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How To Lose A Launch

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How To Lose A Launch Photographs by Nate Free

I just don't get people...In mid February, I took a short outing to one of my “go-to” spots. It's an out-of-the-way place, and not really considered one of the "best" places to leave a vehicle. I've never had any problems, though. The fishing is good, and I accept the risk that goes along with launching there. There are, of course, regulars that I see often. There is also the crowd that I wish would never even show up. If you paddle upriver about two miles, there are some really nice houses in a country club that's built along the river. I catch some of my largest fish there.

abandon boat at a kayak launch

So in mid February, I showed up to see the above image. It was loaded with two gas BBQ grills, thet batteries were on the ground in front of the boat, and the valve covers were off the V-8 engine. I was the only one around, hadn't passed anyone walking on the way in, and just couldn't see leaving a boat in that condition (clearly had some value) abandoned. I figured it had had problems, the owners must've called someone for help, and they'd be back.

I fished for a good while, and during that time a white pickup drove up and some people got out and walked around, looking at the boat. I was too far away to see just exactly what was going on, but they climbed in and appeared to be messing with the engine. I assumed they were there to fix it. After about 30 minutes, they left.

The boat sat there for many more weekends. Nobody appeared to touch it. I asked people I saw at the ramp if they knew anything about it, and nobody did. Someone said they called it in to the lake patrol, who wasn't interested.

A couple of weekends ago, I returned to find this. Someone had removed the engine and set the hull on fire. Someone told me that the owners did it. They'd bought the boat and all its contents on the cheap at a yard sale, and brought it here to see if it would run. It wouldn’t. They couldn't afford to fix it, so they removed the V-8 engine, and anything else they thought to be of value, and had a bonfire. What a group of fools.

boat remains after being set on fire

fool set fire to a boat

Apparently, they tried to start it on fire in the water. There's fiberglass everywhere. When it burned down to the water level, they pulled it onto the land and started a new fire and a new case of cheap beer, according to the folks telling me what had happened. Here is what the water looks like now where I launch my kayak. I'm sure this isn't good for anything that lives in this river.

shoreline where the boat was set on fire

I don't know if any if the story that accompanies this boat is actually true. It's just what a local who's a regular at the launch told me. All I know is that a boat was abandoned and later burned where I like to launch for a day of kayak fishing. Kids are often swimming here when I launch. There are local bank fishermen here all the time. Is it any wonder that free launches are disappearing? The landowners on this river are notoriously rude to local fishermen. On local forums, the stories are legendary: pointing guns at fishermen, calling the lake patrol on folks, threatening to block off access by stretching barbed wire across the river. If you only read forums about this place, you'd be afraid to paddle there for fear of being arrested for trespassing.

That hasn't been my experience at all. I've fished there for several years now. They've always been super nice to me, but they've most likely seen me share tackle and plastic baits with the kids that live along the river. More than one resident has commented about how they appreciate that I catch these fat bass here and release them after snapping a quick picture. I carry a trash bag in the Rod Pod on my Trident and try to carry out as much trash as I can fish out of the water. It doesn't really take any extra time. I catch my largest bass here, and it is a really gorgeous place to spend the day. I don't want to see floating Styrofoam and beer cans. I hate seeing abandoned fishing line stringing out of the brush. Maybe the folks that live along this river aren't what their reputation makes them out to be. Maybe those local guys posting that landowners are meeting them with shot guns were witnessed littering. I just know I've had some really nice conversations with the landowners along this river and they're always surprised to see the bass I catch here.

If their kids are around, they're usually rocking a bobber and worm. I try to keep some worm hooks, bullet weights, and an assortment of plastics (from my expansive collection that my addiction dictates) in a Ziplock bag to give to kids fishing along the river. A five-minute lesson on how to tie a Palomar knot and Texas rig a Gary Yamamoto “Senko”, and I usually get to see a kid catch a bass before I leave. The parents are always so appreciative of a few pennies in plastic and hooks.

I guess if I lived along that river and a boat load of loud, obnoxious littering jerks came along filling their coolers with 20” bass caught in my back yard, they might have to post some stuff about me, too.

Read 8308 times Last modified on Thursday, 15 March 2012 21:08
Nate Free

About the Author: Nate Free is an avid kayak angler who primarily chases bass in Oklahoma's lakes and rivers. He is a member of the YakAngler.com ProStaff, and enjoys sharing his fishing experiences with others. When not on the road driving his semi or taking care of his small ranch in Northeast Oklahoma; Nate Free is on his kayak fishing. Nate grew up paddling canoes and fishing, but took a 20 year break from fishing to pursue hobbies including rodeo and flying. In 2007, he began looking for a quiet, peaceful, and less expensive hobby. That's when Nate returned to fishing. Originally looking for a small solo canoe to use as a fishing craft, Nate discovered sit on top kayaks and hasn't looked back. Since 2007 Nate doesn't go kayaking unless he fishes and never fishes without his kayak.