I am not a competent boatman. It may be that I have so little experience operating motor boats or I lack the aptitude for operating outboard moters. It may be a combination of the two issues. I got a painful reminder this morning while out for a solo fishing expedition on the Rideau River between Manotick and Kemptville. Buoyed by the successful outing with Doug and his son Landon last weekend–we caught lots of panfish, perch, sunfish and a white crappie and had are really good time–I had high hopes for my fishing trip this morning. I stopped by Sail Ottawa earlier in the week to shop for tackle to fish for crappie. I needed a bigger tacklebox before I left Sail.
While at Sail I looked over some fish finders. I remember seeing one in action several years ago when I went fishing with a neighbour on the Greater Rideau Lake. While I typically like the old ways when it comes to fishing and hunting, I thought I might give it a try. I checked out various brands of portable fishfinders online and found the Garmin Striker 4 Fish Finder with Portable Kit to my liking. Even better, Canadian Tire had them on sale! I paid for the Garmin fish finder online and picked it up at Canadian Tire the next day. Mika helped me assemble the kit–I am not very good at assembling gadgets that come in kits. I looked up tutorials on YouTube to learn how to operate the new fish finder. One aspect I like about the Garmin fish finder I bought is it has a GPS also. The only thing about the new fish finder I found iffy was the suction cup mount for the transducer. Though I viewed a video on how to mount the transducer on the transom of a boat, I wondered just how reliable such a mount could be.
I decided my fishing expedition this morning would be more prospecting than fishing. I intended to try out the new fish finder in hopes of finding good fishing spots for future outings with Doug and his boys. Crappie were my secondary objective; I had high hopes I could find a school of crappie using the fish finder and catch a few with the new tackle. I searched thoroughly for information on the ecology and habits of crappie, and tactics for successfully fishing for them. I found plenty of videos on YouTube featuring seasoned fishermen offering tips on crappie fishing. I found reports on the main range of crappie in Ontario waters, and the stretch of the Rideau River I fished this morning looked good. I was keyed up and set to go. Still, in the back of my mind, the nagging thought “what could possibly go wrong” lingered. My preparations were so careful this time, “surely everything will go smoothly this time,” I mused confidently.
I picked up my boat at at about 7:30 am and stopped on the way to the W.P. Taylor Conservation Area to add more fuel to the gas tank for the outboard motor. I arrived at the boat launch in good time and as I hoped it was nowhere near as busy as last weekend. I loaded my gear into the boat and carefully attached the transducer for the Garmin fish finder to the transom. I got the boat into the water easily enough. I spoke briefly with an elderly gentleman fishing from the dock. He is visiting his son and grandchildren. He is from Waterloo. On board the outboard motor roared to life without any trouble. I set out for the spot where Doug, his son Landon and I got into panfish the weekend before. I turned on the fish finder and it worked. Everything was going fine, then things abruptly went off the rails.
As I noted in the opening paragraph, I do not have a wealth of experience operating motorboats. I cannot explain what happened but suspect I got something wrong in trying to set the outboard motor for shallow running. Suddenly, the outboard motor tipped up with the propeller almost out of the water and the bow pointing up high out of the water. “This is not right,” I thought with a note of alarm. I hit the kill switch and as the boat drifted adjusted the outboard motor. It took some doing, and my inexperience was not an asset. Eventually I got the outboard motor sorted out. It started with one pull and when I put it in gear the boat moved forward with the bow level on the water. “Great,” I thought, then I heard the sickening “clunk” of something caught in the propeller. I hit the kill switch and to my horror saw the transducer somehow came unfastened and got caught in the propeller. Upon closer examination the transducer survived but the mount and suction cup were torn off and lost.
There I sat on the Rideau River, my prospecting mission over before it started. Rather than give up and return to shore I decided to proceed with my effort to find and maybe catch some crappie. I motored on to the lee side of an island in the channel. There were brush piles and stumps in weed beds. It looked worth a try. Jigging with a bobber, I hoped, might land me a crappie. Turns out my optimism was misplaced. My first cast at the edge of a weed bed ended with my jig, artificial bait and leader taking up permanent residence on the river bottom. Fine, I picked up the anchors and moved to the spot where I caught several panfish with Doug and Landon the previous weekend. I replaced the bait, jig and leader and tried my luck a while. Nothing took the bait.
While I was out on the river I motored up to the other side of the Highway 416 bridge as I heard this is a good spot for pike and walleye fishing. It may be but the area is a fairly broad expanse. I anchored in what looked a likely spot as any and cast a few lines using a Black Fury lure. All I caught was weeds. After a while I moved back close to the spot where I jigged unsuccessfully for crappie. This time I had a few bites. I think it was sunfish or perch. Nothing took the bait. I decided to call it a morning at 11:00 am.
On the way back to shore I came upon a pair of terns perched on a buoy. The birds posed for me and I got some nice photos of them. I recovered the boat without incident and safely returned it to the garage where I store it. In the end, it was more a crappy day than a day of crappie fishing for me. I had a mishap with my new fish finder and did not catch any fish. In spite of today’s misfortune, I remain determined to try again. The challenge now is finding a way to safely mount the transducer to the transom. That and see if someone more seasoned in operating motor boats can give me basic instruction in the technique.
Posted by Geoffrey