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A good story first needs a good idea

Readers have often asked me where I get the ideas for these columns, and to be truthful, I often wonder about this myself. Sometimes the idea is decided long in advance, and those columns are easy.

Other times deadline looms and that can be a great motivator. This week’s has been in the back of my mind for a while, but I really started thinking seriously about it while trolling leisurely around the lake.

It was beautiful out there last week, and after a too long winter, the sun’s warmth was welcome. We were catching enough fish to make it interesting, and I was just steering the Barbie J and watching the fish finder as I searched for underwater structure.

There was no hurry, and we had the lake pretty much to ourselves. It seems that boaters who do not fish limit their boating season from Memorial Day to Labor Day, while we anglers try to use every good fishing day before winter once again forces us to pull our boats out of the water.

Once when I glanced up from the Humminbird sonar I noted the anchor on the deck. It consisted of a Danforth anchor, 4 foot of chain and 100 foot of nylon anchor line. Granted that this seemed overkill for such a small inland lake, but I had spent many years sailing in Lake Erie. Often we slept aboard Restless IV, and there have been nights when no anchor would have given us peace of mind.

But that was Lake Erie, and here on the milder lakes anchors seem to be almost an afterthought. I remember fishing with a guide on Mosquito Lake while working on a walleye fishing article. The guide’s boat leaked and he bailed it out using the same can he used for a spittoon. Once we got to his favorite walleye hole his anchoring command to me was, “Throw that pile of junk overboard.” And junk it was. His anchor was actually a conglomeration of heavy metal secured to a sturdy anchor line (called a rode in nautical terms). For sure his boat was not pristine and the anchor would have caused a naval officer to cry, but it all held together and we caught fish. It made a great story.

No matter where you boat you should choose the right anchor. On these small protected lakes something as simple as a big can filled with concrete will work, although I always tend to go overboard in my choice, and there are several styles of anchor that will work, depending on the size of boat and the lake bottom.

In addition to the Danforth, there are the River Anchor, the Naval Anchor, and yes the old can filled with concrete. Whichever you choose, you need to use it properly.

The key to safe anchoring is how much anchor rode you put out in relation to the depth of the water. This is called scope, but it fails to take into account the height your anchor roller is above water. Still in my opinion it is close enough for these mild lakes.

Now suppose you have located structure and wish to anchor over it. My method, which sometimes works okay, is to note the depth of the structure, then motor into the wind, lower the anchor until it holds, let out sufficient rode and hope the boat drifts down over the structure so you can fish.

Of course as soon as you bait your hook and settle back to fish, the wind will shift and the boat will not even be close to the structure. Such are the vagaries of fishing. Don’t you just love it?

While the anchor is a help when fishing, it is really a safety device. If the wind picks up and the motor refuses to start, your anchor might be the only thing keeping you off the rocks until help arrives. That, in my opinion is the real reason to carry a proper anchor and anchor rode. It could save your life.

So pick the proper anchor to fit the size and style of your boat. Then learn to use it, even if that means deploying it a couple times in safe water. Hopefully you will only need it to improve your fishing, but if a bad situation arises, you will be happy to have it.

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