|Smaller Boats Provide Bigger Opportunities for Sportsmen|
Size and weight of larger boats often prevent outdoor enthusiasts from accessing remote waters. One of these smaller, easily transportable craft may be just what you need to access areas others seldom visit.
Being on a lake, river or bay in a large boat while relaxing on a soft pedestal seat is certainly one of America’s favorite ways to enjoy fishing. But what about those small rivers, bayous, oxbows and backwaters that larger boats just can’t negotiate? Waters like these call for a small, lightweight craft that can maneuver in mere inches of water.
Trailering a large boat on a long trip can also tax one’s patience. Business trips or family vacations often carry outdoor enthusiasts to some of the best hunting and fishing areas in the country, but many times circumstances dictate we leave the big boat at home. If you fall into any of these situations, you may want to consider one of the following small crafts.
For years the pirogue (pronounced pe-row or pi-rog) could only be found in the swamps of Louisiana and other coastal marsh areas. Pirogues are pointed at both ends and have a flat bottom with a hard chine. They are usually 10-16 feet in length and are narrow with flared sides. A pirogue can carry one to three persons, depending on length and width.
Ron Chapman (pirogue.com) has been building fiberglass pirogues for fisherman and duck hunters for 29 years.
"For years the pirogue was used primarily for duck hunting, but in the last ten years we have been shipping our fiberglass pirogues all across the United States to fishermen. We sell pirogues to people who don’t want to trailer a boat around. Properly secured on top of the family sedan, you hardly know a pirogue is there," said Chapman.
Chapman said fishermen have realized the pirogue is excellent for getting across shallow water to good fishing areas.
"We are getting a lot of orders from fishermen who lash a pirogue inside their bass or other type boat. When they get to water too shallow or with too many obstacles for the larger boat, they launch the pirogue, fish the skinny, obstructed water and return to the mother boat. These little boats weigh in the 50-70pound range and are ideal for this type of ‘piggybacking’," said Chapman.
Because of their lightweight and streamlined construction, pirogues are excellent for car topping. Pirogues are ideal for crossing mud flats to get to duck blinds and prime fishing spots. They are not open water boats and can be a bit tipsy until one gets used to them, but they are hard to beat for accessing remote sheltered waters.
Car toppers are usually small, thin gauge aluminum Jon boats or V-bottom utility boats. Where the square-bowed Jon boat got its’ name is still debated. One theory is a man named Jon scaled down a Mississippi river flat boat and the locals began calling them Jon boats. It matters little where the name originated; the fact is this is arguably one of the most popular boat designs in this country. Small, aluminum Jon boats are relatively easy to car top. A 12-14 foot Jon boat capable of carrying two adults will weigh more than a pirogue or canoe, but they make up for the added weight in stability. The square stern and bow design wastes no space and the bow seat serves as a seat for a boat occupant or as a rest for a bow-mounted trolling motor.
Waterfowl hunters often favor Jon boats because they are easy to camouflage with native vegetation and their flat bottom offers a more stable shooting platform. Light, narrow Jon boats can be rowed, paddled or propelled by small gasoline or electric motors. They can negotiate water as shallow as five or six inches and offer more stability than canoes or pirogues.
Jon boats are more readily adaptable to adding clamp-on seats, canopies and other basic creature-comforts. When considering weight, stability and initial cost, a small aluminum Jon boat has a lot to offer.
For those fishing more open water but who still want a boat that can be carried on top of the family car or in the back of a pickup, the V-bottom utility may be the best choice. The sharper entry of the V-bottom will provide a smoother ride in choppy water than a Jon boat will. Most V-bottom utilities will weigh more than a Jon boat of comparable length, but these two to three-person boats can be found in 12-foot models weighing in the 120-130 pound range, about the maximum for most car-topping. While the V bottom has a better ride, it requires deeper water than the other boats mentioned.
When someone mentions a canoe, many people get a mental picture of someone riding down raging rapids and getting wet from head to toe. Some canoeists look for just this kind of action, but canoes are also excellent for fishing, photography and for getting to remote hunting areas.
Lonnie Carden, an authority on canoes, said it is important to match the canoe design to the purpose for which it will be used.
"When selecting a canoe that will be used primarily for fishing and hunting on lakes and slow moving rivers, I like a 14-17 foot flat-bottom or shallow-arch model with a mid-depth of at least 13 inches. This type canoe will provide the hunter and fisherman more stability and freedom of movement and can maneuver in four to six inches of water, depending on load," said Carden.
For those who plan to use a small outboard or trolling motor, the square stern canoe is an option. Although small motors can be mounted on most any canoe with a clamp-on side-mount, this is usually not as satisfactory as a transom mount. Square-stern canoes are considerably heavier than double-ended canoes and don’t paddle as well.
Modern canoes constructed of aluminum, fiberglass and Royalex in the 14-17 foot models are available in weights from 55-75 pounds. Carden recommended Royalex because of its lightweight and durability.
"I’ve seen Royalex canoes folded in half after hitting an obstruction and then returned to normal with very little hull distortion," said Carden.
Canoes offer the traveling outdoor enthusiasts access to remote areas via a light, easy to paddle craft. Canoeing is a safe sport as long as one uses common sense, learns the basics and doesn’t exceed their skill level. Anyone new to canoeing should take a canoeing course or read Introduction To Paddling by the American Canoe Association.
The folding boat has been popular with sportsmen and motor home enthusiasts for years because of its lightweight, portability and stability. Look close and you will see motor homes with what looks like a surfboard attached to the side. In all probability it is a Porta-Bote.
Porta-Bote (1-800-227-8882) has been manufacturing 8-14 foot folding boats for 30 years. They are manufactured from ¼ inch polypropylene, the same material in some bulletproof vests.
John Petralito has been using a 12-foot Porta-Bote powered by a 5 h.p. outboard for years.
"I’ve used my folding boat in all kind of water across this country. I’ve even been three miles out in the ocean trolling on a calm day. I tried the inflatables, car top skiffs and kayaks, but the folding boat works best for me," said Petralito.
Petralito can unload his boat, assemble it and be underway in 10-15 minutes.
"I fish anything from small ponds to rivers with brisk current. I’ve had my boat is places with a lot of rocks and snags and never had a puncture," he stated.
The light weight (69 lbs.) and good stability the boat affords is what sold him on the Porta-Bote.
"I just have to stand up and stretch every now and then, and this boat has the stability for that. If you don’t want to pull a trailer and have minimum storage space, this is the perfect boat. I even know one guy who keeps an eight-footer behind his couch," said Petralito.
The Porta-Bote’s sea-worthiness is accomplished in part by the boat’s ability to flex when encountering waves. The manufacturer said the boat will flex up to 12 percent when hit by a wave. This flexing of the hull acts as a shock absorber and provides a "softer" ride than a rigid hull boat.
Smaller boats have their limitations, both in sea-worthiness and creature-comforts. But if you need a light weight boat that can be lashed to the family car, requires no launch ramp and will enable you to access those secluded spots teaming with fish and game, one of the above may meet your needs.
Ben Norman is a freelance writer from Highland Home.