Once You Know, You Newegg

Fishing – Solar Powered Canoe

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.

GARMIN Fishfinder 140 4.4

GARMIN Fishfinder 140 4.4″ Dual-Beam Transducer

Garmin’s Fishfinder 140 helps you cast your line where the fish are, so you can actually catch fish, instead of telling fish stories! The 4-level grayscale display offers strong separation and contrast, so you won’t have to squint to know where the fish are. Garmin’s Ultrascroll technology gives you sailfish-fast screen updates, so you’re always looking at the latest data. The unit is designed with large buttons, a convenient adjustment bar, and intuitive menus, so you can spend less time reading the directions and more time out on the lake. The Fishfinder 140’s sounder design features a dual-beam transducer with user-selectable field, which gives excellent performance, even in shallow water or right off the side of the boat. With Garmin’s See-Thru technology, you’ll see all the fish there are to see at depths up to 600 feet. The unit features 2X and 4X automatic and manual zoom capabilities, and alarms for fish size and water depth you specify, as well as low battery power, so you don’t get caught by surprise! This entry-level sonar unit offers Garmin build-quality and a feature set “this bigâ€? at a price that won’t leave you green at the gills. Part#: 010-00460-00 Type: Fish Finder Height: 4.9″ Width: 6.1″ Depth: 2.6″ Weight: 18.7 oz. Screen Format: FSTN Display Resolution: 240 x 128

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) .



The Brunton SolarFlat 15W/12V 15-Solar Panel can be mounted to the roof of your RV or camper and continuously charge your battery every day, or charge your boat battery while you’re out on the water. The weatherproof SolarFlat does not require bright light to function properly. Instead, low-light, overcast days can still provide lots of power.

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.



The Brunton SolarFlat 5W/12V 5-Solar Panel can be mounted to the roof of your RV or camper and continuously charge your battery every day, or charge your boat battery while you’re out on the water. The weatherproof SolarFlat does not require bright light to function properly. Instead, low-light, overcast days can still provide lots of power.

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.)

From ShoppersChoice

Minn Kota Endura 40 Freshwater Transom - Mount Trolling Motor - 12v-40lb-36

Minn Kota Endura 40 Freshwater Transom – Mount Trolling Motor – 12v-40lb-36

While others try to imitate it, we innovate it. Endura is the legendary performer thats built to explore, built to last and backed up with an industry-best three-year warranty. Form and function unite for a package that puts you on the water day after day, year after year – like no other.

Minn Kota MKP-2 Power Prop

Minn Kota MKP-2 Power Prop

Get the power you need to push through the thick stuff with the Power Prop. Fits 3-1/4 – MKP-2 – and 3-5/8 – MKP-25 – diameters.

Minn Kota MKP - 6 Weedless Wedge Prop

Minn Kota MKP – 6 Weedless Wedge Prop

Weedless Wedge and 153; Props – MKP-6 – The only 100 percent fully weedless prop. Patented design pushes weeds away to conserve battery power. Easily moves through heavy vegetation or cover, even at slow speeds. Motor Diameter: 3-1/4 Prop Nut Kit: A

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.

7 thoughts on “Fishing – Solar Powered Canoe

  1. Congrats, that is a great set up. A fifteen foot canoe with a 40lb thrust trolling motor! I bet that does cook right along! You are right in saying that another type of canoe could not handle the real world of salt water fishing. I have trashed many canoes with just one mishap. You are lucky to own this old workhorse canoe. Government agencies used these due to their ruggedness. You may consider re-foaming the bow and stern compartments though. The foam from 1966, used to prevent sinking, has probably long deteriorated by now. Your set up gets to to places miles away, waters too shallow or narrow for many boats and you don’t even need a trailer! Good fishing!

  2. Thanks for the kudos on the design. Yeah, I really need to shoot some foam in the ends. I did think of what would happen when capsizing though. This is why I made it so the motor, battery and solar panels would slide right out of their mounts when inverted. I thought that may keep the canoe floating in case of such an emergency. It is pretty stable though, we stand up in it all the time. I think our skateboarding experience helps with our balance a bit too. We do avoid running parallel to larger waves on rough days but, that is just common sense. Thanks again!

  3. Free bait, only if it is free. Species specific as well. We have a spot where we catch our bait before we go out. The bait we catch that day, dictates where we fish.

    We make our own leaders which have proven to be effective. Mine is around 20″ long made from a very thin bronze colored S.S. 30AWG wire. The hook is attached directly to the leader. The top of the leader has a swivel. No clips, sinkers or even a bobber. I have found, based on where we fish, that the less junk there is on your line, the better (for me anyhow). I believe the fish can see and hear a bunch of hardware. I try present the bait with minimal tackle.

    I also use a mono 10lb test with the drag set very lightly. When a “big” fish (<10lbs) hits, he just runs with it. I let him get tired for a minute or two then just reel in bit by bit until I can grab the leader and bring him in the boat.

    That works fine for where we are fishing and the species we target. Naturally, if we go for a larger species like snook, we use a beefier version of the above.

    Keep in mind, take my advice with a grain of salt. We are beginners and far from capable of providing commercially viable fishing advice. I will however, share our experiences, what has worked and what has not. The more we fish, the more we will learn. We listen well too so, any advice is considered good advice.

  4. I bet you pi#### off a bunch of folks with this page! GOOD FOR YOU! I have been fishing these waters for 45 years and I wholeheartedly agree with you. Licenses are too cheap, too many people disrespect our waterways and there should be a sliding rule type license cost based on vessel type, length and engine size. I could go on and on about how good fishing used to be here but just in the last 10 years I have seen a huge impact on habitat. Dead zones and constant larger boat traffic in mangrove and fragile areas has destroyed many areas where I used to fish. I give it 20 years until on-shore and waterway fishing is completely futile. It’s all about the dollar! People with a bunch of money who don’t even acknowledge their weekends on the water kill our shores disgust me. My 40hp 15′ boat gets me where I need to be and it is good on gas. I fish pretty far offshore too. It is too bad that the folks with the money control the ones who make the laws. That fact, by itself is the ONLY reason I wish I millions of bucks. I want for nothing else but what I have and to fish out the rest of my days catching actually edible fish. If your web site here raises an eyebrow or two, maybe your efforts won’t be in vein. In my opinion, a company out there should sponsor your solar canoe effort and take it to the next level. The benefits of sponsoring such a venture would far outweigh the cost. (And you could fish even more!)

  5. Thanks for the great comment Steve. I agree with what you stated as well and yes, if there is a chance to make money or slap a logo on my canoe, someone probably would sponsor my project. Would I accept? Probably not unless, their product or service fell into my environmentally conscious boundaries. Still, in there resides a fine line of how much of an enviornmental contribution is actually made versus the impact of the sponsors business on the environment. I do not subscribe to the monetary acquisition being a basis for comparison of ones actual worth belief. I an personally responsible, through my electronic water purification designs, of preventing MILLIONS of gallons of chlorine from being dumped into our environment yet I maintain a “zero net worth”. I enjoy life regardless of how little change is in my bank account. I am proud of my accomplishments. I have had money and I have also been homeless. I reside in the middle now, lower middle. This, along with actually trying to be part of a solution gives me the right to speak on the subject of how wealth promotes worthlessness, in general. I have walked the walk and talked the talk of those I now despise. That said, if I had tons of cash, I too would campaign for laws that would help protect the shoreline environment and the people who like to enjoy it. After all, if it is trendy, many will jump on board, right? It really comes down to awareness vs “what is cool” I guess. Tree huggers long gone and many green organizations have left a bad taste in the mouths of many. So what will it take to get noticed? Hell, most people can’t even hang up the phone and drive to save a life let alone give a damn about the environment.

  6. This was really interesting, with all of the credit to you the poster. Would love to hear more about this from you. If you would not mind would you email me, I believe you have my email with this comment and we can talk that would be awesome. Thank you so much look forward to hearing from you.