The Plastic Fantastic

Messing around in boats is almost as good as fishing. Dwayne Rigby reviews one of his favourite ways of messing and fishing around.

Fishing Boat - The term evokes as many different images as there are anglers to contemplate it. Depending on your own set of fishing needs and the environment you operate in, your ideal fishing boat could be anything from a Canadian canoe to a 50 foot Bertram. Real world constraints usually mean that, although we have a mental image of what our ideal boat would be, we are usually fishing out of something a little less suitable (and less expensive)

A couple of years ago I developed a need for a small, quiet boat to expand my lure casting options. Bank side access on some of the small rivers I fished was becoming increasingly difficult and all I really needed was a small, light, one man vessel. Being at the budget conscious end of the wealth spectrum also meant that my fishing boat had to be cheap - dirt cheap.

After a bit of investigation I found a solution that was perfect for my needs ie cheap, robust and practical. It goes by the name of "ËśMinnow'. For people who haven't seen the new breed of mini kayaks a bit of explanation is in order. The Minnow (and other similar craft like the Sprite and Funyak) are a kind of canoe/kayak hybrid with enclosed front and rear sections and an open cockpit. Total length is 2.7 metres(thus the Minnow moniker) with a beam of .8 metre and a total weight of 15 kg. A Bertram it isn't but a Bertram isn't much use in a metre of water. A bit of further research showed that they've become extremely popular in NSW for small water bass and bream spinners. This knowledge, and the fact that my local spots are relatively narrow sheltered waterways prompted me to lay down my total boat purchasing budget on a Minnow and double bladed paddle. It's the best money I have ever spent on a fishing related item.

Make no mistake, craft like the Minnow are ideal for one specific purpose and a compromise for anything else. What is the purpose that's it so tailor make for? Basically, any water that's relatively inaccessible to bank side anglers and larger vessels. And don't kid yourself that there isn't much of that water around. There's tons of it and the scheduled nature of much of it points to some pretty fine fishing that is largely untapped. The advantage of a mini kayak in some of these waters is obvious. The fact that you can easily carry a Minnow for hundreds of metres if necessary opens up a lot of small water that doesn't have launching facilities for larger boats or canoes. Their shallow draft (they'll float in 8 cm of water) means that you can readily glide over sand or mud flats that would stop bigger boats in their tracks. In the event that you run out of water completely you simply pick it up and carry it to the next suitable spot. The tough as anils nature of their polyethylene construction is also perfect for this type of water. The usual collisions with oysters, rocks, hidden logs etc that are a regular part of small water fishing don't faze the Minnow one iota.

Two other pluses with these vessels become immediately evident as soon as you have a paddle in one. Firstly, they're incredibly stable as a result of their short, fat design. Finally, they're almost totally silent as long as you take a bit of care with your paddle work. This stealthy approach can be the make or break factor in some rivers. As you may have guessed from the dimensions of these crafts there are a few limitations to their use. Wind, for example, can be a major headache. Due to their light weight they are easily blown about by any sort of breeze and a strong wind probably dictates that you return to shore. By a bit of forward planning though eg. getting on the water at daybreak before the wind picks up, you can often get a few productive hours in before you have to pull up stumps. Similarly, those lazy autumn days when there isn't a puff of wind are ideal weather. It's not really sensible to be heading off to do a spot of flathead drifting in the bays either. As we've discussed, their forte really is small, sheltered coastal rivers and the like such as Brown River, the Jordan River, upper Swanport river and the myriad of coastal lagoons dotted up the east and north coast. There's countless other spots as well if you take a quick look at a coastal map. Freshwater rivers are a no-no as are the highland lakes. The combination of unpredictable weather and freezing water could lead to fatal consequences in the event of an accident.

Nonetheless, lowland lakes such as Craigbourne and Curries River Dam are potential spots for responsible and weather conscious anglers as long as you don't stray too far from the shore. The chronic lack of space in these kayaks really means that they're vastly more suited to lure fishing than bait. One rod and a small box with half a dozen lures takes up virtually no space at all. If you wear a vest or shirt with plenty of pockets you can keep your terminal tackle close to hand with out having to reach for anything. A small bag on the floor can act as a rest for the rod butt whilst paddling and as storage for any fish you keep. Landing fish is an interesting exercise. A landing net really takes up too much space and so I've taken to carrying a small gaff instead. Some fish, like bream, are quite easy to land by hand once you've had a bit of practice whilst the gaff is handy for large trout, salmon etc.

Flathead are a fish you should avoid at all costs! In the smaller waters that are suited to Minnow fishing you're unlikely to get any big flathead anyway bit you never know. Bringing a writhing, spine covered flathead aboard and having it drop into your lap is something I'd rather not think about. There's really not much point in fishing with line heavier than about 4 kg either. Why? You'll soon discover that any half decent bream, trout, salmon etc is eminently capable of towing you around. Using heavy line just gives the fish a more efficient tow rope. So, that's the Minnow story. As you can see it's a mixed one, but if you're into lure casting the plethora of small, relatively inaccessible then you probably couldn't do much better. Good fishing and put a few fish back.