Kids and Canoes

CANOES are outnumbered by kayaks these days and I haven’t sat in one in quite some time, so when a friend offered me use of his Canadian canoe, I happily accepted and headed over to his place to pick it up.

Canoes are often quite a bit larger than the usual kayaks I throw up on the roof, so I had to keep the higher clearance in mind as well as so much overhang that I needed a flag hanging off the stern. The borrowed canoe was 15’ long, surprisingly easy to manhandle on and off the car alone and had plenty of room for both kids and all the stuff for a day on the water. The primary stability is fairly good, and when it does get a bit tippy, the secondary stability kicks in and you feel quite confident that it is a safe option for spending a day on the water with the kids.

Keeping the young ones busy is key to averting their boredom, so a trip to a well-stocked dam is usually my first choice. Baiting and dropping yabby pots and shrimp traps is the first order of business, and then it is time to get fishing. Bait of choice for us is live shrimp because bass and yellowbelly find them irresistible and the kids find it a real challenge to get a hold of them in the live well.

I paddle to the outside edge of weed beds or tie off to a tree, and usually there isn’t a need for fancy electronics. The rig is just a hook with no sinker and the shrimp are pinned through the tail. Even fairly young children can learn how to bait the hook. I also crush the barbs on my hooks when fishing with kids to save a trip to the emergency room if we have an accident.

The shrimp are then allowed to swim and kick their way down through the water column with the bail arm open. If you describe how to do it and lead by example, kids will mimic what you do.

When a fish takes the bait and starts moving away, close the bail arm and set the hook. My youngest is two and a half years old and doesn’t have the ability to land bigger fish yet, but he is eager to yell encouragement to his brother and always has the landing net handy to help. Once they have caught a couple of fish, kids often want to do something different, so let them learn how to paddle effectively or check the pots for yabbies. You can’t force them to sit around for hours, otherwise all they will take away from your day out is how much they hated it, and that is not what anyone wants.

Fishing from a canoe does have its drawbacks as well as advantages. I’ll start with the negative. Because the canoe has such high sides compared to a kayak and no rudder, it is more affected by wind. If you are paddling alone as I have been, a cross wind can make travel quite inefficient as you are paddling from the back half of the boat and the bow gets pushed around a lot.

But those are about the only bad things I have to say. The positives are many. In a canoe, you can sit up in a more natural position than in most kayaks. There is room for the kids to move around, and having sides reduces the risk of a child falling into the water. On a kayak, everyone is facing the same way, while in a canoe it is easy to turn around and face each other.

Kids sometimes require little convincing to get out on the water.
Kids sometimes require little convincing to get out on the water.
Live bait presented on an unweighted hook is child’s play.
Live bait presented on an unweighted hook is child’s play.
Kids get a sense of accomplishment from simply netting a sibling’s catch.
Kids get a sense of accomplishment from simply netting a sibling’s catch.
A few bass of this size put up enough of a fight to wear kids out.
A few bass of this size put up enough of a fight to wear kids out.
Ben understands the importance of just keeping enough for a feed.
Ben understands the importance of just keeping enough for a feed.
Being fibreglass, canoes are quite light and their length means you can lift one end onto the car, then lift the other and slide it up on the roof racks, avoiding a dead lift of the whole thing like you have to do with most kayaks.

Up until this point, I had been taking the kids out in a small tinnie. The cost of registering both the boat and trailer, as well as servicing and running costs and storage of the boat and trailer mean I am seriously considering swapping petrol power for a paddle-powered canoe for family fishing.

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About Tom Laszlo

Tom Laszlo
Tom lives in Brisbane and predominantly fishes from his small fleet of kayaks. He enjoys hitting rivers and creeks chasing bass and cod as well as heading offshore to catch snapper when conditions suit. In 2015 he will be spending more time getting his two young boys into camping and fishing.

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