Western New York is surrounded by water. There are two Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario), the awesome Niagara River, the Erie Canal and the nearby Finger Lakes (and Chautauqua Lake, too) to name a few places of note for boating and fishing.
With so much water to choose from, having a boat at your disposal would certainly have its advantages. The first question that should come to mind: Is there a perfect boat that can be versatile enough to fish for salmon and trout on Lake Ontario, bass and walleye on Lake Erie or crappie on Chautauqua?
“If you are going to try and take advantage of all the different species and the different waters that are available, you’ll need to do your homework,” says Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Region Charters. “For selecting a boat, you might have to start with your vehicle. Unless you are looking to buy a vehicle specifically to haul a certain boat, you might want to evaluate your situation and see what your limitations are.”
Fran Brobeil, of Brobeil Marine in Buffalo, agrees. “You will be restricted by what you will be towing with,” says Brobeil. His family-owned operation has been taking care of the boating community since 1945.
“Most of the SUV’s nowadays can tow up to around 3,500 pounds. Above that weight, you will need a truck.”
As far as the “perfect” boat, you have to figure out how and where you want to fish. If you want to drift fish in the Niagara River, troll Erie and Ontario for whatever fish is in season or just still fish and cast, you need to make that determination before you even start thinking about a boat. You will also have to decide if you are going to fish in the winter, too. With ice chunks bobbing around, that will rule out a fiberglass boat.
“If you are looking for something that’s easily trailered yet versatile, you’ll probably be looking at a 17- or 18-foot boat,” says Brobeil. “Our featured line here is PolarKraft – made of aluminum and a bit lighter weight. While they are primarily fishing boats, there are some crossover models that handle both fishing and the watersports. Boating and fishing are both great family activities. The number of people involved with your on-water experiences will also play into what kind of boat you will be looking at.”
With all of the different designs out there, you will have to take much into consideration.
“I prefer a side console for my type of fishing,” says Campbell, who fishes on Erie, Ontario and the Niagara River some 200 days a year. "I can switch from drifting for trout to trolling for salmon and walleye very easily.”
His fishing machine is a 20-foot long Lund Pro-V 2025, side console, with a 200 horsepower Honda 4-stroke engine on the back.
“It’s very versatile, perfect for what I do," he says. "I can get someplace quick or troll down to almost nothing to catch fish. It’s also very heavy.”
The boat is fully equipped with rod lockers, storage compartments for tackle, live wells, a 54-gallon gas tank and much more. A powerful Minnkota trolling motor is mounted on the bow, giving him the tool he needs most for boat control when drifting or trolling. Electronics are Lowrance, but there are plenty on the market that can meet your needs – from the basics to some amazing technology.
“You need to figure out what type of fishing you are going to be doing, too,” insists Brobeil. “Are you going to use downriggers and will you need additional rod holders? Your boat will need to have some mounting capabilities. Will you be using planer boards? If you are going to be dropping a lot of fish on the floor (in your mind’s eye anyway), you might need a vinyl floor versus a carpet. Walleye fishermen will need to think about a slower troll and you may need to think about a kicker motor to help get you under 2 mph. Then again, using a sea anchor might do the trick.”
You’ll have to ask yourself a bunch of questions on the big motor, too. How big does it need to be from the standpoint of speed? What about fuel efficiency?
“Most everything today is a four-stroke motor,” says Brobeil. “Things are really high tech. See what’s out there and see what your needs are.”
One perfect way to personally inspect a wide variety of boats and ask questions is through the Western New York Boat Show, set for Feb. 22-26 at the Adpro Sports Fieldhouse located on One Bills Drive in Hamburg. There will be plenty of boats and motors to check out, numerous marine dealers (like Brobeil) to ask questions of. It goes without saying that there will be plenty of “dreaming” going on, too. Check out www.buffaloboating.com for further details.
Campbell takes that a step further. Selecting a boat for your first water craft or making an upgrade to an existing vessel is not something you want to just jump in to. Do your homework. See what’s on the market and what incentives are available. Go on the internet and check out the message boards.
“One thing I would recommend is to pack up some drinks and snacks and head down to the launch ramp closest to your house or to the ramp you would most likely be using,” says Campbell. “Not only will you see a variety of boats, you will be able to see how they handle backing up. You can even ask questions of the owners. If nothing else, it can be very entertaining.”
Bottom line is that we live in a great area for water sports. You only live once and a boat can add to your seasonal enjoyment of the area. You just have to find a perfect boat … for you.