For many years I have fished with considerable success from the bow of a 1982 Springbok 16’ equipped with a 35 Mercury two cycle outboard and a 30 lb. thrust MotorGuide trolling motor.
Built by Alcan in the early eighties as a response to the boom in fiberglass bass boats, this hull is still in perfect condition, though I had to rebuild the decks when I bought it twelve years ago. The carpet had rotted the originals, and the second deck wasn’t well done. I spent evenings over a winter building new fir plywood panels, rounding the edges, then glassing each piece to the standard I applied to the same job years earlier on my antique cabin cruiser. This was a surprisingly expensive and time-consuming job – especially eliminating the voids in the plywood around the hatch openings — but it provided a weatherproof deck for a boat which would spend half of the year tied to a dock and exposed to sun and weather.
Time took a toll on a series of swivel seats, but they were easily replaced through trips to Walmart or Princess Auto for new ones. The front live well holds only ten gallons, but it has kept many, many bass in good health, and because it is mounted to the port side I used it to trim the hull when I was in the boat alone. The rear live well is huge, but because it is located at the aft starboard corner of the vessel, it isn’t usable because it ruins the boat’s weight distribution. I stored life jackets in it.
At 60” at the widest point, the Springbok was too narrow for me at this time of life. While the boat was remarkably efficient on fuel, and even though it routinely outran the other boats in the fleet, the Springbok demanded of its operator and passengers the balance and co-ordination of a canoeist.
So my friends and family put increasing pressure on me to upgrade. Apparently the sight of a heavy, arthritic geezer perched on that narrow bow platform disturbed the serenity of others, (especially when this boat beat all comers in last year’s bass tournament).
A month of obsessive Internet searches and wild-goose chases occurred in pursuit of a wider boat. Every potential candidate I viewed was in much worse condition than the Springbok. Any idea how ratty that old blue carpet looks after twenty or thirty years, and how those rotten floorboards smell?
My search for a restorable hulk took me to Dave Brown’s establishment in Chaffey’s Locks, where I found no promising wreck, but spotted a bright red Princecraft, still without a motor, on his lot. Tentatively I asked Dave for a price. He vanished upstairs and returned in a few minutes with a printed page containing a graphic of the boat and a price not much greater than what I had been thinking of paying for a used glass centre-console on Kijiji.
“How much is the motor?”
“The 40 hp Mercury 4 stroke with EFI and tilt is included in the package.”
I don’t recall saying anything at that point. Numbers were racing around in my head, but I spent a good deal of time looking over the hull.
The thing that grabbed my attention first was the floorboards. Covered with a textured vinyl, they fasten down with exposed, stainless steel screws. The biggest problem I had with the Springbok’s glass deck was my unsuccessful attempt to build a coping which would join the deck to the aluminum sides. The walnut moulding on which I lavished hours wouldn’t stay on when the hull flexed in a chop. That loose coping remained my biggest disappointment with the rebuild of the boat.
Princecraft designers solved the same problem by creating a bead of the vinyl flooring material and sliding it between the floorboards and the hull sides, a simple and elegant solution which had eluded me over many hours of trying. (After a look at the new boat I thought I could fix the trim on the old one, and I did. I hope the new owner enjoys the old girl as much as I did.)
The new hatches are aluminum, also covered with vinyl. The latches look primitive, but seem to work well, won’t break from a misstep, and won’t trip anyone.
The swivel seats are comfortable and quite elegant in comparison to the Spartan ones which tormented my back for the last couple of years in the Springbok until I replaced them a month ago. On a first look the large seats seem to be placed too close together. The port seat looks as though it should be set to the left about three inches to balance the boat. Turns out that’s an illusion. As I discovered on the shakedown runs, the seats make optimal use of the hull’s width just the way they are.
There’s not much storage space in the new boat. Gas tank, battery box and pumps are exposed. The stern side bulkheads enclose foam only. The 7’ rod locker is just about it, if like me you plan to use the live well for fish and the forward locker for a battery. But I soon discovered that the side console (under the steering wheel) is much deeper than on the old one (I had to crawl in there after my wallet) and it’s the logical repository for a stack of life jackets.
The transom’s 71” wide and 20” high, so the light boat can take a 40 hp motor. With a butt that wide it will need it, too.
I asked Dave to order a matching “bicycle seat” to mount on a tall post at the bow. This should provide a more comfortable fishing position because I can either perch on it or use it as a brace while standing.
June 4, 2012
In an earlier post I recounted my attempt to find black crappies in shallow water in the early season and how I managed to catch only a few by casting around stumps in shallow bays. Turns out I should have left those males alone: they were guarding egg masses until the fry hatched.
Last evening on Newboro Lake I faced the ongoing problem that post-spawning schools are hard to find because they are very small and dense. There can be a couple of dozen fish or as many as a hundred in each, but it covers a very small portion of the surface of the lake, and crappies generally only strike at baits above their noses. This makes black crappies hard to find.
After a couple of unsuccessful trips I picked a cool, very quiet evening after two days of rain. The lake was like glass where I popped the trolling motor into the water. A school of minnows in the middle made quite a fuss on the surface, attracting not only my attention, but also that of a pair of loons who swam over in a leisurely manner.
I chased the school with the trolling motor, casting around it without success. Giving up, I moved closer to shore, looking for a drop-off near a weed bed.
At length I felt an indeterminate pressure on my line and it went sideways. That’s about as dramatic as a crappie strike gets: I had my first fish. The excitement of crappie fishing lies in locating them, and then keeping the paper-mouthed treasures on the line long enough to get them into the live well.
To cover a lot of water I had been using ¼ ounce jig heads with 3” vibrotails on 6 lb. monofilament on my lightest bait casting rig. Still not sure where the school lay (some estimate that casts must be within a 3’ radius to be effective against a crappie school), I stuck with the heavier jig. I also didn’t want to risk the bite turning off while I fought with my tackle box. The heavy jig may have limited my success, but over a half hour I managed to pull about a dozen large but skinny crappie out of the school. Only one was a male. The females had a few eggs in them, most likely next year’s embryos, but none had any food in their digestive tracts.
They started to strike as the school of minnows approached my weed bed. I think they must hear the confusion on the surface and emerge from hiding in the weeds to feed. Action was brisk as long as the minnows were in evidence. It shut off as soon as the bait had moved about a hundred yards away from my shoal.
So the problems in locating crappies are not only the small size of the schools, but also their tendency to lie in the weeds, unresponsive to lures, in anticipation of a school of minnows.
The crappies ranged from hand size to 11 ½”. Bet washed up fillets from eleven keepers. Not a bad evening’s work.
September 11, 2011
As Sir Paul McCartney once famously said, “Merely to succeed is not enough. Others must fail.” Hosts Tony Izatt and Anne DesLauriers must have had this in mind when holding the event during a full moon. They couldn’t have foreseen the stiff northerly wind, though.
Tony had scheduled the thing to begin at 7:00 a.m. What fish is awake at such a ghastly hour?
So there we were around the gas dock at Indian Lake Marina at the crack of dawn, waiting for the only sane members of the crew, Jeff and Greg, who had apparently slept in. Eventually they came slumping down the dock. We were a motley crew, but the fishing tackle was good.
As the designated “ringer” for this event I realized that my duty was to bring my particular skill to the tournament: the ability to make the fish stop biting whenever there is any pressure of any kind for the anglers to perform on cue.
So I dialed up CONSERVATION mode as Les Parrott, unsuspecting, joined me in the boat. The others apparently decided their best bet was to get as far from me and my jinx as possible, for at the start they all blasted off to various points of the compass. I moved over to A-dock on the trolling motor and began to cast. Fishing in the morning is best off A-dock.
Surely enough, a chunky largemouth waited for my worm, immune to my jinx. I stored him in the live well for his own protection.
Then we fished our way around Indian Lake. Lovely body of water. Perfectly fishless this morning, as well, until Les found another largemouth just off the Pagoda which had apparently missed the memo.
Hiding from the wind, we worked our way up Indian, across Mosquito (fish very well protected there by the jinx) and into Pollywog Lake. Pollywog bass are notoriously independent and a bit suicidal, if provoked. Most of the belligerent ones tore our bait off the hook and tangled us in weeds, but a couple of the unlucky ones ended up in the well.
Then we moved through Bedore’s Creek onto Newboro Lake and the jinx cut in with full force. We cruised around more exquisitely clear water, cast a variety of choice weed patches, and had a few strikes best characterized by their inaccuracy. Some occurred as much as 3′ from the actual bait. According to Les these strikes say: “Get out of here and leave me alone!”
But no Newboro Lake bass were unfortunate enough to land in the live well. My jinx seemed to work well enough on the north side of Scott Island.
To put it to the test we moved over to the bay known as “The Boathouse”. Tony and Jeff were already there, straining the weeds frantically with long, looping casts. Tony tried to wave me out of there, but I lobbed a cast under a tree on the outskirts of the bay. A solid largemouth took the worm, fought valiantly for a while, then tossed the hook back past my ear.
“I’ll bet that just cost us some money,” I muttered to Les. The jinx continued. An inaccurate cast under another tree led to a missed strike and a lost worm, then I took into a run of tangles in trees which led to the exploration of a lot of overhanging limbs while I removed a series of hooks from branches.
Back at the dock Tony conducted weigh-ins with a large plastic pail and digital scale. Things proceeded normally until a protest from the group forced the host to drain the water out of the pail in which he was weighing his team’s catch, reducing the weight from 22 pounds to seven.
Turns out my jinx had been pretty effective after all. The five bass we had put into the well for safekeeping weighed a total of 9.9 pounds and turned out to be the catch of the day, beating the entry of Morgan Pickering and Brad Wilson by a half-pound. The fat laggard from under A-dock at 2.8 pounds won the largest fish by a couple of ounces, as well.
So Les and I faced some baleful glares, but we got to hold the Bob Steele Memorial Trophy for photos and have the right to display it in our homes for the winter.
Maybe I’d better ease up on the jinx next year because a passing cottager complained that the mouth of every bass on Newboro Lake seemed to be sealed up Saturday morning.
December 18, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010:
So it begins. From Hwy 15 in Portland today I could see snow covering the ice out as far as visibility allowed. The snow appeared to reach the large islands in the middle of the lake, though this may have been an illusion. One enterprising soul has placed an ice fishing shack out in the wide, shallow bay next to the park/boat launch ramp to the east of the village.
On Otter Lake I could see open water in the middle of the pool nearest the road, and open water in the larger pool to the northeast.
I’ll copy this post to a page which will appear on the right margin of my website. Updates will be there.
August 2, 2010
Saturday evening I set out in my little aluminum boat without a fishing rod. It was time to take a look at the boat’s new home, the Newboro waterfront. We made our way over to the lock where the Land Trust Festival was in full swing. The sizable crowd seated on chairs for the classic rock concert seemed older and more orderly than the revelers of earlier years at the Chaffey’s Locks Corn Roast. The spacious Newboro Lockstation seems well suited to hosting an event of this sort.
The green enamel security fence around the grounds was an impressive touch. I guess there must be miles of the stuff left over from the G20 Summit in Toronto and Huntsville, so it might as well be put to use.
Two young men in a triangular craft laboured through the water below the lock. They struggled to a gap between the cruisers on the 48-hour dock and were helped ashore before they sank. Out came the unpainted plywood dinghy. One of the instant boats had obviously survived the afternoon competition for another voyage.
I drifted over by trolling motor to inquire. Neil McGuire and Thomas Jordan crew The Unsinkable Rideau Ferry. Michael McGuire and my former S.F.D.C.I. student John Jordan rounded out the build team. Their creation placed second in the afternoon competition, but as John’s sister Helen explained, the winners were experienced boat builders, so The Philosophers had an unfair advantage in their use of the three sheets of plywood, a few 2X4’s, some trim and a few tubes of caulk provided for the competition. John added, “They also gave us a pound and a half of assorted nails. No screws were allowed.”
The Unsinkable Rideau Ferry seemed to have a lot of support from the group of boaters on the 48-hour dock for the weekend.
Finger docks have produced many more spaces for cruisers below the lock at Newboro. This is good for special events and day-to-day use because the steady breeze makes this a pleasant summer destination.
Quite a few runabouts had come in off the lake to drift in the bay and enjoy the music on the calm evening. Over next to the resorts, though, the docks were still alive with fishing boats running in and out.
I made a mental note to get over to The Poplars for lunch. As a transient guest you eat whatever they are serving that day, it’s always fun in the informal atmosphere of the fishing camp, and where else are you helped into a slip by dock attendants when you arrive for a meal?
On Water Street the new owner of the cottages on the point has done a very classy renovation of the small dwellings, definitely raising the tone of the Newboro waterfront with unified architecture, landscaping and docks.
Over at the foot of Bay Street her neighbours are delighted with the return home of longtime resident Mrs. Rose Pritchard after a long and difficult recovery from a fall.
Several times I have talked to a fellow from Ottawa who fishes the same area Tony and I do. He mentioned building a house on Swallows Lane over the winter. I finally worked my way down that way to have a look. That’s a lot of house. I think the guy builds better than he fishes.
I’d spent a half-hour earlier in the day on Tony’s new deck under a huge oak tree at the end of Bay Street. It’s always a surprise how comfortable the air along this Newboro shoreline feels with the breeze pushing down the lake from Bedford Mills.
Of course weeds and debris pile in with the wind, but at least the boats are sheltered by the hill from a northerly gale. Speaking of debris, Thursday evening something really gross drifted in. I knew Tony and Anne had a family event planned for the next day, so the dead thing had to go, but I didn’t even want to look at it, let alone touch it. So I started up the outboard and strained the mooring lines as I pushed the unidentifiable thing with a sizable mat of weeds out of our little harbour and around the stern of The Big Chill, Tony and Anne’s cruiser.
But then the weed patch responded to a gust again and headed in towards the launch ramp. Oh well, it was out of my space and no longer my problem.
Turns out it then landed next to the boat of local volunteer firefighter Bob French. Bob apparently thinks differently than most, because instead of passing the dead raccoon on down the line as many had no doubt already done over the previous week, he pulled the thing in, bagged it up (wow!), loaded it into his van, hauled it away and buried it.
I guess Bob looked at the carcass, thought of the trouble it would bring to the people down the shore, and took action. That’s what firefighters do. They think of everybody. You’re a better man than I am, Robert French.
February 14, 2010
UPDATE, 10 February, 2011:
According to The Review Mirror, the derby is on this weekend, but cars and trucks will not be allowed on the lake due to the dangerous ice conditions. Organizer Doug Burtch encourages entrants to walk or use their ATV or snowmobile to get to their favourite spots, though.
Lots of ice out there for the Newboro Ice-fishing Derby today. The turnout was very good, and the parking lot around the weigh-in station off McCaskill’s Island would put a local supermarket’s to shame. No sign of movement from the ice, though.
The fish actually bit this morning, with the winning northern pike weighed in at about five and a half pounds, if memory serves. A few good black crappie and perch came in, as well. To save space on the leader board, Doug Burtch, the organizer, will only write an entry up if it exceeds the weight of the current entry in that category. Thus my fishing buddy Tony’s 2 lb 13 ounce pike, like many others, failed to get onto the board.
The social part of the event centred around Mrs. Helen Burtch dishing out a pickup-truck-load of door prizes from local contributors. From a large barbecue a guy named Andre served a variety of hot dogs, chili, beef stew and such. Spectators and diners alike gathered downwind to enjoy the aromas. A charming young border collie named Molly had pulled her master’s sled to the festivities, then held court while the weigh-in ceremony revolved around her.
Not a bad morning, all around. Here’s hoping we get enough snow this week to allow the dogsled races to run next weekend.
December 12, 2009
Note: I haved moved this file from this “post” to a “page” on my blog where it is easier to update. Just go to http://rodcroskery.wordpress.com and look in the right margin for the up-to-date version. Rod
January 20, 2010: After a promising start to the winter, the ice has received a major setback with a couple of weeks of mild weather. Yesterday Otter Lake was open in the middle. This morning I noticed that it had frozen over. Woe betide the snowmobiler who tries to cross that thin skiver of ice! Chances are it will open up again the next mild day. Yesterday was mild and overcast, so I looked around for a potential ice fishing site. Portland showed deep ruts in the slush from an ATV grinding out to a fishing shack. Opinicon Lake at Chaffey’s Locks has a lot of open water, as it usually does, though with little current. The big surprise was the pair of trumpeter swans which buzzed the cedars at the end of the point. Man, are those birds big! I counted seven of them in all on the ice at Chaffey’s.
Without a week of very cold weather the ice will remain no good.
January 5, 2010: There’s ten inches of ice in the bay at Portland, but the middle of the Big Rideau is still open. Ominously, the opening in the middle of Otter Lake seems to be growing larger as snow accumulates on the ice. To judge by the lack of tracks, people are staying off the ice so far.
December 20, 2009: A couple of test holes on Newboro Lake a hundred feet out from the village shore show five inches of ice. While helping my friend adjust his bubbler so as to allow the northern boat launch ramp to freeze properly, I noticed that there’s a decent gravel bottom along shore once a bit of the sediment is washed away.
December 18, 2009: The Big Rideau at Portland and Otter Lake seen from Hwy 15 both showed full ice cover as far as I could see this afternoon.
December 16, 2009: The run of cold weather is firming things up. Apart from the spots of open water caused by bubblers under docks, the Newboro end of the lake seemed to have formed a nice sheet with a little snow on it.
December 12, 2009: The ice is back, folks. I noticed that Morton Creek was mostly frozen when we drove by on Hwy 15 yesterday. Ice formed overnight in the bays and the village end of Newboro Lake. Indian Lake wasn’t frozen over when I looked earlier today, but we broke a half-inch or so of ice to make way for a bubbler on a dock on the Newboro waterfront.