What a difference a generation makes.
I grew up with fish poles in my hands. For this I am exceeding fortunate and forever grateful to my dad. We fished little creeks for tiny bluegills when I was tiny myself and, later, pursued lunker walleyes on Lake Maloney south of North Platte.
We had a cabin at Maloney that produced many of my childhood’s most treasured memories. The itty-bitty paradise is worthy of its own column, but today let’s stick to how we fished in the early 60s compared with today.
In addition to the cabin, my dad and a buddy owned equal shares of a small, leaky wooden boat – the kind with exposed crosswise ribs kinda/sorta holding it together. To the transom was bolted a 5-horse Johnson Seahorse outboard motor.
It was already ancient when we got it.
Beyond its motor the little boat my Dad and his partner Dick lovingly dubbed The Fat Lady, included: 1 gas can, 1 anchor, 2 oars, 1 large Butternut Coffee can to constantly dip water, 1 life jacket per occupant, a small tackle box or two and 1 primitive rod and reel apiece.
By contrast many of today’s boats, including the 23-year old specimen reclining in my own garage, are loaded with electronic wonders.
The Fat Lady had zero electricity, not even to start the motor. Compare her to my boat’s 50-horse Mercury Optimax outboard, 5-hp Honda gas kicker motor, MotorGuide Xi5 electric trolling motor and Garmin ECHOMAP sonar unit.
If pulling the starter cord till you puke didn’t fire up that ancient Seahorse, you weren’t going anywhere. We survived enough terrifying tows back to the dock skittering like a skipjack in the prop trench of monster ski boats to last me a lifetime.
Without sonar my dad’s only way to become familiar with the lake’s bottom, find and recall prime fishing spots was to pay close attention to the most minute details and remember them.
He knew the drop-offs near Two Tree Island where panfish awaited the attention of kids by the boatload. We would go out in shifts; he’d anchor on the ledge and we’d catch perch and bullheads … often two at a time.
No need for an aerated livewell. Just drop the fish in the bottom of the Fat Lady where a constant flow of leaking water kept them thrashing around our feet for hours.
He had landmarks (towers, houses, a barn maybe) on shore that he’d line up and triangulate to duplicate successful walleye trolling runs again and again.
Contrast his primitive equipment with my boat and the bow-mounted, 36-volt trolling motor I operate by foot pedal, the remote control hanging around my neck or both. It will stop wherever you tell it to and lock down right there using GPS (no tossing anchors over the side for me).
You can record a route of several miles, save it, recall it and ask the motor to run you over it precisely again next week or next year. You can point the boat at something on the shore or say, an island, set the cruise control and it will go straight to that spot at the exact speed you select despite wind or current. And that isn’t all it does, not by a nautical mile.
Not only is the depth finder, like the electric motor, up to here in mind-boggling GPS capability it also has several hundred depth contour lake maps pre-loaded in its software. Not only does it know which lake you are on, it tracks, displays and remembers your every move.
There is enough more stuff my boat can do that his could not to fill another column, but we must stop somewhere.
My kingdom for just one chance to take him fishing in mine. He would be amazed and delighted.
Oh, in case you’re wondering who put the most fish in the boat it’s him. Hands down. I ain’t even in it.