The Versatile Drift Boat

by Jason Brooks

If you ask me what is the most versatile watercraft to pursuit salmon and steelhead I would have to say it’s the drift boat. With its distinctive up curved ends and flat bottom designed and built to float in skinny northwest rivers it also handles bigger waters such as mainstream rivers, estuaries, and bays. Add in the fact that they are extremely economical with very little maintenance and it’s no wonder that their popularity is making a huge comeback.

A drift boat is a great way to enjoy a relaxing  day of fishing -Jason Brooks

A drift boat is a great way to enjoy a relaxing day of fishing -Jason Brooks

It all started on the McKenzie River in Oregon, or at least that is the legend of where the drift boat originated. In fact some people still call them McKenzie drifters, or just plain McKenzie boats. First made of wood the early boats proved to be useful for getting down a river. If you hit a rock or damaged the hull you could patch it with some basic hand tools, back when most people actually still used hand tools and made a lot of their own boats. Nowadays with modern fabrications the wooden boat is all but gone, though you can still find them for sale on Craigslist. They are more for nostalgia as wood boats are a bit heavier and tend to not row as easy. So the modern argument for this old design is fiberglass or metal when it comes to hull materials.

Aluminum boats are thought to be "cold" -Jason Brooks

Aluminum boats are thought to be “cold” -Jason Brooks

I see it posted several times on internet forums, usually around the time the Outdoor Trade Shows or Boat Shows start up. Someone will get the itch to buy a drift boat and ask fellow fishers what they should get, a “glass” or metal boat. I sit back and read the replies from the internet experts until I can’t take it anymore and chime in my opinion. I start by saying that if the person who is thinking about buying a drift boat has never rowed one to first take a guided trip. It is well worth the money to see if you really want to invest in one of these boats. This usually leads to my next bit of advice, take it or leave it, but I think anyone who wants to get into their first drift boat should buy a used one. Now, before the advertisers of this site get too mad, I am only advocating this for the first time buyer, as soon enough the person will want to upgrade and look to have a boat manufacturer make a custom boat for them.

The fiberglass boat can be lighter than aluminum -Jason Brooks

The fiberglass boat can be lighter than aluminum -Jason Brooks

Here is my reasons why you should consider used for your first drift boat and why a guided trip is a must prior to the purchase. If you have patience and look at sale sites for any length of time you will find those ads by people who offer up a practically new boat for half the cost. Ones where the person decided to get a drift boat and spent the money only to float a river and find out that rowing can be harder than it looks. Either it scared them to have no control over the fact you have to go down the river, or they were too sore to care to row ever again. Also, drift boats hold up pretty well, even boats that have some road rash or a few dents float just fine. You can find really good deals on boats that are 10 years old or older, and really the design of the boat hasn’t changed in 50 years so age isn’t much of a factor. The main difference between a new boat and a used one are options. When buying used you are stuck with what the previous owner purchased. This can work in your favor as a bare bones boat is lighter and easier to row than one that has lots of bells and whistles.

New boats are nice and once you own a drift boat and become proficient at rowing one you will get the itch to order your own boat. This is mostly because each person is slightly different when it comes to fishing styles. I like to drift fish and float eggs under a bobber, but another buddy of mine likes pulling plugs and throwing hardware. So for me multiple rod holders, bait trays, motor mount, and other accessories are a must. For the guy who likes to pull plugs you want it set up with pole holders, a heater for those cold days where the front passengers are just sitting idle watching the rod tips thump.

Heaters make for a comfortable day when it's cold -Jason Brooks

Heaters make for a comfortable day when it’s cold -Jason Brooks

This brings us back to the argument of “glass” versus metal. I really don’t have a preference but I do own a metal boat and one of my buddies owns a fiberglass boat. Both are great boats and ironically my boat actually floats higher in the water than his does. Most think that the material matters, and to some degree it does, but so does design. His is a 16 foot by 48 inch bottom. Mine is a 16 foot by 54 inch bottom. That extra width at the bottom of the boat is what allows mine to float or draft higher and slip through in shallower waters and makes it react to rowing a bit quicker. His is “warmer” as my metal boat becomes an ice bucket during those early spring steelhead trips.

Being able to row around debris and in skinny water make the drift boat versatile -Jason Brooks

Being able to row around debris and in skinny water make the drift boat versatile -Jason Brooks

Okay, if you just read all of this and are scratching your head at what the heck I am talking about; “how it rows, reacts faster, floats higher”. Here is what drift boaters are talking about. The boat is designed to float with very little displacement, or otherwise known to float high in the water by its flat bottom design. With the stern and bow raised is allows the water to push the boat up as the water flows underneath. As you row backwards you pull the boat up and away from where the bow is pointed. If the boat is heavy or narrow and sits lower in the water there is more drag or resistance and you need to row harder, either faster or by digging you oars deeper into the water. Fiberglass boats are slick and have less coefficient of friction on the bottom because of the materials they are made from. Fiberglass that is coated with a gel coat has very little resistance in the water, where metal boats have tiny grooves or pores which tend to cause more friction in the water. To overcome this metal boat owners put a coating on the bottom of the boat and with new Kevlar materials these coatings can stand up to a few years of use. But they must be up kept, one of the downfalls of a metal boat. Fiberglass boats do wear out and can have soft spots or leaks from hitting rocks or gouges from sliding over gravel bars.

Drift boats require very little maintenance -Jason Brooks

Drift boats require very little maintenance -Jason Brooks

All drift boats have some basic maintenance requirements, but not many. This is another bonus for owning one these boats. If you put a motor on one you must also license it. Keep the motor off and stay away from Federal or navigable waters defined by the Coast Guard and there is no need to license it in Washington (check your local laws). With the motor you can easily fish close to shore in bays and estuaries and also motor up the deep holes and slot in rivers to float them again. But one of my favorite reasons to own this versatile boat is that it is quiet and allows you to really pay attention to fishing and relax while floating down a river.

Jason Brooks
Northwest Outdoor Writer

 

Options for Securing Your Boat Trailer

Here in Washington state we have a huge problem with scum sucking varmints stealing boats, outboard motors, and marine electronics. Washington regularly ranks in the top 3 nationwide for property crimes and as much as we like to think our boats and cherished marine equipment are safe while they’re on our property they simply aren’t.

Here’s a couple of options for locking up your boat that are worth taking a look at.

The Bolt locking system allows you to match your truck key to the trailer hitch lock. I’m always having to fish around for my trailer lock key and this seems like a simple fix for that.

Here’s how the Bolt lock works:

The Banshee alarm padlock from TH Marine has a vibration-activated alarm built right into the padlock. Reviews of the alarm online says it’s LOUD…emitting at around 110 decibels. When an outboard-stealing douchebag goes to work on your boat in the middle of the night you can bet this padlock will scare them off before they can get too far. You can also deactivate the alarm for traveling.

thmarine_banshee

I’m not sure when our state is going to start putting more cops on the street but until they do it’s up to us to protect our belongings. Are these two options the end-all-be-all for your boat…probably not. They sure as heck will help though.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

“Chirp” Your Sonar with Lowrance Sonarhub

I’ve seen Lowrance’s new Sonarhub in action on Nelly’s boat and on the Salt Patrol boat and the Chirped sonar images are ridiculous. This new technology allows you to actually see the fish feeding in dense schools of baitfish and it clarifies the sonar images immensely. The next time you see the Salt Patrol boat at an event take a look at some of John’s sonar images and I guarantee they’ll blow you away.

Here’s a press bulletin from Lowrance about the new product release that explains the new Sonarhub in detail:

Lowrance Sonar Hub -The Outdoor LineRob  Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

 

A Boat Launching Nightmare!

I just ran across this photo from a flyfishing trip I took years ago to the Green River in Utah. While the Utah Parks Gastapo was busy searching our boat for beer, order cigarettes, and porn this rig pulls up with two driftboats in tow.

“Where the hell are we…Mars?”, I jabbed towards the uptight Parks cop. We must’ve looked like we were sinners because she gave me the bitter-beer-face look and kept scrounging thru our gear.

Regardless, how would you like to back not one, but two boats down the ramp at the same time. Good luck!!!

backingboats_webRob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

 

 

We’ve Seen Forecasts…Now, Let’s See Some Kings!!!

With a damp, dreary Memorial Day weekend in the rear view window, it’s time to look north for the first indications of our actual chinook returns.

So why do we look north and what are we looking for? GREAT QUESTION!!! To answer that question, let’s have a quick review of what the University of Washington School of Fisheries catalogs as FISH 450: Salmonid Behavior and Life History.

As our juvenile chinook leave Puget Sound they “turn right” or head north to the rich oceanic pasture known as the Gulf of Alaska. Then, as they mature they eventually make their way back to the coast…and, bump right into Southeast Alaska!

So, it’s no secret that the tremendous salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska, the Queen Charlotte Islands, northern British Columbia and the west coast of Vancouver Island are, to a great extent, driven by salmonid production in Oregon, the Columbia River, coastal Washington and Puget Sound. Therefore, if you are looking at a real indication of what our actual returns are looking like, Southeast Alaska is the place to look!

After a winter of going blind pouring over forecasts, pictures of actual, huge summer chinook is indeed a sight for sore eyes! Our good friend Derek Floyd of Reel Class Charters in Sitka, Alaska has been providing ample evidence of what looks like a great summer salmon season here in the Pacific Northwest!

Here’s Derek with a fine 39 pound specimen which fell prey to a technique he described during his interview on The Outdoor Line this past Saturday. Here is the podcast

Then, the next day, his fishbox featured a 29 and a 39 pounder!!!

The biggest fish of the week for Reel Class Charters??? How about this chrome 41 pounder! I dare you not to smile hoisting a slab of that size!

Still not convinced??? Check out Bill Vaughn’s 55.5 pound hog which is currently on top of the Sitka Salmon Derby leaderboard. 

The Sitka Salmon Derby is a two-weekend event that ends this coming weekend (June 1 & 2) and according to Derby officials, both the numbers of fish entered and average size of the chinook are up significantly from last year. In 2012, a 44 pounder took top honors in the event. This year?….a 40 pounder may fall outside the top ten.

Other significant -and unquestionably positive reports come from Rob Endsley of Prince of Wales Sportfishing. His contacts in Craig, Alaska (approximately 150 miles south of Sitka) have also reported chinook to the mid 40 pound range!

The Queen Charlotte Islands are also going great guns right now  Larry Carpenter of Master Marine Services in Mt. Vernon tells the following tale

: “After arriving at the lodge the first afternoon with only about 5 hours of fishing 25 anglers brought 17 Chinook salmon to the dock. With the first full day of fishing we had many more Chinooks  plus halibut, ling cod and red snapper  and our first tyee salmon 31lb. The second day brought more bottom fish plus Chinook salmon another tyee 32 lb and for a bonus coho salmon ranging from 6-10lb. Wow! What a treat!!! Some anglers have played up to 12-14 Chinook salmon in a day!” 

With reports like this I hope you can see what I’m seeing… One heck of a summer season!

Sharpen the hooks boys…sharpen the hooks!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Opening Day 2013 “Top Ten Tips”

If there is a more popular fishing “rite of passage” than the lowland lakes trout opener, I sure don’t know what it is!

The Nelson Clan at Perrygin Lake in Okanogan County a few seasons ago…

I would venture to guess that more “first fish” are caught on this final weekend of April than at any other time of year. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters all descend on the lakes of Washington, three-hundred thousand strong. In preparation of this massive effort, the State of Washington plants these lake with literally millions of rainbow and cutthroat trout which are ready, willing and more than able to provide action as well as dinner or a smoker full of a tasty treat!

To aid in their quest this weekend, I would like to offer the following ten tips for an enjoyable opening day experience!

1. Get legal!

The WDFW licensing cycle for the year runs from April 1 to March 31. In other words, if you are not sure if your license is current… it’s probably not. Which, brings us to the second item on our list:

2. Bring your crew to the store!

If you have a young bunch (and even if you don’t) it’s always worthwhile to bring the crew along to get their licenses, get a copy of the fishing regulations and do a little shopping. “There’s that new Snoopy rod Dad, Can we try this?” Let your fishing gang get a little fired up about their new gear and in all likelihood, your opening day will get a lot easier!

3. Know your fishermen!

What size raingear do they wear? Boots? Warm coats? Can they cast? What’s their favorite snack food? The correct answers to these questions are best found out well in advance of “O” day!

4. Know your gear.

Seriously now, when is the last time you opened your trout box? How old is the line on your reel? If the answer to either of those questions is “I don’t know”… You know what to do!

5. Float your boat

While a boat adds to the complexity of any fishing trip is also adds productivity, mobility, comfort and convenience. In my opinion, more than a fair trade. However, the early dawn of opening morning is a poor time to find out that the batteries are dead, the drain plug is missing, the trailer lights are burned out and the tabs are expired. Just don’t ask me how I found that out…

6. Rig all the rods

Another way to dodge Murphy’s Law is to rig all the rods in the garage the night before…or the night before that! Trust me, it’s a lot easier to tie up under a fluorescent light than a dome light.

7. Scout your location

One of my favorite opening day memories is taking my young son to our chosen opening day lake the day before the opener. The lake was stuffed to the lilly pads with rainbows that were literally jockeying for position to eat the next bug to hit the surface. Watching the surface activity was secondary to scouting out the ramp and available parking. A word to the wise: It’s time well spent!

8. Friday night load up!

Get it all in the rig the night before. If its missing, you still have time to find it or replace it… ’nuff said!

9. Get ’em up easy…

Set the alarm a little early and let the gang go through a little of their morning routine. Rushing your charges out of the house so they can sit with you in a ramp line is not going to score you any points.

10. Make it fun!

Quick limits are great and are huge braggin’ rights fodder… on the Columbia for springers!…. Nobody is going to stop the presses and roll evening news tape for your stringer full of six inchers. The goal on opening day is to provide your friends and family with an introduction to a sport, a way of life that they will enjoy for the rest of their lives! Let the kids handle the rods and play every one of the fish! Let another kid handle the net, sit back and enjoy the mayhem that ensues!

Opening day is like a fishy Christmas. The more you give, the more you get and what you get from a successful opener you’ll never forget!

Tom Nelson

The Outdoor Line

710 ESPN Seattle

www.theoutdoorline.com

Boat trailering: Cougar Style!

Meet Robert Lee Tobeck:

His resume is very impressive. Academic All American lineman at Washington State University, Pro Bowl center of the Seattle Seahawks during the highpoint of the franchise history: the 2006 Superbowl and former host of The Outdoor Line Radio Show.

Unfortunately, none of this tremendous life experience has prepared him for what has now become the greatest challenge of his life: Boattrailerautism.

Boattrailerautism or “BTA” is a fisherman’s developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of boat ownership and affects the brain’s normal development of mechanical, spacial and navigational skills. Most fishing buddies of the boattrailerautistic suspect that something is amiss when angry motorists pull up alongside, gesturing and yelling. In extreme cases of BTA, one may even observe the occurance of the dreaded “missing fender” syndrome.

Quite unfortunately, I was to bear witness to Tobeck’s latest BTA flare-up on what was to be merely a simple transducer installation. We met at his marina and due to high winds, Robbie was unable to get the boat on the trailer by himself so he requested my assistance and I was only too happy to help my friend out.

Tobeck’s trailer for his 30-foot Seaswirl Striper “Salmon Hawk” is a monster 5th wheel style extra heavy duty model with a “goose neck” design which requires the hitch to be placed directly above the rear axle to reduce tongue weight and increase trailer maneuverability.

While I remained ground level to crank the trailer up to above the ball height, Tobeck backed the truck up and then jumped in to hook up the lights, safety chains and secure the hitch…or so I thought…

We towed the empty trailer about 100 yards to the ramp and I jumped in Robbie’s boat to drive it on the trailer. Once the boat was secured to the trailer winch and cranked up tight, Tobeck returned to the truck. Little did we know that the unfortunate malady BTA was about to rear it’s ugly and mortifyingly embarrassing head.

I remained aboard as Robbie pulled the boat and trailer up the ramp. As the trailer started bearing the weight of the boat, I happened to be looking forward and BOOM!!! Simultaneously the trailer hitch jumped off the ball, landing in the bed of his truck as a geyser of Starbucks coffee hit the inside of Tobecks windshield.

Someone other than my friend Tobeck then emerged from the truck, hurling a blue streak of epithets and dripping with the remains of his mocha.

“Thank goodness for safety chains” was all I could utter as the bed of Tobeck’s new truck now appeared to be,…well… used.

As we cranked the tongue winch up, the hitch came up alright but the truck bed remained somewhat depressed.

Once we got the hitch back on the ball we found that Tobeck has a little bowl in the center of his truck bed that, once filled with rainwater, will be a handy and very mobile bird bath!

Always good natured -until he’s not- the Crimson Crusader takes his Boattrailerautism in stride and lets this latest “flare-up” roll off his back.

The rest of the morning and the transducer installation proceeded without incident. Heck, it could have been a lot worse….It could have been my fault!!!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

 

SHOW BIZ 2013!

For those of you that have not yet had the opportunity to attend, here’s a “Virtual hot lap” around the 2013 Seattle Boat Show at Century Link Field!

 

Stabicraft is here in Boat Country’s booth, showing off the new Pilot House design. One very salty ride here…

Master Marine of Mount Vernon has a huge display of Osprey’s and Weldcrafts just take your pick and Big Larry Carpenter will hook you right up!

 

Defiance Boats in ‘da house! In a relatively short time, Defiance has become synonymous with offshore success and with Arima joining the line they have added versatility to the mix!

 

Power to weight ratio is a HUGE aspect to choosing your next outboard. Look no further than Evinrude for trouble-free, dependable, low-maintenance power!

 

Three Rivers Marine is sporting a new logo and a new line with North River Boats joining the TRM family of brands!
Jeff Lalone and Annie from Bayside Marine are ready to answer any and all your questions and make your boating life a whole lot easier!

Looking for tackle and accessories??? Everything is right here in the Sportco/Outdoor Emporium booth and the gang is ready, willing and able to get you the right gear…at the right price!

I don’t know if the word “accessory” quite fits the Lowrance label… If I didn’t have a fishfinder as effective as my Lowrance, I wouldn’t catch as many fish…

Harbor Marine… “right on your way no matter where you’re going”, is showing heavy duty marine diesel power and transmissions to get you where you’re going dependably!

Cannon Downriggers? Don’t leave the dock without them… ’nuff said!!!

I sincerely hope you can make it to my seminars at the Seattle Boat Show! Here’s the rundown!

Tom Nelson – Seminar Schedule at the Seattle Boat Show:

Triple Threat Salmon Angling:

February 1st – 2:00 PM

February 2nd – 3:00 PM

Dirty Downrigger Tricks:

January 31st – 7:00 PM

February 1st – 4:00 PM

February 2nd – 1:00 PM

SEE YOU AT THE SEATTLE BOAT SHOW!!!

Green Sinkers’n Cut Plug Herring

All that dad and I brought with us blackmouth fishing on Puget Sound today were our mooching rods, some sinkers, and a couple dozen fresh herring from Narrows Marina.

Reports of rock solid winter blackmouth fishing in Area 10 have been trickling in to the Outdoor Line for the last couple of weeks and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I knew that if fishing was that good I could get’em to bite a cut plug herring served up old-school style.

Yesterday I bolted on my new Lowrance HDS 7 Touch to the sled and hollered at dad to make a couple of lunchs…we were going mooching.

State of the art electronics make a world of difference when you’re mooching for salmon. I know this first hand, as the Lowrance gear I have on my charter boat in Alaska has put a lot, and I mean a lot of fish in the boat. You can spend a lot of time straining empty water or you can fish the high percentage areas that are full of bait and fish.

Part of using a good sonar is understanding what you’re looking at though. There’s a salmon center stage in the photo below and another one on the right side of the screen, right on the bottom, chowing down on bait. I was licking my chops when I saw this.

Dad and I dropped our baits into this mess and were immediately rewarded with a double header. A double header on mooched cut plug herring…we were laughing!

Dad was fishing with an orange kidney sinker, a standard in Southeast Alaska, and I was using a green 4 ouncer. His rod went cold immediately after the first hookup while my green weight just kept getting bit.

We gave it a while just to make sure it was the lead and sho’nuf, it was his orange lead. For some reason these fish weren’t digging the orange, so I switched dad over to a green 4 ouncer and he was on a fish almost immediately.

By the time we went thru two dozen herring we had landed three nice keeper blackmouth, released half a dozen shakers, and missed quite a few more bites. Dad even took home a nice, fat sole to fry up for dinner tonight.

How did we find these blackmouth? Basically, I would putter around on the kicker motor until we found a large school of bait and then we would stop and work our baits up and down close to the bottom around the bait. This is when having great electronics gives you the ultimate edge.

One key point to mooching is to always keep some line angle and keep working your baits. We were constantly dropping our baits to the bottom and reeling them back up 15 to 20 feet, right in the blackmouth zone. The bites came both on the drop and reeling up. The Lamiglas Salmon Moocher rods that I use telegraph everything. You can detect a bite from even the smallest shaker.

I tied up some 7 foot leaders with 15 pound Maxima Ultragreen and two 3/0 fine wire Mustad hooks that are soooo perfect for mooching. Flourocarbon would also work great for this. In the winter I would keep it light and keep it limber though. Frozen herring will work, but fresh herring from Narrows Marina is da bomb and it works a LOT better.

Blackmouth fishing has been outstanding on Puget Sound this winter and one would expect Area 9 to be quite productive when it opens up on January 16th.

There’s a lot more productive ways to catch blackmouth, but anytime I can get them mooching I’m a happy man. If you’ve got a spot that you suspect has some blackmouth I recommend you give this technique a try. I know you’ll like it!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Weldcraft Cuddy King 24

The mid twenty-foot range of boats is a popular, crowded and quite competitive marketplace. Within the reach of many boating families, the successful hull in this range is quite often called upon to be a stable & safe platform for fishing, camping and water sports. While many hulls claim to function in a variety of operational modes, it is a rare hull indeed that is truly up to the task.

Enter the Weldcraft Cuddy King 24

 

Note the pronounced reverse chine design. Hulls without this vital feature will pound in a head sea and roll noticably in turns. Reverse chines provide a combination of lift and suction that stabilize the boats ride, resulting in a more comfortable and safe experience aboard.

The Cuddy King offers unexpected amenities, the finest ride characteristics, and more room to fish and relax; all skillfully brought together with signature Weldcraft style. With a steep 60° bow entry, upswept bow, and true reverse chine on a wide 8′ bottom, the Cuddy King features first-class ride characteristics. In close quarters, the handling is superb thanks to wide-open visibility, easy-to-operate controls and the ability to turn on a dime. The Cuddy King was designed with cabin flexibility in mind, offering standard cabin models and endless options for a marine head and galley configurations. Additional features include a trailerable 8-1/2′ beam, .190 rear deck metal floors, optional 175 gallon fuel tank, and single or twin outboards.

Rather than offer a few fixed designs, Weldcraft let’s you design the cabin that fits your needs perfectly. There are several cabin lengths to choose from and 16 different interior configurations to select. Everything from marine heads, to reversible dinettes, to cook stations and seating variations are available.

Check out the Weldcraft Cuddy King 24 in the Master Marine booth at  the Seattle Boat Show or on line at  http://www.weldcraftmarine.com

Tom Nelson                                                                                                                                   The Outdoor Line                                                                                                               710 ESPN Seattle                                                                               www.theoutdoorline.com