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Selecting a Boat for Lake Erie

Selecting a Boat for Lake Erie Selecting a Boat for Lake Erie
By Dave Adams

Although a boat does not exist that is big enough to handle Lake Erie - with safe boating conditions, the minimum size that I would recommend is 21 feet. And if you can afford it, buy a fiberglass boat.

For safety and comfort, fiberglass boats (with closed bows) can't be beat. They will provide a smooth and dry ride, whereas aluminum boats translate each wave to the inside of your body. Also mounting any type of gear - transducers, GPS, radios, etc... - is much easier with a fiberglass boat.

When considering what type of power is best for your big water boat, the choices are many. An I/O will save on fuel, but will require more maintenance. Inboards are easy to maintain, but are generally only available in boats 25 foot and up. Outboards can't be beat for reliability, however, with fuel prices rising - boaters will feel the pinch in the wallet after just a few outings.

"Whether you are purchasing a new or used boat, invest in a Coast Guard safety package," says Jay Schroeder, Mercury marine technician from The Boat Store at North East. "Also, have a certified technician check any used boat before you make the purchase." According to Schroeder some items that should be checked include: transom, stringer, steering, fuel system, and motor.

Even though there are a lot of used boats for sale by private owners, I highly recommend spending the extra dollars and purchasing from a boat dealer. Not only can they help with financing, but also they will stand behind most used boat sales.

The best place, by far, to look at boats is the Port Clinton area - where quite a few dealers and private owners are selling Lake Erie boats. Some of the best names on Erie are Sportcraft, Wellcraft, Baha, Pro-Line and PennYan. While new boats will start at $25,000, expect to spend a minimum of $3000 for an older model or at least $10,000 for a quality used boat.

Once you find that boat for the big water, here are a few tips to make your trip safe and pleasurable.

One boating regulation is specific to Lake Erie. Visual Distress Signals (VDS) are required for all boats operating on Lake Erie. Between the hours of sunset and sunrise, boats less than 16 feet in length must carry VDS suitable for use at night. Boats 16 feet and over in length must, at all times, carry devices suitable for day use and devices suitable for night use, or devices suitable for use both day and night. Approved day-use-only devices include orange smoke (hand-held or floating) and orange signal flags. Flares are approved for both day and night use. If flares are selected, a minimum of three must be carried. All VDS must be USCG approved, have legible approval numbers, and the expiration date must be current.

VHF radio, whether hand held or fixed mount, provides instant access to weather and the USCG. The United States Coast Guard monitors channel 16 at all times and current weather can be obtained on channels one, two or three. Radio calls are initiated on Channel 16 and then both parties switch to a different channel. Boaters are also required to monitor channel 16 at all times.

Boat anglers occasionally under-estimate fuel use on Lake Erie. Fuel use also includes starting the motor after each drift, distance drifted, distance trolled and rough water on the ride back. Follow this basic rule and avoid a costly tow. It will take twice the fuel to return to port as it did do reach your fishing spot. If you used a 1/4 tank of fuel to start fishing, expect to use a 1/2 tank to return.

Also, on the big water, fog can sneak up on the angler at any time. With zero visibility and a long way between shorelines, a GPS unit is invaluable. Before leaving the boat launch, check your compass and set your home waypoint.

No boater should venture out unless an impeccable 12-hour weather forecast is available. The prudent boater will always look for a good 24-hour forecast. Lake Erie runs from southwest to northeast and wind direction is important. South winds generally will allow boating with higher gusts; however, winds from the north will typically create larger waves.

Good Fishing,
Capt. Dave Adams

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J Massucci | Posted: July 1, 2004

Excellent Information-Thanks!

Smitty | Posted: March 30, 2003

I wish I would have read this before buying my 18 foot closed bow with 4.3 v-6. I plan on docking in Geneva Marina. Is this boat too small for Lake Erie?