Friday, September 14, 2012

Canoe Fishing 101.. with a little help from my Radisson/Sportspal

Over the past 10 years, I have spent countless hours fishing from my Radison/Sportspal canoe, known by my friends and family as the "Tattooed Canoe" (due to the amount of stickers that cover it). Along the way I have caught my fair share of monster bass, and seen my fair share of amazing sunrises and sunsets. The peacefulness you experience while fishing from a canoe is unmatched, whether fishing along or with a friend, a canoe fishing trip is something you should experience at least once in your life.

Below you will find some tips and tricks I learned over the past decade, and hopefully they will aid and convince you to get out in a canoe

The Perfect Canoe & Gear for the Job

I have plunked my ass down in many a canoe over the years, but for my money the best fishing canoe on the market today is the Radisson (or Sportspal if you are buying it in Canada). These aluminum framed canoes are very light weight, my 12ft comes in just over 30lbs, and are nearly unsinkable. A foam "water wing" if you will surrounds the outside the canoe giving it extra buoyancy and preventing tipping. Inside the canoe is also lined with foam that not only provides you with a more comfortable ride, but also wicks up some of the water,  giving you have a dryer ride.

The version of a Radisson I purchased also comes with removable foam seats. These seats provide decent height, and cushiony feel. Two main perks to these seats other then being able to move them around would be that they have back support (I'm getting older) as well as dry storage spot in them, great for your keys

Other then its superior stability another fishing perk on the Raddison is the trolling motor mount. A fully removable and adjustable mount comes with your canoe, this mount easily holds a 30lb-40lb thrust trolling motor off to the side of the canoe. It supports the motors weight perfectly even when the canoe is empty. (See below pic of the trolling motor coming off the side of my canoe)

Additional gear that will add to your fishing from a canoe experience would be as follows:

Trolling Motor: I use a Minn Kota 30lb trust hand till trolling motor. It moves the canoe extremely well in most conditions. It is very durable and has lasted nearly 10 years. The only disadvantage to this size motor is that it does not come with a weed chopping blade, so you can expect to spend some time cleaning off the props

Fish Finder: If you are looking for all the perks of fishing from a standard bass boat, you are going to want to get yourself a fish finder. There are two ways you can go about this. First, and easiest is the Humminbrid Fish'n Buddy system. This fish finder is a removable wireless fish finder that will clamp on the side of your canoe. Just add batteries and your good to go. If you want something a bit more advanced, you can add a wired fish finder. The Raddisson Canoe is built to take one fairly easily, just attache the base to the front of the canoe and run the wires down each side. The biggest hassle with this is reattaching the transducer to the trolling motor for each trip.

Battery: Obviously if you are running a trolling motor and a fish finder, you are going to need a battery. Brands are not the main focus here, but gel is important. You need a leakproof spill proof battery, that is easy to lug around and knock-around

Getting to where you need to go:

Transporting a canoe to and from the lake is a breeze. Wether you drive a small car or a full size SUV canoes dont require a trailer unlike most boats (and some kayaks), all you need is some foam blocks and some straps. Throw it up on the roof, pull down, and away you go. I use a 3 strap system to ensure total security. I attach a front and rear strap, and then a centre strap that goes over the canoe and through the inside of the vehicle. Beleive me this one extra strap makes a big difference when traveling at higher speeds

Once on the water, one of the large perks of fishing from a canoe is its mobility and ability to get you into tight spots, small spaces and to slide over some of the thickest nastiest cover around. Canoes run quieter then most larger boats and will allow you to slip into the shallows as silent as a ninja to take these fish by surprise. Small trolling motors are just as quiet as a paddle so dont feel you need to paddle your way into the shallows

The light weight frame of my Radisson/Sportspal allows me to travel long distances fairly quickly with the aid of a trolling motor. When needed portaging is also super easy, weighing in at only 30lbs this canoe can be carried easily by 1 person or 2 to hop between lakes.

Fishing Solo or with a Partner:

How you load a canoe for fishing will really depend on where you are going and if you will be fishing solo or with a partner. Both of these have perks.. fishing solo gives  you the additional room needed to pack all the gear you may want to take with you, while fishing with a partner will give you some added weight in the front of the canoe which in turn provides you with better control on windy days.

The Below image depicts a typical set-up when Im fishing with a partner, rods are slid down the side with tips pointing out from the back of the canoe. The battery used for the trolling motor is placed central in the canoe to allow for perfect balance. On the opposite site of the canoe I place my tackle bag.  This is a down sized bag loaded with just the gear I need for that day. My canoe comes with foam backed seats that allow you to adjust how your sitting and provide comfort for those 8hr trips.

If fishing solo, I change the position of the rods so they are facing the front of the boat, both my tackle bag and the trolling motor battery are then moved to the front of the canoe for additional weight. A kneeling pad I use primarily for ice fishing is placed in the canoe in front of my seat to allow me to kneel for long periods of time and. Kneeling gives you more height in the canoe and more mobility when fighting a fish. (it is all about comfort)

Canoe Fishing Techniques:

There are certain fishing techniques that lend themselves to fishing from a canoe and other that are more difficult. Obviously from a sitting position baitcasting rods are harder to control/manoeuvre then a spinning rod. On average I travel with only 4 rods while in a canoe, 3 are usually spinning and 1 baitcaster. Here are the 4 techniques I find the easiest and most productive while in my canoe

Wacky or Texas Rigged Worms: It is super easy to fish soft plastic baits from your canoe, these light weight baits work well on spinning gear, and can be cast for long distance or skipped up under close by structure. I always have one rod rigged for soft plastics while in the canoe, and often it is my go to rod throughout the day.

It there is a lot of  submerged trees or timber, I will move to a slightly weighted bait (1/4oz or so) and I pull up over top of it (or on the edges) and drop my bait. Fish bury themselves deep in these trees so go get 'em

Top Water: I think I need to be more specific here, as not all topwater baits work well on spinning gear or from a seated position. I tend to use popping baits over walking baits while in the canoe, they are much easier to control and require less dexterity. Dont get me wrong you can fish walking baits from a canoe, but if you are looking for a nice relaxing day on the water, why frustrate yourself with a bait that may not work as well as you are use to.

CrankBaits (shallow): I dont spend much time with a crank bait on my line throughout the year, but when in my canoe I always have one tied on. They are great for covering water, and when it is time to move from spot to spot, they are fun to troll behind the boat while you are relocating. Again these shallow cranks and/or square-bills can be fished on spinning gear and will work well for covering water or picking apart structure. (I will give spinnerbaits an honourable mention here, as they are a bait I will change back and forth with a crank bait)

Frog Fishing: You had to know that this was going to be here,  this is the technique in which I will use my bait caster for its added power. A canoe gets me in nice and tight to pads and thick weed clumps, throwing frogs over this is just too big an opportunity to pass up. Getting use to frog style hook sets while sitting down can be a pain, but practise makes perfect. If you don't like the feel on a bait caster, move to your beefiest spinning rod, and hold on tight.

There you have it,  some quick tips and techniques for making your next canoe trip a successful one. Fishing from a canoe is a great relaxing way to fish, it gets you close to the water, and nature. Fishing from a canoe reminds me of being a kid at camp or the cottage, when fishing was meant worms and red/white bobbers. The fishing sure has changed, but not my enjoyment of it.

P.S: Hope you enjoyed the pics, these are pics from my sportspal over the past 10 years. As you can see we have had some success

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