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"River Anchoring  101"

US Coast Guard Rules:  River users are reminded that although it is legal to anchor in the channel, it is illegal to block the right-of-way of a vessel that is restricted to using the channel, meaning a cargo ship or tug boat with a tow etc.

 Five blasts of a horn signify danger and you MUST take action to avoid that danger.

Choosing your anchor system

(1) Have a Good Anchor & Enough Chain: 
There are numerous different types of anchors, but most are not really suitable for large rivers like the Columbia River.  The general opinion for anchoring in a current, is that the rocking chair style is the best.  The anchor size for lighter boats in the 16' class, usually consists of 12" of a 1 1/4" round bar of steel as the shaft, welded to the center of a crossbar of the same size.  On the crossbar is welded a flat 1/4" X 1 1/2" X about 16" total length bar, shaped as a "C".   These "Cs" are welded onto each end of the crossbar & look much like a rocking chair. There is a ring welded onto the bottom center of the crossbar & another on the top of the shaft.  This anchor weighs in at 16#.  For boats in the 16-18' heavier class, it may be best to go to a 20#  or more anchor.

These rocker type anchors, like most of the others, are measured by poundage & are usually made in about 3 different sizes for use with different size boats.
   The design is basically the same, but there can be slightly different designs as many of these are made in small welding or back yard shops.  There is one brand of this style, made by EZ Marine, that is made of square steel material & is a fold up type that especially good if your boat is not designed with a bow anchor holder & you need to store it in the boat.

One important thing on using these types is that the real attachment point is not on the upper part of the shaft, but on the BOTTOM.   Attach a chain from the bottom ring with a clevis, run the chain up to the upper ring & use 1 or 2 large plastic tie tapes thru the chain & into this upper ring.  The chain should be large enough (1/4" dia. link material) & long enough (approx 6-10') to hold the anchor's upper end down while on the bottom.  Using chain adds to the total weight & allows you to use a smaller anchor.  This additional chain weight helps keep the anchor flutes digging in, instead of being pulled up & out of the bottom with wave motion.  A few feet of chain that is attached to the anchor line may pick up off the bottom on a heavy pull, but the anchor itself will remain dug in. 

Also with this type of anchor where the chain is attached to the bottom of the anchor, if the anchor does become  fouled or stuck, as in underwater brush, you can motor in the opposite direction & the theory is the tie tapes will break & allow you to pull the anchor out backwards.   But be very careful if you are in a swift current & trying to pull a stuck anchor upstream.

In the picture below you will see a short section of 1/4" line tied to the top eye of the anchor.   This is to help lift the anchor into the boat if need be & also to tie it in the chock so it does not bounce out when the boat is running.  This particular unit is used on a 16' sled & has about 6' of chain & 150' of 3/8" anchor line.  An additional section of chain can be snapped into the end to give more holding power.   This size of float seams to function, but larger ones are recommended.   The normal amount of line for anchoring is in the plastic bucket, with a loop temporarily tied in it at that length.  The rest of the line is stuffed into a laundry bag along with a boat fender.  The fender has a snap that is attached into the line's loop.  If the boat needs to be disconnected from the anchor system, simply throw everything over the bow, & lift the line up out of the chocks.  This way there is no excess loose line floating to get tangled, as it is all inside the floating laundry bag.

Rocker type anchor with a sliding puller & float system


(2) Many Experienced River Fishermen use an Anchor Roller System on the Bow.  You need a wide enough roller to accommodate the anchor shaft & the chain.  The most universal system is the roller just forward of the bow enough to have the anchor line over the roller & enter the water without having any interference from the hull.  On the sides of this roller support on top & rearward of the roller are protrusions that go up & forward forming a horizontal cradle type forks that supports the anchor's cross-bar when the anchor is in & tied down.  One commercial brand of this style is made by Motion Marine.  Other brands are designed for usage on jet sleds & drift boats, so you will have a variety to choose from.

The system pictured below uses a custom built bow roller using cam lock cleats (the yellow circle right behind the rest) with built in bow navigation side lights.

Here an additional 25# drift boat anchor is snapped to the lower anchor eye for added holding power in swifter current and / or rocky bottoms.

In case you wondered, the rodholder bases visible on this bow, are for mounting detachable docking lights

It is better if the roller is wide enough so that in use, the anchor is pulled all the way up & over the roller, creating better boater safety instead of having to lean over the bow trying to juggle a heavy anchor line into the roller.  This wide roller also allows the cross-bar to be pulled in & then come to rest in the cradle without a secondary movement.  The cradle needs to be placed in a position so that when the anchor is pulled up & into the cradle, that there is clearance for the flukes of the anchor to clear the bow of the boat. 

The rear now, or top of the anchor, needs to be set into a small cradle to keep it from bouncing sideways & out of place while the boat is under power.  The Motion Marine unit has sides that come all the way back which keeps it from jumping sideways.  You may want to tie a 4' section of 1/4" rope into the top anchor ring to use as a means of securing the anchor to a cleat if your chock position does not allow secure retention of the anchor & to hold it in place against the cradle when traveling. 

(3) Use Sufficient Anchor Line and a Float.   Most Coast Guard classes recommend a slope of  7 or 8 to 1, which is a considerable ratio to the depth.  This seems to be recommended for anchoring boats at moorage or during a storm or in a strong current.  This in many opinions does not quite apply to fishing where a 4-1 or less seems acceptable depending on the conditions & the current, as a fisherman you are there close to the action & can adjust the payout if the anchor starts to slip.  Most common size of anchor line for small boats will be 3/8", with 1/2" a alternative size.   In the lower Columbia River 150 feet is usually enough for salmon, while in faster current near Bonneville Dam, 300 feet may be needed.   Many will use 2 different anchor lines, depending on where & when they intend to fish, as a 150' & another 300'.   If you are using the above mentioned float/puller system you can not have a knot or snap in the middle to tie 2 sections together.   

Floats are used to attach to the anchor line & deployed in front of the bow about 6' or so.   I do not want the float very far in front of the boat as if you need to use a boat hook to fend off floating debris, you need to be able to reach the debris before it gets tangled in the anchor line & or the float.   NEVER attach the non anchor end of the line permanently to the boat.  

These floats are used for 3 purposes. (A)  To be able to go back to exactly the same spot you were fishing from when you caught the fish as per above.  (B)  To claim your spot in the river, when you hook a salmon or sturgeon that you need to fight it away from other nearby boats.   (C)  To act as an anchor puller when using a one way slider on the line. 

Usually these floats are round orange bumpers in size from 9" to 15", depending on the size of the boat & weight of the anchor. (Their use is explained later) 


(4) Sea Anchors. Sometimes called drift socks, if in the smaller sizes you really need two, one for each side.  One is usually enough off one side of the stern, you can place it on either side to help maintain your position, as it tends to shift you slightly toward the opposite side.  As the tide comes near slack, you may need one on each side. Size will depend on the size of the boat, but the small size that Fisherman's Marine sells, (about 12" dia.) is usually OK for a boat in the 16'-18' size.  With a deep Vee fiberglas boat with no cabin, you may not need them as much.  But flatter bottomed boats or ones with a cabin or convertible tops sway badly in the wind or at a slack tide without a sea anchor.  When rigging these up, you want to tie a small cord to the bottom end, so you can pull on it & trip this sock, decreasing the effort to retrieve it, as when a fish is being reeled in.   Also you may consider attaching a small crab float to the line just below the eye used for attaching it to a stern cleat.   It can be rather disheartening to see the whole thing go downriver, slowly sinking out of sight if you happen to loose grasp of the line.

(5) Use your kicker motor.  When the tide ebbs & the socks are not efficient enough to keep you in position, but still enough current to work your lures, put your kicker motor into reverse & at a high idle, pull the boat against the anchor to maintain your position.

Picking your spot. 
Obviously, depending on what specie you are targeting, this spot may vary.  This decision can be a very precise for some experienced fishermen, as they know from previous trips just where they want to be.  They will defend their "right" to be there & not have their territory encroached on in any way.  

Know the current you’re anchoring in.  Not all current seams run parallel to the bank – you may not always end up anchored where you thought you would.

Below are some basic methods of finding an anchoring spot. 

(6) Scattered anchoring.   Along a section of the river may to some seem to be just that, but in reality each boat is trying to find a certain depth, ledge, spot or trough to be in, & yet not interfere with other nearby boat's chances of success.  There will be preferred locations.  These "hot spots" may change with the tide & from day to day also.

Here are some boats anchored using the float system on the anchor line

It also makes a difference if it is a boat with just 2 fishermen in it, or a guide boat with 4 to 6.  The guide boat will have his clients cast their lines to fan out & cover as much water as possible.  Therefore he needs more room.   By room, this means leave enough space between you & your new neighbor, both sidewise & up or downriver so that you do not have any chance to have a running fish interfere with & tangle their lines.  Or if below them, if they have to cut loose & drift to fight a fish, that the fish will not get into your anchor line.

When motoring into a prospective location, look at the boat / boats nearest you.  You may not be able to hear him, depending on the distance, wind, etc.   But if he makes any visible negative motions, giving you a thumbs down, or even as subtle as shaking his head, move farther away.   You may not be able to get the exact spot you want, but usually there is enough spots to anchor in any given area that you can drop the anchor without a confrontation.

 (7) Hog Lining.  In some locations this may be acceptable, other locations this is not.  

The definition of a Hog Line pertaining to this type of fishing usually means that they are all abreast of each other partly across a section of the river.  The scattered anchoring could possibly be construed to be many small hog lines.   When you approach an area you intend to anchor in, observe how the boats are anchored, then "go with the flow".   A bad thing on full blown hog line is that you do not have the opportunity to really pick your location, as for a shallow depression in the bottom that may be a fish run channel, & only one or 2 boats may catch the majority of the fish.   If this happens, when they limit & move out, normally every boat shifts over one spot.   A hog line may be the only way to go in some locations, but if you are in one, then be aware that you need to observe & follow a few common courtesy "RULES".    When your neighbor hooks a fish on your side of his boat, it is best that you reel in all your lines on that side of your boat.   He needs to also do the same for you.   That alone helps in keeping fishing lines from getting tangled in most situations.   If a fish is going to go sideways, it will do it no matter how fast you drop out of the hog line.  On smaller fish, it is preferable to net them while still on anchor.  It usually takes a bit of time decide if the fish is large enough to necessitate getting off the anchor fast anyway.

Anchoring. 
(8) Picking the Spot you Want:   One thing that should be stressed in this situation, is that if something happens, either in anchoring, or pulling the anchor in tight quarters such as in a hogline, things can happen fast & more than one boat can get involved very quickly.  

If a hog-line is already established, motor up from downriver side slowly, through the spot you intend to inhabit.  This does several things, it  lets everyone know you are going to anchor there, if they have a problem with it, you know about it before you are drifting into line.  It is a good time to "test the waters" and greet the guys that will be next to you all day.  If they are close enough, you might even engage in conversation with them & ask them permission to anchor along side of them. 

 Position yourself by finding a land mark that is in a straight line and equal distant, side to side, of your intended slot. Go through the hogline AT SLOW SPEED and proceed upriver far enough to make sure your anchor holds when you finally get yourself even.  It's also easier to follow their anchor ropes up to make sure you are on target, or to see if the hole isn't a hole at all, but just a temporary boil.  They may also know of underwater obstructions in your intended spot that can be costly for lures or lost fish. 

Remember that since the current is normally running, that you probably have to go slightly upriver from where you intend to drop the anchor off, as by the time the anchor hits the bottom, you may have drifted back more than you expected.  Just like leading a bird with a shotgun.

The MINIMUM distance between boats will vary on the river, the location on the river & even the season.  On a large river like the Columbia possibly 50' would be a minimum in a particular area, yet a smaller river 20' would be more practical.  In the fall on the upper side of the Astoria bridge, I have also seen hog lines there each boat is tied to the others with bumpers between them.

(9) Normally When you get 100-150 Feet Upstream from the Boats, (depending on the water depth & your anchor line length) cut your speed to where you are standing still, and drop the anchor, while keeping control of the line.  If you are unsure AT ALL that you are not on your spot, DON'T DROP THE ANCHOR.   Just be patient and wait until you KNOW that you have dropped it in the right spot.  No sense to get in a hurry.  If wind, or a boil takes your boat off the mark, then just troll around up there until you know you are right on, then dump the anchor.  Again don't get in a hurry.  This is probably the second other thing that causes most accidents or boat wrecks.   You can use the other boat's anchor ropes to get your direction, don't look at the actual boats as the current may not be straight downriver.

When dropping anchor, be sure the line is free of tangles & always keep the line in the bow guide & pay it out instead of just throwing it over the side.  This assures there are no tangles in the line after it hits the water.  It is best to place the line in your roller, (if the boat is so equipped) if not, then over the bow & let it out by hand to the bottom.  This also ensures that your bow will always be facing into the current should something unexpected happen.  Hold the boat in position with the motor until the anchor hits the river bottom.   

Slow your motor down or put it into neutral, and wait for the boat to start pulling the line out as it drifts downstream with the current, then start to back down into your desired spot by letting line out.    If you are using a puller, you will have to keep ahold of it in the tripped position to allow the line to pass out until you get to your desire location.  It's the anchor boy's job to keep the line taught enough & under just enough tension, to let it out yet keep it out of your prop.

(10) If you are Edging into a Spot Between other Boats, you will have to be very careful to control the drift with your motor,  to avoid drifting into one of them, if in a hog line.  This is especially so before your boat is under the total effects of the current as you are drifting back. You may sway back & forth before you finally come to your position.  It is therefore possibly better to, as you are drifting back, to take up the line slack before you get into the final position above them.   When your boat settles down against the anchor, then pay out enough line so you will be stern to stern to the other boats beside you.

Also, do not to rely on reverse to come into a hogline as you can not control the boat  to any degree of accuracy with this method & it can be attributed to one of the 3 main causes of accidents.

If you are on the edge of a line, steer the bow slightly away from the line below you (approximately 10 degrees) and then drift back, letting the boat pull the rope. This allows you to slide back away from the closest boat & then by controlling the motor, you can swing with the current into place.

(
11) When you get Close to the Established Line or Location, slow your speed with the motor. When you’ve let out your line and are in position, always "tie off" to the bow or bow cleat.  Never tie off to the side or transom.  It is recommended to use a jam cleat instead of actually tying a knot on this cleat, so you can throw the anchor line over in a split second if necessary without having to untie any knots.

When in position you may find the boat drifts slightly to one side or the other, to compensate for this, you have to turn your motor slightly to one side or the other & use the underwater skeg as a rudder to actually position you where you want to be if you are drifting near other boats.  If you are using a outboard jet, this does not work as well, but if you have an outboard kicker, put it down & use it to direct you.   Put out a drift sock if needed to help the sway & possibly control the side drift if the motor does not do it all. 

Also, watch the wind.  Particularly for small boats, you can get blown sideways quite a bit on the drift.  It can blow you into other boats if you are not watching, (well, maybe even if you are watching). 

When you get established & your rods out, you then need to prepare for when you hook a fish.  Keep your anchor line neat & orderly, place it in a 5 gallon bucket, the square type works great.  Extra line can be stuffed into a $3.00 Wal Mart mesh laundry bag and a boat bumper shoved into it to keep the whole thing floating.  If the bag is small, then attach a tag line and float to the bag.  Others may just use a bungee cord around the bundle of line, but the bag is a lot neater.  When at anchor, just keep the extra line coiled inside the bag, in a 5 gallon plastic bucket. Tie a temporary loop in the anchor line behind your tie off cleat after you anchor at your intended position. Use a carabineer type snap to attach the bag's handle into this loop in the main anchor line. Then when ready to move away, unattach the anchor line & toss the bag & all over the side. 

On boats that do not have a forward walk-thru windshield or deck, then pull a loop of anchor line over the windshield and under the top or along side of the cabin. Use a jam cleat at the bow. When releasing the line from the cleat, everything goes over the front on its own. 

(12) What if the tide changes & the boats turn around?: This situation will not usually happen unless you are down far enough in the river that tidewater really effects you.  If it does, I would use the drift socks first, then the kicker motor in reverse until the tide becomes slack.  Then  pull up & troll until the tide changes & starts running the other way.  If you are still determined to fish a hogline, then re-establish it again.

(13) When you Hook a Fish While in a Hogline:  You will have to make some quick decisions.  First & foremost, the decision will be governed by how close you are to the other boats.  This closeness may not only be side to side of you but below you also.  Next probably will be the size of the fish, where it is hooked, where it is running & a multitude of things go into the equation. 

Here is one sequence of procedure that seems to work on a fish that you WILL net from anchor..
(1)  reel in extra lines 
(2)  pull in socks  

Now, while you are getting the other lines in, & after a short period of time, you should be able to determine if the fish is of a size, or hooked in a manner that it can be fought while still anchored.  

If it appears you may need to GET AWAY from the hogline then the following may apply.
(1)  reel in extra lines 
(2)  start kicker motor, ready to put in gear 
(3)  check to see if your neighbors have pulled their lines in

(4)  throw buoy off the bow
(5)  pull in socks 

The other rods should be reeled in first thing unless it is obvious that the fish will stay on one side of the boat & the other rod/rods may be moved instead of pulling them in.   However it's easy to get tangled with your own crew while you do everything else.  It may be also prudent to fire up the kicker AS SOON AS YOU CAN, just in case you need it to steer around boats, lines, etc.  You never know when the current will throw you one way or the other.  You could change the sequence of (4) & (5) if conditions suggest, & leave the sea anchors out until after you throw the anchor line over, as the socks will help you drift back out of the line better.  But that is one of the last decisions to be made before you decide to throw off the anchor line or not.   Remember if there are other boats anchored near enough below you to create a problem if you drift into them, so be ready to maneuver out of their way.

If the hogline is close, then hopefully the guys next to you will reel in too.  Then soon as you get the fish under control if you are to net it at anchor,  when you get the fish in, the others near you & the other fisherpersons on your boat can start bouncing back and often get another fish out of that same school that is still moving upstream.

If the fish happens to tangle up with the extra rod or your neighbors line before it is gotten out of the water, so be it...they can then FREESPOOL the reel & untangle it later. 

Pulling the anchor
(14) Wear your Personal Floatation Devise.  Retrieving the anchor can the most dangerous part of this type of fishing, as if something goes wrong, things happen in a fast forward mode.  You will have to decide the method, depending on where you are, how deep you are anchoring, how fast the current is running, & other variables.  If it's a tight spot, you are in a hogline, with many other boats near you,  PULL THE ANCHOR BY HAND, unless you are physically unable, or there is lots of room all the way around you.  Most all the bad boating wrecks in the last few years were involved using the anchor pullers systems in close quarters.

When pulling your anchor with any method, have everyone onboard wear their PFD's if they are not already doing so.  With the inflatable PFDs available these days,  they are very comfortable to wear, so get in the habit of putting one on each time you board a boat.  The manual operated ones are a reasonable price of about $65.00, while the automatic versions are higher, upwards into the $200.00 range. 
One thing to consider is on each vest to have a lanyard attached to a folding boating knife, and also a small whistle.  I also like to have sticky backed reflective tape on the front of the tubes.

Make sure everybody is seated and the boat is balanced.  Make sure there isn’t any big wakes coming your way that could throw you off balance.  Be very aware of other boats, anchor lines or other obstructions that may interfere with the safe pulling of your anchor.  So before you start, make sure everything in the boat is stowed/stored neatly and there isn’t any clutter to get in your way.

(15) Pulling the Anchor Manually.  As said before pull your anchor line by hand whenever possible if  near other boats.  Anchor pulling systems are fine, but are not really necessary in many places that some people use them. The manual retrieval method is probably the safest of all.   
 
If your anchor retrieval is this manual variety, (or the designated the guy in the passenger seat,) motor slowly upstream but don't over-ride the anchor line as your anchor boy hauls in the line & you are directly above the anchor.  As he pulls in the line, have him coil it in one place or into a bucket for safeties sake.   He then pulls until the anchor breaks free, & as he keeps retrieving the line, you then slow the motor down or put in neutral until he gets the last few feet up, or the chain shows.  But be careful to not allow the boat to drift sideways to the current or back into the hogline you just left. 

When pulling your anchor by hand, always keep the line in the bow guide.  This ensures that the bow will always face into the current even if you need to stop pulling for whatever reason.  

You can do this yourself if you happen to be fishing alone by just keep pulling from an anchored position, takes just a little more effort to pull the boat upstream & over the anchor.  You do not have to haul the anchor aboard just now.  Leave it hang just under the bow, move out to a open area & then if you have to, move to the bow leaving the motor unattended while you get the anchor aboard, which is usually no major problem.  The key issue here is SAFETY, &  keeping from getting the line tangled in the prop or jet pump is an issue. 

(16) Pulling the Anchor with the most Common Anchor Pullers -- There are at least 6 of these that I can count.  The most popular ones used are made by AnchorLift or EZ Marine.  The problem with most, is that the anchor line has to be inserted inside the puller & can not be removed.  This makes it a dedicated puller to that line only. 

I was at the 2006 Portland  Sportsman Show & had the opportunity to inspect a new one by the name of Orval's EZ Pull.   This one is a heavy aluminum casting that does not have to be dedicated to any one line & can be put on or removed from a anchor line as needed.  This one can be used for a anchor puller when needed, then removed & used to pull a crab or shrimp pot if so desired.

  AnchorLift  brand one way sliding puller  
 

 

All of these pullers are a units that goe over the anchor line, & essentially allows the line to move freely one way but will not allow it to reverse until YOU trip it.   When letting the line out, you just trip the lock holding it back while the line pays out.  When using an anchor pulling system, secure the anchor line to the bow or just to the side of the bow while motoring upstream but NEVER tie off to the transom.  This way if your anchor hangs up on something, your bow will swing around instead of pulling your transom under water.   Fire up the engine, and motor forward & in a slight arc past the float at about a 10 degree angle to keep the line away from the side of the boat & out of the prop.

When using any of these anchor pulling systems, regularly check the condition of the puller & connection of the buoy to your anchor line, as if the buoy comes loose at the wrong time, (say before the anchor is off the bottom) things could go bad fast.   The AnchorLift is made of a nylon & with abuse can become cracked, so check it occasionally & replace if need be.   The
EZ Marine puller is made of marine grade aluminum & anodized & is considered a higher quality by the diehard fishermen.

Under power, the float attached to the one way sliding puller with the float attached, will slide down the line while the boat is moving away, when the floatation of the float is more than the anchor & chain, it lifts the anchor off the bottom & the slider keeps sliding down (as long as you are still under power & going away) until it can't go any farther against the chain.  Depending on the weight of the anchor & the size of the float, sometimes as the float slides down, it will disappear under water, & then when the anchor is dislodged, the float will pop up, sometimes even slightly out of water.   Other times if the float is larger, the float will simply stay on top, & you will have to judge whether you have moved far enough to have raised the anchor.  When the anchor is up, it hangs directly under the float the distance of the length of your chain.  Tow it either upstream or out in the channel, (being sure the line is not near the prop), far enough so you don't drift into boats below you when retrieving the line.  Now all you have to do is pull in the floating line, float & anchor to the boat.

This method can be a back saver especially in Alaska fishing for halibut in 600' of water.

When using a puller, it can take some time to get your method figured out, so you may want to practice in an area out of the current.  If there is any doubt as to safety, then pull the anchor manually.

Safety
(17) Safety, Safety, Safety: 
Go back & re-read #14.  

Being anchored in a swift river like the Columbia, it is way different than being anchored in a lake or bay.  When sitting on anchor in a river, be ever vigilant of other boats, river debris, partially submerged or floating logs are all things that can and do end up on people’s anchor lines, and can potentially pull your boat under water.  Using the float system, if something does hang up on your anchor line, just raise the line out of the chock, throw the whole line over the bow & drift back & away.  Throw the line overboard immediately if you even remotely think there may be a problem.  You can come back and get it once the object floats down past your line or becomes dislodged from it.   A tree or log floating downriver can be disastrous to a anchored boat.

Make sure you don’t get your feet or any other part of your body tangled in the line you’re pulling in.  The time you have, once wrapped in a rope & pulled overboard is measured in seconds, even though it may seem like hours.  If you have the knife, and you are clear headed enough, you do have an opportunity to cut yourself free from the line. 

When pulling your anchor by hand, always have the motor running and ready to react, and have an extra floatation device ready to throw overboard to the MOB (Man OverBoard).   Be prepared with a VHF radio set to channel 16 for distress calls.

Practice both methods of anchor pulling many times in calm water.  Have a pre thought-out safety plan & share it with your passengers.

(18) A Point of Caution.  On those boats that do not have a jam cleat or chock, but have to tie off to a regular cleat, use a quick release knot & make provisions for a KNIFE TO BE PERMANENTLY affixed by a cord to a nearby location, yet readily removable just in case you do need to cut the anchor line.   Anchors, line & floats can get expensive, but they are replaceable, a life is not.

If you fit the previous circumstance, & have to use a attached cleat as a anchor point, make sure it is forward of the midway point on your boat.  If you run the line on a roller type front system and tie off on a rear cleat, (so you can get to it readily from your fishing position if you have a cabin boat), you run the risk of a potential wave from a passing ship or what have you, flipping the line out of that front roller.  This tie off can be done from the rear, but the method of tying off needs to be VERY READILY untied.  If the above were to happen, your boat will immediately spin around and if the force of the water builds at the side or stern BEFORE YOU CAN CUT YOUR LINE, your boat will be sucked down, & be pulled under faster than you can realize. 

(19) Never Pull the Anchor From the Stern or the Side of the Boat.  If the anchor does not come free & the current is running hard, you now have the boat broadside, or the stern upstream.  The stern is lower than the bow & does not have the ability to survive a heavy pull with the current against it & can get easily pulled under.

The above 2 instances can happen faster than you can even begin to realize what is happening, then the water conditions that caused the situation make it even harder to move fast enough to do anything. 


(20)  In a (AP) newspaper article dated Monday 5-31-04 -- "Boater Missing in Columbia River Mishap. PORTLAND (AP) -- River patrols searched without success Sunday for a Tigard woman who is missing and presumed drowned after the aluminum boat she was in capsized on the Columbia River near Camas, Wash.
    Janet Wildish, 27, and four others were thrown into the river Saturday when the 18-foot boat had trouble with its anchor line, got turned stern first to the strong current and started taking on water, said Lt. Michael Shults of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office river patrol.
     A 20-month-old girl was wearing a life jacket, as required by law, but the adults weren't.
     The survivors were pulled from the chilly water by Gary Skaar, his son, Richard, and friend Forest Sherer.  The three were in Skaar's new 20-foot fishing boat."

In the above accident, you can see what may be the outcome of something unforeseen happening FAST.  You were also cautioned to be careful to keep the anchor line out of the prop.   Just stop & think, what will happen if the anchor is attached to the bow, over the side & you wrap the line around the prop.  You may be in a cabin boat & can't readily access the tie off point of the anchor line, but in this circumstance getting it undone from the bow is of little consequence.  You will now have the motor pulled tight against the anchor line which is still attached to the bow, the current will swing you around & you will be dead in the water with the stern pointing upstream & the anchor may still be on the bottom.   You can not tilt the motor up because it is now tied TIGHTLY to the bow of the boat.   To get away from the anchor rope you will have to have a LONG knife or machete to be able to cut the line between the prop & anchor, (cutting it at the bow will not help in this case UNLESS it is only wrapped a couple turns) or you will have to go over the side to cut it.   And whatever you do it will have to be done FAST.

Some fishermen recommend securely attaching a folding serrated blade knife to you boat hook.   This would give you a 4' plus length to be able to reach with & may save a cold swim.

One alternative is that IF you have a large enough trolling motor that starts with the first pull, you MAY be able to get enough control to keep the boat from going DOWN.  Then the sweat begins on how to get out of the situation.  I have personally been in the above predicament & the trolling motor saved my bacon.   Kind of makes you want to kiss the kicker motor.

(21) One Last Thing on Safety, the Columbia River has commercial shipping traffic.   Be aware of the marine rules of the road & if you are anchored in or near the channel, you ARE obligated to move.   These ships can also create quite a wave as they pass by.  If you are at anchor, your boat will rock quite a bit, as compared to just being afloat when they pass by.  Some fishermen may not move if they are out of the shipping channel when a ship passes by, but they may start their motor & position their boat so the bow enters the wake of the passing ship.

If you are using a anchor puller & get caught in a situation where you need to move out of the path of a ship or barge rather rapidly,  just move off out of the way as if you were pulling the anchor.  This will get you out of the way relatively fast & you can drag the floating anchor to a safer position.


The shipping lanes are like a highway, the upstream bound ships will use the right hand side of the channel, while the outbound use their right side, or the opposite as the inbound.  One thing that can happen is if 2 ships pass exactly at your location.  You may think you are out of their way, but it is best to MOVE.   Believe me, seen that first hand, been there / done that.

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The Columbia River will have tidal influence all the way to & past Portland.  There may be minimal height change (from in to out) from about Longview & above & there will not be any change in the direction of the flow.  Below Longview the flow will slow down at low outgoing tide & then there will be minimal flow on the incoming tide.   Here the river height will raise or lower depending of course on the tide.  The amount will depend on the actual tidal exchange at the ocean.   Also in the mix can be the amount of water that Bonneville Dam spills.

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This article will give you some idea of the principles of anchoring.  As you talk to other experienced fishermen & gain more insight & experience, you may find a way for some aspects of anchoring that fits you & or your boat better.  In any situation it may well be better to learn from the mistakes of others than find out the hard way.

Copyright 2004-2006 LeeRoy Wisner  All Rights Reserved

Originally created 4-2004,Last updated 06-11-2006
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