Although Lake Erie, and specifically its world-famous walleye fishery, has been around for quite some time, if one considers half a century quite some time, only recently has the style of big water fishing boats taken on a new look.
Indeed, the love affair with fiberglass and heavy wood fishing boats, although still holding its traditional own, is being challenged by an apparent and fast-growing interest in more portable aluminum boats. It’s a shift being seen and felt by marine dealers who cater to big water anglers.
There’s no doubt that big water boaters, especially charters, will always consider the much larger and heavier fiberglass hulls the best bet for their client needs and comfort. For decades, especially from the mid-1900s, it was hard to find many Lake Erie fans who would give much consideration for anything floating that wasn’t heavy enough to plow through the seemingly ever-present waves that Erie can throw at boaters.
The conversation would always include claims that anything lighter than fiberglass or wood would simply be tossed about and beat up by off-shore, big water conditions. Aluminums are too light for Erie, unable to cut through waves, just not enough boat, naysayers would preach.
“OK for inland lakes, OK for near-shore or harbor fishing, yadda, yadda. You need a good old lap-sided wood Lyman, a 20-footer or more for sure, and a big screw under it to handle whatever Erie throws at you,” they would say.
A good conversation for sure between like-minded owners.
But like the winds that drive Lake Erie’s mood, things change, and now fans of the big lake are seeing more and more fish being caught from aluminum boats and here’s why: new metal models are tough, solid, and designed for fishing. Most of the aluminum models built for the open water are welded, high-sided, and powered by outboard motors.
Add to that, many Pacific Northwest designed aluminum boats that are now being offered by marine dealers. The Northwest design is proving ideal for the waters of Erie and neighboring Great Lakes.
The design is how most fishing boats are built in the northwest coastal areas from Oregon to Alaska, tough boats that bounce off rocks and offer enough floor space to dance on. The design shoves the steering wheel, dash, and welded windshield forward which greatly increases the size of the fishing deck. Add to that deep and steep hulls that cut through waves easily.
I recently water tested a 21-foot, hard-topped Northwest designed rig last summer and was impressed by the ride and overall performance. Outboard powered boats seem to be the rage these days as Lake Erie walleye anglers enjoy the best fishing experienced in decades.
Outboards offer a longer fishing season since they don’t need to be shut completely down for the winter months like I-O’s and true inboard powered craft. In fact, well-equipped outboard-powered boats are actually still fishing right now and they will fish until the lake and launch ramps freeze over.
Other reasons boaters are moving to aluminum include the lighter overall weight meaning less vehicle size and power needed to tow a trailered rig, the ability to be mobile, less overall maintenance and simpler storage needs.
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