Houseboat Angling

by Louis Bignami

During colder months in most parts of the country open boat angling isn't exactly comfortable, but in the Southwest, California and many parts of the Southeast houseboats deserve consideration, and offer off-season savings on rates. For with a warm cabin and hot coffee fresh from the stove you can watch rods in comfort as you troll or still fish the day. Best of all, houseboats run displacement hulls so their most effective speed is just about right for trolling up trout, bass, striped bass and other fresh and saltwater species. From very late fall until the waters warm in early summer these species will be on or near the surface so you can use sporty lightweight gear in instead of heavy trolling tackle.

New to houseboats? They offer the convenience of RVs with the access to the best angling spots. In fact, you can moor in casting range of the action, and enjoy fishing at dawn or dusk you might otherwise miss. We've houseboated all over the West, in Florida, in the Amazon, in Kashmir, France, England, Ireland and Germany. This time of year prime spots include Lake Mead for stripers and black bass, the California Delta, California's Shasta Lake and a number of other venues. In Florida the St. John and other rivers deserve a look. We've brought our own turkey - call so size ovens as we found the maximum turkey size that fits at about 16 pounds. We've toted a Christmas tree and enjoyed a three generation family gathering.

Minimum gear - warm clothing, food and such - does the job as most boats come fully equipped with cooking gear. Do bring your own CDs or tapes if you tastes don't happen to run to Country and Western!

Fishing gear isn't complex either. We use light casting gear with ten pound test for trolling minnow plugs over the stern. You may find clamp-on rod holders a good investment so you can set rods off the bow deck so the skipper can keep an eye on them. Otherwise someone need brave the weather on the stern deck. A portable depth/fish finder can be handy as well.

In addition to the trolling rods we normally carry nine to twelve foot steelhead sticks rigged with eight pound test and casting spoons so we can cover swirling fish with quick casts as opportunity arises. Fly anglers can bring their usual dry and streamer fly outfits. When we moor on the bank we convert our trolling rigs to bait - live bait like worms or minnows fished under a float or on bottom lets you extend your angling day. Mooring next to a stream or inside a protected point works well. If you anchor, look for spots near logs, clam or weed beds and other fish holding cover.

In many cases you'll have a free canoe or skiff and motor as part of the off season package. This means that the anglers can get away from the houseboat and fish without waking the lame and lazy.