Country Living

Small Boats Economical, Yet Productive for Ohio Anglers


A wide variety of boats have been parked in the yard over the years, all of them suitable for fishing.

They have ranged from a sturdy 26-foot Penn Yan to a few perky Starcraft boats used for filming the Outdoors Ohio television show. There’s only one boat still around. It’s certainly not the biggest or fastest of the bunch.

My fishing machine these days is a little 10-year-old 16-foot Triton jon boat with a 10-horsepower Johnson four-stroke outboard. For a retired guy on a budget, it’s easy to appreciate that downsizing has resulted in a versatile and far more economical fishing boat.

For the uninitiated, a jon boat is a small flat bottom boat with square ends designed for use on shallow waterways. The little Triton is a rugged, stable boat but not designed for fishing the big waves of Lake Erie. It won’t speedily take me from the Marblehead Peninsula to Pelee Island to chase smallmouth bass and walleye.

It also won’t break the bank every time there’s a need to fill the gas tank.

The Penn Yan’s tanks could hold 100 gallons of gasoline. There were long days of fishing when the big inboard engine could and would inhale most of it. Back in the days of $5 per gallon marina fuel, that made long-range fishing trips very expensive.

The little Triton has a 5-gallon fuel tank. It can be filled at any highway gas station selling ethanol-free gasoline, which is a must for outboards, chain saws and lawn mowers. One tank of fuel can last a week when fishing small waters.

The jon boat is perfectly designed for my favorite Northern Ohio fishing hole, East Harbor on the Marblehead Peninsula. The 800-acre body of water is connected to Lake Erie and home to marinas with hundreds of boat docks. The vast majority of those boats are designed for Lake Erie, not for slow-and-easy shoreline fishing the shallow harbor areas for largemouth bass.

East Harbor does attract an invasion of bass boats every weekend. Bass fanatics can launch at Mazurik Boat Access just down the road and in a few minutes cruise down the East Harbor Channel. Since its waters are usually calm, East Harbor also lures paddlers with kayaks and canoes to launch at East Harbor State Park.

While Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch are always in the spotlight, East Harbor and nearby West Harbor are home to excellent numbers of largemouth bass. The bluegill and crappie fishing can be quite good. Surprisingly, yellow perch are hooked there, as well as catfish, sheepshead and carp.

The jon boat has a bow-mounted electric trolling motor. It allows me to constantly position the boat to focus on casting to small break walls, brush piles or drop-offs. It will float in a foot of water. With a camouflage paint job, the jon boat does double duty when the waterfowl hunting season rolls around.

It’s easy for my pickup truck to pull the small, light boat down the highway when I want to fish Ohio’s lakes or reservoirs for walleye, bass, muskies, crappie or big catfish, which abound in the Buckeye State’s myriad of small lakes. If the wind isn’t whistling, the jon boat can easily handle sprawling Pymatuning and Mosquito reservoirs. A few weeks ago, crappies and largemouth bass were targeted at Salt Fork Reservoir.

When a high-powered bass boat roars past, it does provoke a little envy. The go-fast motor, the sophisticated electronics, the flashy paint job are all pretty cool. The rods, reels and lures on both boats are the same, however, and savvy old-timers know you’ll catch more if you slow down and keep on fishing.

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