Posts Tagged ‘boating’

Set Your Hook: Aquatic Hitchhikers

Hitchhikers Guide to Boating

ESP Boss & The Queen Mother got back (today!) from their “big adventure” through Yellowstone, Glacier, and the Grand Tetons. While they had planned to kayak they said there wasn’t enough time.

Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers

One thing they told me though was that a lot of the areas were cracking down on aquatic hitchhikers. There were even checkpoints where water craft were examined for critters that shouldn’t be transported.

Knowing which waters contain nuisance hitchhikers is not as important as following these steps every time you leave any lake, stream or coastal area.

Before leaving any body of water, it is important to examine all your equipment, boats, trailers, clothing, boots, buckets etc and remove all visible mud, plants, fish or animals. Remove and leave them at the site you visited. The larvae (immature form) of an animal can be so tiny that you cannot see it. However, it can live in mud, dirt, sand, and on plant fragments. Do not transport any potential hitchhiker, even back to your home.

Eliminate water from all equipment before transporting anywhere. Much of the recreational equipment used in water contains many spots where water can collect and potentially harbor these aquatic hitchhikers. Then clean and dry anything that came in contact with the water, including boats, trailers, equipment, dogs, boots, clothing, etc. Plus, dry your equipment. If possible, allow for 5 days of drying time before entering new waters.

Do not release or put plants, fish or animals into a body of water unless they came out of that body of water. This includes live bait, if you’re permitted to fish with it in the area. (Check your state’s regulations; many lakes in Arizona prohibit the use of live baitfish.)

Also, do not release plants, fish or animals into storm drains, because most storm drains lead to water bodies or wetlands. This is an important prevention step, because many plants and animals can survive even when they appear to be dead.

For more information, visit

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you have any issues with aquatic hitchhikers in your area?
  • What steps do you take to keep your equipment clean?

Set Your Hook: Lily Goes Kayaking

Teaching a Dog to Kayak

This past weekend, I decided to take the mascot dog, Lily, kayaking for the very first time.

Lily Camping

Here's Lily getting the most out of camping: digging and dirty!

Let me just share a few tips I learned on teaching a dog to kayak

  1. Invest in a doggy life-vest. Yes, all dogs can swim — it’s instinctual. But, if they leap out of the boat or kayak in the MIDDLE OF THE LAKE do you really want to rely on instinct and pray they don’t get tired?
  2. Attach a leash to the life vest AND to the kayak. That way if they do make the plunge, it’s easy to reel them back in.
  3. Leave the fishing tackle, camera, lunchbox, etc on shore. You don’t want a squirrely, excited dog AND stuff.
  4. Keep the trip short. If the pooch gets stressed, take Fido back to shore. You want it to be fun, not terrifying.
  5. Pick a calm day, smaller lake and keep it relatively close to shore. Again, make it fun not scary.
  6. If people stress your dog out (love or hate) pick a day with fewer people on shore and on the water.
  7. Don’t have anybody else talk to or call for the dog. Maybe they should stay on shore, or in camp, on in another town. (Or maybe out of sight but close enough to help if needed!)
  8. Bring towels!

So, I’m sure that you’re just DYING to know how I came up with this list, right?

When Code Wolf and I were camping at White Horse Lake last weekend, I decided that it was high-time Lily learned about kayaking. Now, being the do-anything dog that she is, Lily will let me harass her in pretty much any manner I see fit.

Lobster Lily

Remember when I dressed her up as a lobster for Halloween?

So, I put her in her oh-too-cute life vest, left all the goodies on shore – Rule #3 – (hence no pics of the event) and took off.

And I promptly broke Rule #5!

It was a breezy day that went from flat water to little bitty whitecaps. She did okay when it was calm but the second the kayak would start to rock in the breeze… well, Lily couldn’t decide if she wanted to be in my lap or as far from the paddle as possible.

I felt we were just getting the hang of it, slowing paddling around the lake. Then here comes Code Wolf to check on us. Happily, he calls out: “Lily! How ya’ doin’?” (Rule #7 — shattered!)

And Lily jumps out of my kayak and tries to run to him!

Of course, she promptly sinks WAY below the surface and then bobs back up, courtesy of aforementioned oh-so-cute life vest. (Rule #1)

But never fear, I just grab the leash (Rule #2) and haul her in. But when I started pulling on the leash, her head went under again! Once I got her back into the kayak I was practically screaming with laughter.

She took offense to that!

After making a half-hearted attempt to continue on around the lake, I gave it up as a bad job and head back to shore. (Rule #4)

Of course, of COURSE, there were people all over the boat launch fishing. (Rule #6) And Lily doesn’t like kids at the best of times but when she’s cold, wet and suffering the indignity of having jumped into the lake… Lots of loud barking ensued.

Once I had Lily back out of the kayak (I dumped her over the side into tummy-depth-on-a-small-dog water — again, I’ll never be forgiven) I hauled her back to the truck.

Thankfully, I had a towel in there. Don’t ask me why, but at the very least, I was able to comply with Rule #8.

Will I take Lily kayaking again? Absolutely! Will I plan it a bit better? Of course! Will she ever forgive me? Maybe, maybe not!

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you boat or kayak with your dog?
  • How old was Fido when you started?
  • Tips for teaching an old dog new boating tricks?

Set Your Hook: Lightning Safety

Stay Lightning Safe On the Water

Lightning on Water


I don’t know about the weather were YOU’RE at, but Northern Arizona has been having its share of really strange weather this year. Not only is it STILL knock-you-down-wind (weeks after it should have stopped) but we also had a thunder storm last week!

(The type of storm that blows, booms, and only rains enough to get your windows dirty!)

So I wanted to start the summer season off with an early tip about staying safe on the water when a storm is coming in.

Of course, the best way to avoid a lightning strike is to avoid becoming a lightning target. Each year in Arizona alone, several people are killed when the lake they were boating on is struck by lightning. Staying safe is more common sense than anything else!

Stay off or get off the water whenever weather conditions are threatening.

Keep an eye on the weather. Watch for the development of large well-defined rising cumulus clouds. Once they reach 30,000 feet, the thunderstorm is generally developing.

Now is the time to head for shore. As the clouds become darker and more anvil-shaped, the thunderstorm is already in progress.

Watch for distant lighting. Listen for distant thunder. You may hear the thunder before you can see the lightning on a bright day. You know how far you are from shore and you can guess how far the thunderstorm is from the lake. But, can you guess how fast the storm is moving your direction? Can you reach shore, unload the boat, store the gear, get the boat onto shore or into the truck, AND seek shelter within that time? You’d better move!

If a storm comes when you’re boating or swimming, get to land immediately and move away from the river, lake or whatever body of water you’re near. Get off the beach. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity and saturated sand or ground conducts electricity very well. Each year people are killed by nearby lightning strikes while they are in or on the water or on the beach.

Weather Radio

Our's is much older but very similar. About the size of an old Walkman tape player.

Carry a portable weather radio with you. There are models that are no bigger than a walkie-talkie that will easily slip into a tackle box or pocket. Think I’m being over cautious? ESP Boss has carried a pocket-sized, battery operated weather radio for YEARS.

Here’s an affiliate link to the weather radios carried by Amazon. The one we own is very similar to the yellow model pictured above.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you carry a weather radio?
  • What do you do if you think a storm is coming in?
  • If it’s raining but not lightning, do you stay on the lake or head for shore?

Set Your Hook

3 Trout Trolling Tips

There is that point in every beginner’s life where they decide to switch from bank fishing to fishing from a boat. If you’re just getting into boat fishing, the easiest thing to do is to go to a lake that rents row boats and take one out for an afternoon.

Once you’ve mastered the challenge of just DEALING with all your fishing tackle in the boat, then you can try trolling.

Just What Is Trolling?

Put very simply, trolling is drawing a baited fishing line through the water. Trolling can be done with one or more people in the boat. But, if you’re just getting started, I think it’s easier if one person runs the motor and the others fish.

It’s a challenge to try to run the motor

AND fish

AND deal with anything you catch

AND not get the line fouled in the motor.

If you’re trolling for lake trout, then you’ll want to use a lure specifically designed for trout. I’ve tried trolling with worms or Power Bait with no success; the lures are specially designed to get the job done.

My favorite lure for trolling for lake trout is a flatfish lure. I’ve had mine since I was 8 so it actually has a name: Sir Gregory. Go figure!

flatfish lure

Sir Gregory has been retired from active fishing (I would hate to lose him after all these years) and just hangs out in my tackle box for luck.

Here are my three biggest tips for getting started with trolling.

1. Troll Slowly

Big fish will not expend any more energy than necessary to catch a meal. Also, most lures will not perform correctly at fast speeds. The best advice is to troll SLOWLY, the slower the better.

When ESP Boss and I troll, sometimes he refuses to use a motor and rows instead. Of course, this may have something to do with a full reel of line being wrapped around a new electric motor and ruining it. (I was 9 but he’s never gotten over it!) A plus of using oars is that the movement of the lure is a bit erratic as it moves quickly and then slowly with the rhythm of the rowing.

People trolling for trout

Notice that there is very little wake? That's because they're moving slowly as they troll.

However, if you must use a motor, make sure it will throttle down to a crawl, or, better yet, purchase a multi-speed electric motor. You can use the electric motor for trolling and save a larger gas motor for power. Just be sure that your type and size of motor is permitted on the lake!

Most of the lakes listed on have motor information.

2. Vary Your Speed

While slow speeds are critical, this does not mean the same slow speed all the time. A lure running through the water at a constant speed, at a constant depth and giving off the same vibration pattern will not catch many fish. The movement is too regular and there’s nothing to indicate an easy meal or that something (i.e. the lure) is in trouble. Troll slowly, but adjust your speed every few minutes to change the lure’s speed and vibration pattern.

3. Troll In “S” Shaped Curves

The best results mean that you shouldn’t troll back and forth in a straight line. An “S” pattern is great, because every time the lure is on the inside swing of the boat, it will drop deeper and slow down. On an outside turn, the lure will speed up and rise. With each turn, you will impart a different action to the lure, signaling meal time to nearby fish.

Trolling for trout

As the boat gets closer to shore, it'll swing in a wide curve to pull the lures through the shallows. And to tempt any trout lurking there!

If you know where the fish like to hang out in the lake (EVERY lake has hot spots), then swinging curves to pass the lure through these areas should also get results.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you prefer to fish from the shore or a boat?
  • If fishing from a boat, would you rather troll or bottom fish?
  • Do you have any trolling tips to share?

Set Your Hook

Contain Your Anchor

Before I started fishing from the kayak (very fun!) if I wanted to go fishing, it was always in my family’s 12 foot fold-a-boat. I LOVE fishing from a boat because you can get to fishing holes that you just can’t reach casting from shore. Plus, you can troll, cast away from the boat or bottom fish, and it’s less buggy ON the water than near it.

But, one of my pet peeves about fishing from the boat was that my gear always got wet, even though the boat doesn’t leak! You know how it is: you reach for a sweatshirt and it’s wet. Or you put the ice chest on your lap to get a snack and the bottom was soaking — and now your pants are too!

And don’t even get me started on what happens when my the-fish-aren’t-biting book gets wet!

Finally ESP Boss realized that when we would bring up the anchor, the anchor rope was creating pooled water on the floor of the boat. Not to mention the addition of lake scum and mud that was getting caked on the boat floor.

Then, ESP Boss had a great idea: buy a bucket (with a handle) just big enough to hold the anchor and the anchor rope. We use mushroom shaped anchors that are covered in a vinyl coating.

When you bring up the anchor, put all the rope and the anchor into the bucket. Viola! No more water in the bottom of the boat! Plus, should the need ever arise; there’s a bucket on board for bailing out the boat.

Here’s a second anchor tip:

Tie a quick link to the end of the anchor rope. Then you can attach the whole rope to the boat. Trust me, if at all possible (or practical) you want to attach your gear to the boat!

A quick link attached to the anchor rope.

Quick links aren’t always the easiest thing to use, so you could also try a swivel eye snap hook or a trigger snap hook. Both are easy to attach to your anchor rope in a way that the rope won’t come off your hardware. For that reason, I don’t really recommend a carabiner; it’s too easy for the rope to come off the carabiner. If the rope isn’t attached to the hardware and the boat, then it defeats the purpose!

Fastener options, depending on what you like!

Shopping Links:

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your anchor tips?
  • Have you ever lost an anchor (or other piece of gear) off the boat? What did you do?

PS: If you don’t believe me about attaching your gear to something, then check out my video about Extreme Geocaching. I managed to lose a $40 piece of equipment!

Set Your Hook

Picking a Life Jacket

The Outdoor Princess in the Kayak

For a lot of people, fishing and boating go hand in hand. Since I’ll be doing some fishing from my kayak next weekend, I wanted to write about life jackets. Life jackets are also known as a life vest. The proper name of a life jacket is actually Personal Floatation Device or PFD.

But come, on, who really says: “Be sure to wear your personal floatation device today, honey, when you’re catching our dinner!”? Life jacket, life vests, life preservers, personal floatation device: it all comes down to what type do you need and when do you need to wear it.

Categories of Personal Flotation Devices:

The United States Coast Guard has broken the types of personal floatation devices into 5 categories:

Type I – Offshore Lifejacket

This PFD is designed for extended survival in rough, open water. It usually will turn an unconscious person face up. See the life vest at

Example of Type I

Type II – Near Shore Buoyant Vest

The “classic” Personal Floatation Device comes in several sizes for adults and children and is for calm inland water where there is chance of fast rescue. It is less bulky and less expensive than a Type I, and many will turn an unconscious person face-up in the water. See the life vest at

Example of Type II

Example of Type II

Type III – Flotation Aid

These life jackets are generally considered the most comfortable, with styles for different boating activities and sports. They are for use in calm water where there is good chance of fast rescue since they will generally not turn an unconscious person face-up. See the live vest at

Example of Type III

Type IV – Throwable Device

These are designed to be thrown to a person in the water. Throwable devices include boat cushions, ring buoys, and horseshoe buoys. They are not designed to be worn and must be supplemented by wearable PFD. It is important to keep these devices immediately available for emergencies, and they should not be used for small children, non-swimmers, or unconscious people. See the flotation device at

Example of Type IV

Type V – Special Use Device

Special use PFDs include work vests, deck suits, and hybrids for restricted use. Hybrid vests contain some internal buoyancy and are inflatable to provide additional flotation. See the life vest at

Inflatable Life Jackets

Inflatable life jackets rely on inflatable chambers that provide buoyancy when inflated. Uninflated, inflatable life jackets are less bulky than inherently buoyant life jackets. All inflatables contain a backup oral inflation tube (which also serves as the deflation tube).

Most people will use a personal floatation device in a recreational setting only. So types II & III are very common.

Picking a Life Vest

The summer I graduated from high school, I worked at my local YMCA as a lifeguard. I took my job extremely seriously: I was responsible for the life of somebody’s child and it was my job to make sure they were able to swim safely. I would always freak me out when my boss would hire a new lifeguard since I was never sure if my fellow guards quite understood the gravity of our job.

I’m only bringing this up to impress upon you the importance of picking the RIGHT floatation device for each member of your family. I know that when a family is just getting into boating, and spending all that money getting set up with gear, it’s tempting to try to do things on the cheap.

A life jacket is NOT where you want to save money!

Match the Vest To Your Activity

Many water activities have specific life jackets. For example, the vest I wear in my kayak not only has great safety ratings, it is specially designed for woman kayakers.

Size It Correctly

Just like clothes, life jackets come in a variety of sizes. The sizing chart is not only for the chest size and height of the person, but also the weight.

Try It On!

If the life vest is uncomfortable you won’t wear it. You also want to make sure it fits correctly. A properly adjusted life jacket should be snug but still allow the wearer to breathe and have freedom of movement.

If you’ve never purchased a personal floatation device before, I recommend buying your first one from an outdoors store. Have a sales associate (who knows what they’re doing!) help you find a life vest that matches your activity, buoyancy requirements, and body size. The sales associate should also be able to show you how to adjust it for correct fit.

When I bought my kayaking life jacket, I spent about twenty minutes with a very knowledgeable employee who helped me pick the perfect vest.

Kid’s Personal Flotation Devices

While some children weighing between 30 and 50 pounds may like the freedom of movement that a Type III lifejacket provides, most children in this weight range, especially those who cannot swim, should wear a Type I or Type II lifejacket.

Remember that water wings are NOT a flotation device and will not save your child in the case of an emergency.

When To Wear It

Every state has different rules governing personal flotation devices. In my opinion, wearing a life jacket is just like lifeguarding: not something to take lightly. For that reason, I recommend that no matter what, you wear it when you’re on the water.

I am a very good swimmer but I am never without my life jacket when I’m in our family row boat or in my kayak.

Arizona Game & Fish will issue tickets for PFD violations so be sure you know the laws in your state! I’ve looked and looked but I can’t find a list that has each state’s agency listed. I would recommend to contact your state’s department Game & Fish and ask about the boating safety requirements.

For a real, and funny, story of what happens when you don’t wear your life vest, check out this article written by John M of Muddy Feet Gang: Fishing or Swimming?

If you’d like to start your research or ready to buy, I recommend taking a look at Overton’s. They’re a large boating retailer and have lots of personal flotation devices to choose from.

Readers weigh in:

  1. What type of personal flotation device do you wear?
  2. Do you have any stories about where the life jacket helped in an emergency?
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