Take Your Boat for a Walk

A street-level approach to fishing Florida’s suburban lakes.

People around these parts usually walk their dogs, and sometimes their squirrels, but rarely ever do they walk their boats.

The usual process is for the boat-reliant angler to painstakingly mount canoe, johnboat or kayak on his car and drive five miles to the designated “lake that lots of people fish in and is therefore the best around,” leaving the pond or private lake across the street thoroughly untried and ignored.

The boat walker is an enlightened species, however, and he recognizes the potential of the water next door. While the car-bound fisherman fritters away his precious angling hours in transit, he who carts his boat simply rigs up and marches down the street like PT Barnum leading an elephant. He discovers new waters, too, ones long unfished but for that reason likely far more productive than the popular lakes. Privacy and discovery join convenience in the life of the boat-walking fisherman.

This glorified image no doubt prompts numerous questions to the reader, like “How, exactly, does one go about transporting a boat by hand?” The answer is that there are many ways. Depending on his vessel, the conveyance may vary considerably.

Generally, canoes are the easiest to transport with a small trailer. Specialized frames are sold and can be easily made. They consist of nothing more than a platform constructed from aluminum tubes placed between two wheels. Rubber padding on the frame provides sufficient friction to allow the canoe to be towed simply by grabbing one end and walking. Kayak trailers operate on a similar principle, although they tend to be smaller and lighter. Pneumatic tires are a beneficial addition to any trailer, as they reduce shaking and shocks from running over bumps, roots and drunken leprechauns.

To the owner of a johnboat or rowboat belongs a whole new set of problems. Mainly this is due to the fact that the variability of the design of these craft has led to a scant market for hand trailers. Custom-building is the way to go, with most carts operating on a similar principle but differing depending upon the style of the boat in question. The johnboat trailer is essentially a pair of two-by-fours nailed together to form a 90-degree angle, with a wheel protruding from each end. The rear of the boat fits into the angle, and bungee cords or ropes are used to hook the boat into place.

Today’s Tom Sawyer, Ely Levine wheels his way to another Orlando lunker.

I regularly walk my johnboat to a very fishy lake across the street, one without public access that is quite difficult to find a way onto. My boat is made of lightweight aluminum and, loaded with gear, weighs no more than 50 pounds. The key to making boat-walking an efficient process is to minimize weight wherever possible.

I favor oars over a trolling motor, as they are very light and versatile and eliminate the need to haul a heavy marine battery. Rather than include heavy seats, I simply sit on an overturned bucket as I row, and carry a lightweight anchor to minimize weight. The boat itself is bungee-corded to the johnboat cart as described above, and pushed ahead of me as I walk. Sliding the boat into the lake is as simple as removing the cords and sliding the boat off the cart directly into the lake.

Carting a boat is a one-trip process, as all necessary supplies can be placed within before it’s walked to the lake. Hand-trailering a small boat in such a manner eliminates the need to find a boat ramp, which is a boon for convenience as much as productivity: It allows the angler to fish smaller local waters which, because they lack public access, are usually better fishing than larger, more popular lakes. As well as lacking boat ramps, more productive lakes and rivers are often without legal or practical opportunities for car parking.

While frustrated boat truckers cruise the bank looking for a spot to pull over and launch, boat-walkers simply slide their vessels in, unhook them from the carts, affix jester hats firmly to their heads, and depart for whatever lies ahead. - FS

First Published Florida Sportsman July 2012