking about our next upgrade. For others, it’s bold new adventure in learning about the different brands, local dealers, and all the latest innovations that have been developed to improve boat handling, passenger safety, and pure enjoyment of the water.
The best place to start your boat show adventure is to visit Discover Boating’s handy online Boat Show Finder here. Using your zip code, this search tool allows you to narrow your search in a 200- to 50-mile radius. When it locates your show (or shows), you’ll get a convenient link to the website where you’ll find all the information you will need. The website includes everything from driving and parking directions to a complete, searchable database of brands and dealerships which will be exhibiting at the show.
Once you track down your local show, the fun can really start, particularly if you’re in the market for a new boat. That’s because it’s time to begin the “research” part of your journey. And the first place to start is the Discover Boating Boat Selector Tool that lets you narrow down the kind of boat that will be perfect for you and your family. You can choose from a range of category filters and adjust each one until you find your “dream boat.” Categories include Activities, Number of Passengers, Boat Length, Price Range, Propulsion, and even whether you’ll be trailering your boat or keeping it in the water or dry storage.
The great thing about the Boat Locator Tool is that your whole family can feel part of the process by contributing their own “wish list.” Maybe you love freshwater fishing, but your family is into watersports. Or maybe you have a need for speed and your wife has always dreamed about a cabin cruiser you can use for overnight trips. By mixing and matching everyone’s wants and needs, you may come across a type of boat you’ve never even heard about.
You can even find out about certified boat dealers, financing and insurance options, and warranty information all before you even walk through the door of the boat show. A little preparation leads to more confidence that you’re making a smart, well-informed decision that works for you and your family. And knowing that you’re armed with the latest information may just help you enjoy the boat show experience even more.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Follow these great tips to catch your limit in colder weather.
Some parts of the country have already stopped reading. That’s because there are some regions throughout the United States that have legitimate, all-season weather for fishing. Sure, they may have to struggle through a 48-degree evening once in a while, but they know they sun will come out tomorrow and the fish will get active again, looking for their next meal.
But the vast majority of anglers know what winter can bring. Snow, wind, freezing rain. And the fish seem to be just fine where they are, snuggled up all cozy. It’s as if they know they’ll likely expend more of their precious energy chasing your bait than they will gain IF they catch up to it.
Of course, if you have a winter-long hard freeze keeping your water covered with ice, you’re dealing with another sport altogether. But what can you do if you’re hot to get out on the water, but are reluctant to suffer the brutally cold weather with the thought of striking out? Not to worry, some of our fishing guide friends have offered to help you figure out the mystery of how to give your lure some allure when the thermometer takes a dive. Now, go get ‘em!
Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau
Even in the middle of winter, sunny days are best for these cold-water techniques. Anglers should concentrate on the sunny side of bridge pilings, bluff walls, boat docks or floating tire reefs. The sun seems strongest at approximately 2 p.m. — that’s when a slow day can suddenly turn into a feeding frenzy!
Bass are cold-blooded creatures, and their every action is dictated by water temperature. During cold-water periods, bass become more lethargic, requiring presentations to be natural and realistic. Many anglers will continue to utilize braided line in cold water. However, braided line will become limp in cold water. Remember that lethargic bass bites are very subtle, making them extremely difficult to detect, thus requiring the most sensitive line possible.
When flipping wood, riprap, or isolated pieces of cover in water depths of 10-12 feet, you want to use 20-25 lb. test line. You have to make sure you’re spooling line that gives you a feeling on soft bites, but has a strong-enough core so it’s forgiving when your jigs falls deep into the snarly areas where break-offs usually occur.
Targeting deep-water bass calls for finesse tactics and constantly monitoring your sonar for groups of baitfish. Cylinder-style, drop-shot weights are best for hard structure and rocky cover. Vary the weight size based upon depth, current and wind conditions. If you normally use 3/16 oz.-1/4 oz. cylinder weights, bump it up to 1/2 oz. in a strong wind. Also, if you find the bass are suspended off the bottom — say 3 feet to 8 feet — try extending your leader length and add a round weight for better control.
When fishing open water for largemouth bass in the winter months, set your
sights on ponds and lakes that are less than 8 feet deep. Fairly shallow
running jerk baits and shallow crank baits are my bait of choice. Expect fish to be schooled together. So, once you find one, make sure to spend a little time in the area, most likely there will be a few more.
I enjoy fishing for smallmouth bass in natural lakes when it’s below 50 degrees in the fall, through the spring after ice melt. Just like Burl Ives said, it’s all about “silver and gold.” Silver buddy bait (5/8 to 3/4) and any gold-plated colors tend to work best.
Your catch rate will go up tremendously if you put split rings on your hooks. Use smaller trebles because the small hooks give the bait more vibration. You don’t have to worry about losing the fish because they won’t put up much of a fight.
When casting, toss the bait underhand instead of overhand, and you’ll cut down on the bait getting tangled. When the bait hits bottom, put the rod in the 10 o’clock position and pick the bait up just until you feel it vibrate — don’t overwork it!
Photos Courtesy of Bill Decoteau/The Bass Bureau
Caption: Charlie Jutras holds a 6.8-lb. largemouth bass caught at a depth of 27 feet. Water temperature 45 degrees; air temperature 38 degrees.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
In the United States, we split the system into two areas. The Air Force coordinates all the search and rescues on land. The Coast Guard coordinates all the search and rescues on the water. The Coast Guard has a system they call SARs (search and rescue coordinators). This system helps the Coast Guard rescue boaters. Each Coast Guard station has their own area of responsibility. These areas depend on where in the United States they are. Coast Guard Active Duty and Auxiliary units also participate in Search and Rescue missions.
So where and how are these areas broken down?
The Coast Guard has about 17 districts. Alaska (District 17) is one district and it commands out of Juneau, the state capital. Hawaii is its own district. Then there's a couple of what they call Captain of the Port—one in Anchorage and the other in Juneau. They [Coast Guard] break it up that way to make it manageable.
The best thing a boater can do to assist a rescue is make sure everyone on board the boat is wearing their lifejackets. That's the best way to save lives if there's a problem on the water. For additional things, a boater needs to purchase a marine VHF radio and learn how to use it. That's real important. The second thing is to file a float plan with your local harbormaster or a friend. That way, people have an idea of:
• How many people are on board your boat
• Where you intend to travel
• When you plan on getting back.
G-d forbid someone needs to find you later, at least there’s a record of your trip. Last, but not least, recreational boaters should put an EPIRB (emergency position-indicating radio beacon) on board their boat.
Robin G. Coles is a passionate marine enthusiast and sailor who has interviewed countless industry experts as well as visited, interviewed personnel at, written about, and photographed hundreds of marine ports in the US and abroad. She is also an author, columnist in her local paper and owner of http://TheNauticalLifestyle.com. For more information on her book: Boating Secrets: 127 Top Tips to Help You Buy and/or Enjoy Your Boat, go to http://BoatingSecrets127TopTips.com.