I love to fish in places where most boats cannot navigate. I do however, fish in the same holes that are accessible by the multi $K, fume spurting, lumbering, shore eroding fiberglass beasts. OH NO, Jims on another rant! Well, just a little one folks. Keep in mind, this is targeting the irresponsible, oblivious wake slinging, “I can afford the fine if I get caught” morons out there who irritate us all and are destroying our fragile “close to shore” environments.
Those of you who could care less about my enviornmental concerns and just want to see my solar canoe can find two links to the page and video further down.
I honestly subscribe to the belief that the lowest impact on the environment, the better. The pollution generated by watercraft, physical damage to the environment, harm to wildlife and noise negates any argument that attempts to steer me towards a large petroleum powered craft for fishing in these areas. Very similar to the typical “I am so concerned about not eating meat because of the animals but, it’s okay to wear them on my feet, sit on them or eat their by-products” mentality comes into play here. I understand if someone just does not like to eat red meat but, just be honest, not trendy then, claim you are actually making some kind of contribution to society or some animal rights issue. Sorry, that is another rant. The comparison? Both are just for fun and counter productive to the result they themselves pursue in the first place! “I went out in my $25,000 boat, used $100 in gas, scared all the birds and fished in a hole near a guy in a canoe trying to get food”. Keepers or catch and release, that seems like an expensive hobby that is in total disregard to the environment and the people who just desire to enjoy it or even depend on it. You bought a big boat to fish in mangrove and manatee areas? Fish where we cannot go, those places far exceed the places we can reach anyhow. Stay far offshore and far away from us and fragile areas please. That however, is just the humble opinion of our “discussion group” here. Oooops, I stand corrected, some here, are not so humble.
One problem that exists is too much water and not enough money to patrol it. I see SO MANY violations in these “in shore” areas and have NEVER seen a water cop. They are rightfully busy around tourist and waverunner rental areas. We do need more enforcement across the board to protect and save lives on our waters however, protecting these small estuaries, mangroves, canals and in shore waterways does seem to fall by the wayside. I have a small solution that may contribute to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissions financial pool. Raise the cost of fishing licenses and amend how the cost is calculated. What! Jim wants to give more money to a government organization? Read on…
I believe fishing license cost should be based on the type of vessel you fish from combined with length, engine type and horsepower. My license costs just under $20 a year. That cost is just too low even for me and my minuscule carbon footprint. I fish less than a mile from shore and my quantities along with species are limited by my canoe. However, the same license allows me to fish anywhere off the shores of Florida from a 60 foot boat that eats 50 gallons an hour. If you can afford a boat capable of going far offshore, you can afford a more expensive license. Fishing licenses for people fishing from petroleum powered vessels should cost at least twice that of non petroleum powered vessels. Yeah, a fraction of the price of a tank of gas for a one year license, ooooo that is just not acceptable, right? “They” would fight that tooth and nail at all costs, wouldn’t “they”. God forbid the money spent on fighting such an increase went into conserving the environment that makes it all possible in the first place. Who do you buy the licenses from anyhow? The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission right? Notice the word “conservation” in there? In my opinion, making petroleum based rainbows on the water and spewing carbon monoxide into the air to catch fish is really not a step toward conservation. Just because you can afford a large boat that consumes 16 gallons per hour (for a single 140hp engine!) does not make it acceptable, in my eyes, that your license costs the same as someone fishing from a canoe!
“Sport” fishing contributes to tourism here and is a mainstay business. I absolutely love it, I fully respect responsible anglers and commercial expeditions but, the times I have gone out in these larger vessels one thought was always on my mind, “this sure seems like a lot of hardware and cost, glad it is not mine”. The smell and environmental impact takes my guilt factor past my pleasure factor every time. I can’t stop thinking what else I could have done for the cost of the trip. There really needs to be more specific regulations on fishing from petroleum powered watercraft. I know several petroleum based anglers that agree with me. As a matter of fact, these guys think even what I mentioned in my rant here is conservative! I cannot quote what they said about the yuppie boat owners and remain “G” rated here. Very hostile indeed. Don’t even get ’em started on wave runners blasting through manatee areas either. I know I would not want to be caught doing that by one of my “honest angler” neighbors.
As you have probably gathered by now, I will not use a gas motor in our fragile waterways, however, I do not like paddling for an hour against the wind and tide when heading back to the launch site after an entire day of paddling from spot to spot either. So, I outfitted my 15 foot canoe with a motor mount I made for my Minn-Kota Endura 40 electric trolling motor. The motor is 3-1/4 inches diameter so, only two props will fit. The MKP-2 power prop works quite well and pushes us against the tide, waves and 15mph wind. We really haul on full speed. I also like the MKP-6 weedless wedge. I avoid the weeds when I can but, it is inevitable to run into some when fishing in some of the spawning areas. I would really like a fish finder to find the holes to hit on low tide. Below is the fish finder I want. For UNDER 100 BUCKS, this thing is just perfect. I have other Garmin products and I have found them far superior to any other I have owned or tried.
I use solar panels on the bow (front) of the canoe with a marine battery directly underneath. The battery is an Everstart (WalMart) 24 marine “starting” battery I purchased used for $15 for this solar canoe test. I will eventually buy a good “trolling” type marine battery. A dual 10 gauge wire runs to the back with a quick disconnect for the electric trolling motor. I purchased a set of 12′ jumper cables for $7.99 and removed the clamps. Perfect solution for the power wire and way cheaper than buying 24 feet of 10AWG from the local home supply store.
I never need to use a “plug-in” charger to charge the battery. The solar panels do the job and then some. I leave them on the battery even when we are not out fishing therefore, I can claim that it is actually totally solar powered. There is a single diode (1N5401) on the positive wire from the panel assembly to prevent battery drain at night. I may eventually build a float charger circuit but, I really don’t think it is needed. The solar panels give me 1.7 amps of charge in the sun and ~.75amp in shade so, the battery is constantly being charged. We have never run out of power. There is even enough power for a gps, pump, fan, aerator and whatever. We frequently run the motor full bore for about 4 hours ~10 knots (~15mph!) with two people (~360lbs). Running on the “one” setting will push us along for 12 hours minimum (at a slow walking speed).
I have yet to crunch the numbers but, I will soon. Some simple measurements hint around 25% of the power needed to run the motor on the “2” setting is supplied by the panels. To give you an simple idea of what that means, imagine the motor needed 3 amps to run and the solar panels supplied 1.5 amps. That would be 50% of the power being supplied via solar panels. In a 100% efficient world, that would mean that a 3 amp hour battery (supplies 3 amps for 1 hour until dead), would run a 3 amp motor for 1.5 hours instead of 1 hour due to the extra energy (50%) being supplied by the solar panels. I am working on a pulse width modulation circuit to charge the battery via a large capacitor. This would increase the charge rate quite a bit and would actually be capable of powering the motor directly but, only in small bursts. Kind of like how a camera flash powers up then releases the energy to the flash bulb. Not a viable option for direct power but, will increase the charge rate / efficiency quite a bit.
The panels I have are no longer made but, here is the best price I found on panels. For UNDER 100 BUCKS you got 15 watts (around 1 amp) .
You can also combine the 5 watt panels below but, the 15 watt is a better value at around $95. The 5 watt panels cost around $44 each.
Our 1966 15 foot Aero-Craft canoe has around 600lbs of capacity. We are about 100lbs under that. It is a heavier gauge aluminum than normally used for canoes but, I am happy about that. Oyster beds and rocks and scraping past barnacle encrusted pylons (meant to keep out boats) would have long destroyed a lighter duty or non-aluminum canoe. This canoe was definitely designed for “real world” use and abuse. When all is said and done, the un-manned canoe is about 140 lbs loaded with everything including poles, bait, tackle, battery, motor, oars, vests etc. Heavier than most sight seeing rigs but, still super easy to row in the shallows and we can get to holes that would require an hour of rowing without a motor.
Another issue was salt water. The Minn-Kota Endura 40 is a fresh water motor. My work around is simple. I use a special water resistant grease and pack it around the bearing and rinse off the motor after each use. The original grease is still in place and there is no corrosion. The motor is around 10 years old now. I bought it used for 100 bucks. Keeps on going and going.
See the solar powered canoe in action here.
Well, as careful as I am, there are oyster beds and shallow areas that come up pretty quickly when scooting through these areas. I have not broken a prop yet, but, I have chipped one. Without a spare, I was happy I didn’t break the sucker. As soon as I got home I searched the phone book for places to buy a spare prop. NO LUCK! We live near the water and in one of the boating capitols of the world so, what the heck, no-one carries trolling motor props? Fact is, we are mostly salt water here. The places that carry the props are around Homosassa and Kissimmee where there are many springs, rivers and lakes. Needless to mention, I had to go on line to get my props. Below you will find a couple links that I found with the best prices available. This is where I get my props, less than $20.00 too!
(Update: I now carry a spare, my original prop that sports a small chip.)
Update; Since I have initially posted this page, we have been out fishing in my solar canoe a dozen times or so. We can easily motor 10 miles and still have lots of battery left. We have actually gone 5 miles straight on full power, about 18 amps going 10 knots to a spot we wanted to fish. The battery still read 12.23 volts and we spent the next 6 hours trolling around after that. I really love the look the birds give us as we silently scoot by. They give us a curious type of look but, they don’t fly away. Unlike when a noisy boat approaches them, they fly.
Another fact I picked up on is that when we stop and drop lines into the water, the fish hit instantly, if they are there. The petrol based boats we observed must wait until the fish come back because their motors scared them away. We have pulled up to a spot within a hundred yards of where a big boat has been fishing for a while. We pull in a keeper then move on. As we motor off, the other boat fires up its engines and moves to where we were. I don’t think they realize that it is our stealth that gives us an advantage. All their electronics and creature comforts come at a cost beyond monetary I guess. I believe that fish can smell the pollutants from the boats in these shallower waters too.
Someone, who wishes to remain anonymous due to possible political ramifications, was so impressed with my solar canoe “awareness provoking” effort that he donated a new Hummingbird 400TX fish finder to the cause. I have not installed it yet but, I will soon. I will also add a 5 watt solar panel on the stern to compensate for power used by the unit. This also dictates a modification to the wiring and connectors in the stern. I don’t think the additional 4 or 5 lbs will really be a factor. Should the additional weight actually become a factor, I have about 30 lbs under my shirt that I could stand to lose! Anything for the cause!
See the solar powered canoe in action here.