Fresh Water Fishing via rowing in the Midwest : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread

After reading about some of your open water rowing adventures, I am intrigued with the idea of rowing to the fishing spots in local lakes and rivers here in central Illinois. My simple, low-tech instincts, love of the water and fishing, past life as a young surfer, tell me I would enjoy it. Thoughts of sharing the water with hordes of bass boats, skiers, and jet skies cause some pause. Any thoughts or references to the suitability of boat designs and rigging for fishing would be much appreciated. Also, does anyone have any sources or links for rowing craft and rowing in the Midwest? Thank you.

-- Lou Nelms (, November 21, 2000


Dear Lou,

Many of the best fixed seat rowing craft ever were designed for freshwater fishing. Many of these craft have done extremely well in open water competition on salt water. This fact should help allay some of your concerns about sharing the water with bassboats and jet skis. Remember, the best and "fishiest" structure(downed trees, aquatic weedbeds, sheltering coves and points of land) are found in shallow water. The larger, faster, deeper draft craft must be careful in these areas. I have been designing, building and fishing from oar powered boats in western Pennsylvania for decades. Much of my fishing has been done on large rivers and reservoirs with no horsepower limits. I can assure you that the relaxation and renewal I've experienced on these outings overwhelmingly outweigh the anxiety.


Andre de Bardelaben

-- Andre de Bardelaben (, November 21, 2000.

Lou, I've been thinking about doing the same thing myself. What I've decided to do is build the Mill Creek 16.5' kayak from Chesapeake Light Craft ( The Mill Creek is an "open" type kayak that can also be fitted with a sliding seat RowWing for sculling. They also have two other models of rowing boats: a lapstrake wherry and a traditional 21' scull. I have very limited rowing experience and needed something with a bit of stability. I've had my eye on their wherry for some time now and this past weekend they brought a trailerfull of their boats down to Wrightsville Beach here in N.C. for folks to try out. I spent a couple of hours on Sat. morning trying out each of their designs and even though I hadn't intended on building a kayak, I was really impressed with their Mill Creek. It's a two-person kayak and can be set up for single sculling. I didn't try the Oxford Shell because it was quite windy and a little choppy. The wherry was tippy enough to convince me that I didn't even need the Oxford Shell. Both the wherry and the Mill Creek handled boat wakes from passing boats with no trouble at all and the Mill Creek tracked well despite the wind. On CLC's website, there's a forum where I've seen folks posting messages re' fishing from their kayaks, particularly the Mill Creek. I'm in no way associated with CLC, just impressed with their products and company personnel...and a soon-to-be customer.

Regards, Tom

-- Tom Anderson (, November 22, 2000.

I sent Lou an e-mail on this subject and thougt I would share some opinions with others on this forum.

I live in central Illinois and have for the past 2 years been the owner of an 18th century replica 16' jolly boat. I have not yet been fishing in it, but have been amazed at the number of fish that have played and jumped about it. I believe that either they are not afraid of it because it is a naturat material, or they no longer associate wood with fishermen because so many fishermen use fiber glass or metal boats.

The comments about power boats is well taken the main lake I sail and row on is Lake Clinton, one of the largest lakes in central Illinois. The power boats are crazy. Too large for the lake and the mentality of the drivers is in direct reverse proportion to their IQ's. However as was said if you stay in the shallows and near the rocks you are usually o.k. However always keep your head on a swivel.

-- Tom Galyen (, November 25, 2000.

Sorry to digress, I know this site is about open-water rowing, but... in reference to Tom's response about fish playing near his boat and them being unafraid of wood boats vs. fiberglass: I'll have to agree with that theory to some extent. I mean, fiberglass and aluminum boats can make an awful lot of noise...noise that is much different than a thump against natural wood. It would scare me, for sure.


-- Tom Anderson (, November 27, 2000.

I'm just about to build a boat for this very purpose. Currently, I do alot of my fishing from a canoe (Mad River Explorer, if anyone's interested...), but have found that I also want to have something a bit more stable, that moves well under oar but that I can also sail if I get the urge (and something that I can outfit with an electric trolling motor if I get really lazy). I've narrowed it down to several designs, but one of them is another CLC design, the Jimmy Skiff.

As for stuff about this sort of rowing in the Midwest, there isn't a great deal, since most non-motorized craft around here tend to be canoes and kayaks, with the occasional guideboat mixed in for variety.

The motorized boat traffic is another thing entirely. The big fiberglass bass and pleasure boats will tend to avoid you, since they look upon anyone without 200 hp as slightly odd. The jetskiers around here think, on the other hand, that it's great fun to buzz paddlers and rowers--really anything near their size without their horsepower (on the principle that they can run away faster than you can row).

One of the most attractive things about fishing from paddlecraft was that I could go to lakes that didn't even have boat landings, or at least ones that were "improved" enough for the big boats. I'm going to build a skiff that's light enough to carry (at least a short way, long portages are still for the canoe) so that I can continue to do this. Some of my best fishing has been in small waters, where there's less pressure because of access issues, and where it's possible to fish during the day in the summer without surfing boat wakes. On top of it all, a wooden craft like is so much quieter than the other stuff, that I often notice the difference in the versus when I fish with someone in their 16ft alumimum fishing craft.

-- Steve Wagner (, February 02, 2001.


For two years I have been using an Old Town Discovery canoe which comes with oar locks. It has been surprisingly manuverable. On lakes I can generate a lot of speed and distance solo, without tiring out. On stream, I face forward like a western drift boat and can fish the bank with the drift without worrying about paddling. I could not be happier with this craft for fishing. The one large downside it in heavy wind on open water it is not the most stable, but I have only tipped it once.


-- kent (, July 21, 2001.

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