Due to our last unwelcomed snow, most of us are scrambling to get ready for fishing opener, making our lists and checking them twice. In this regard, although many anglers have taken to creating these lists on smart phones, there are some who still adhere to chicken-scratching on envelopes, sales receipts and sometimes, for those who are organized, on actual notepads.
A good percentage will cruise our phones for tips to help us prepare. Those who are not quite ready for primetime phone videos, however, struggle with the trying textless information highway. Having to jot notes while parsing those video pre-fishing guidelines from the fishing industry can be frustrating. Once we have navigated the numerous tip teachings, however, we can begin our lists in earnest.
To do so, of course, we will have to journey through the salt water and southern bass material minefields that lure us into watching their flashy siren images of far off fishing. If you are looking for examples, how many of us can glibly skip a story about Southern “spider-rigging” for crappie (in the South they call them crappie or specs) complete with a photo of a “jillion” 10’-16’ rods protruding bow and stern (see column photo) from their flat-bottomed boats like a porcupine on a paddle board. Except for bass, by the way, some of our Southern fishing counterparts, like their duck-pounding cohorts, are pretty much still into “filling the cooler.” Don’t believe us? Okay then, here is a quote from an “Outdoor Life” email article titled, “5 Ways to Catch 25 Crappies a Day, Tactics from the Pros” that might help make our case: “Catching a cooler full of slab-sided, good eating crappies is every panfish angler’s goal. Here are five great ways to load the boat.”
If you are wondering how in their “eat, sleep, fish” world they can keep all those lines from tangling, according to the article, “They spool each spinning reel with 4-pound test line and complete the rig with a 3/4-ounce egg sinker, barrel swivel, 2 feet of 4-pound test leader and a 1/16-ounce jig tipped with a fathead or Missouri minnow.” Be forewarned if you “youtube” Missouri minnow you will get a video of one being eaten by a snake! After this, of course, is a sponsor-laden list of jigs and plastics.” The short blurb is accompanied by a tailgate filled with 25 giant show-fish crappies arranged from the biggest at the front to the “just keepers” in the back.
As interesting a journey as that was, it was time to scroll troll on. The next stop was a nifty little piece from Mercury Marine centered on boating safety tips. Again, like those of you who have become addicted to the Google wanderlust syndrome well know, a deep yearning for more background on the origin of Mercury Motors gripped us like a baited bear clutching a jelly donut.
This quest, however, as the best laid plans often do, went awry when the saga of the outboard motor yoo-hooed us like an ice-filled cooler of beverages on a sweltering day. To wit, HuntsMarine.com explains in 1896 the American Motor Company of Long Island, New York built 25 portable boat motors that were the first gasoline powered “outboards.” Believe it or not, none are known to exist today and no one even has a photo of the unit, so it you have one we will gladly buy it from you. FYI, the name “outboard” was later created in 1903 by American Cameron Waterman who made a machine with an air-cooled motor connected by way of sprockets he called an “outboard” motor.
The father of the modern outboard, however, was Norway immigrant Ole Evinrude who in 1908 produced a motor that clamped on the back of a boat. Evinrude’s biography reports his invention was inspired by Ole rowing a boat on Okauchee Lake, a small lake outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on a hot day to get ice cream for his girlfriend and future wife, Bess as they picnicked on an island. But, when he returned the ice cream had melted, thus the story goes the inventor’s wheels began turning, resulting in the highly successful Evinrude motor.
To find out the Paul Harvey-like “rest of the story,” look up Ole and Bess. Incidentally, to sadly quell a fishing urban legend many of us grew up with, Johnson Motors was not named as such because he was Evinrude’s son-in-law. In 1921 the Johnson brothers of Terra Haute, Indiana, Lou, Harry and Clarence, produced a totally new lightweight outboard, pioneering the use of diecast aluminum casting, unheard of in the outboard motor industry. Both Evinrude and Johnson motors eventually were sold by the Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC). Although Johnson motors are no longer produced, Evinrude is still a mainstay in the fishing world.
Back to Mercury Motors. Wikipedia tells us the Kiekhaefer Mercury company began in 1939 when engineer Carl Kiekhaefer purchased a small outboard motor company in Cedarburg, Wisconsin with the intent to make magnetic separators for the dairy industry. The purchase included 300 defective outboard motors, which he and a small staff of employees rebuilt and sold to Montgomery Ward, a mail-order company. Because the motors were much improved, the buyer purchased more. Kiekhaefer then called the motor “Mercury” (taking advantage of the “Mercury Motor Car’s” popularity at the time) and adopted the logo of the Roman god Mercury. Amazingly, Kiekhaefer took more than 16,000 orders at the 1940 New York Boat Show.
If you go to Mercury’s safety tips article (Mercury Boating Basics, mercurymarine.com), you will find a virtual tackle box full of boating safeguards. Some of these, certainly, will apply to the much larger ocean or big water anglers/boaters ply. But, if you are of the ilk who thinks “this can never happen to me,” consider this quote: “I will say that I cannot imagine any condition which could cause a ship to flounder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” Tragically ironic, the source of this quote was E.J. Smith, Captain of the “Titanic” as quoted in the press just before sailing from South Hampton, England on April 10, 1912 bound for New York. Incredibly, the ship was only completed and launched eight days prior.
Whether boating large or small waters, Mercury Marine recommends carrying for day/night rescue or survival: flashlights, rockets/flares, orange flags and even whistles. The article also highly suggests having a suitable weight anchor and lots of rope, highlighting this extra line would come in handy when being towed or towing another boat with motor trouble. Other must-have items include: a manual bilge pump (plastic coffee can), fire extinguisher, first aid kit/band aids, fuses, basic tool kit, sunglasses, sun lotion, insect repellent, extra hats, gloves and warm clothing, rain gear, a spare plug, compass, paddle, telescoping dock hook, life jackets (wear them), throwable cushions (not a life jacket) with 50’ of line securely attached, pliers with a cutter/snipper for impaled hooks and cell phone.
Even though we cringed when hearing this preaching from our caregivers, Shakespeare also agreed as he wrote in “Hamlet”: “The best safety lies in fear.” By the way, the “boat chips” in our title are Pringles and although not having much to do with boating safety, they are definitely a safety net for parents when in a boat or pontoon with their kids!
Nik and Rod Dimich are on the pro staffs of Mercury Marine and Ray’s Sport & Marine in Grand Rapids, Minn. Rod is also a pro-staffer for L&M Supply and his radio show “Woods & Water” can be heard each Friday at 5:50 P.M. on KQDS 95, 106.3 on “The Train Wreck’s Drive at Five.” To contact Dimich Outdoors, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Kristin Dimich contributes to this column.