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Jon in VA

Is it dangerous to take a small boat on a big lake?

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So, my first boat. I have 15' 1973 Lowe Stinger v-hull boat with a 35hp Mercury outboard and a Minn Kota trolling motor with 50lbs of thrust. The boat is carpeted and in great condition to be so old. I bought it from a family friend. He kept it in good shape.

ANYWAY, onto the topic at hand. I fish on this boat in Philpott Lake. Philpott Reservoir is a 2,880-acre impoundment located near Martinsville Virginia. I WANT to fish it in Smith Mountain Lake, which is a 20,600-acre impoundment. It's one of the premier fisheries in the VA/NC area.

I've heard lots of people tell me it'd be unsafe to take my small boat out on such a big lake. (Smith Mountain) Is this true? Because I'm looking at a 1988 Ranger bass boat with a 150hp re-built Johnson outboard. A guy is selling it on CraigsList for $3,900.

Is it safe to take the boat I have now on such a big lake to fish with the big boys? Or do I need to invest in this Ranger? Thanks in advance for any input!

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It is safe if you know your limitations and don't get crazy.  There is a guy in our club who fished a couple of tournaments last year in a 12' jon on a 29 000 acre lake.  He stayed close to the ramp.

That said, SML is a different animal.  You would be fine until the pleasure boaters hit the water.

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The answer is, it depends.

It depends on a number of factors. Weather conditions, boat load, boat handling skills, judgement, experience, etc., all factor into the answer.

The boat is adequate, and safe for that size lake. It also has enough power to get to safety when foul weather is approaching.

You are the primary factor when it comes to safety, knowing your limitations and those of your boat.

Since this is your first boat, you have a lot to learn. Take a safe boat handling course. Do a lot of reading about how to handle different weather conditions.

Danger is always present, in a boat, or in your home. Knowing how to eliminate or minimize the risks is the human factor.

Most boating accidents and tragedies are the result of, human error.

A good place to get started.

http://www.uscgboating.org/safety/boating_safety_courses_.aspx

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1996 Stratos 258V 15' 5 in length powered by a a 70 hp Johnson

Toledo Bend Reservoir: 190,000 acres

I know when to stay & when to run ;)

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It depends on current conditions and how well you you know your boat. I've fished out of my solo canoe on Beaver Lake and Table Rock, but I know my limitations, and I'm careful.

I like fishing them better out of the 17' Lowe. ;D

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It all starts between your ears. I know a lot of people that would not be safe in a 22 footer in a 500 acre lake.

Pick your days, watch the weather, other boaters, don't overload, don't drink while out, and you will be fine.

Good luck

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I fished for years from a 14' V Polar Craft. I used it on some of the biggest lakes in the region, including Lake of the Ozarks and Bull Shoals. As others have said, it really depends on you. If you're careful and pay attention you will be fine. Since it is your first boat, there will be a learning curve. The trouble starts when you push the limits. This can happen very quickly. I was lucky a couple of times in situations that I should not have been in. Heavy boat traffic can be as dangerous as a thunderstorm to a small boat. Good luck.

BTW I have fished Smith Mountain Lake a couple of times. It is one of my favorites.

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I recently got my first boat too. I stick to smaller lakes myself. Have had a few experiences in small boats on big waters though. You really have to watch out for the bigger boats, because they're not always watching out for you.

I was in a small craft with a buddy last year and we had to cross the lake to get to where we wanted.  On the way back in, we saw two big party cruisers heading out for the evening and right for us. We both expected them to turn. The first one's wife even waved as they approached. But the Ahole didn't turn; didn't even slow down. He just sped right in front of us. We were both in the air, as well as most of the boat, when we hit the first wake. There was nothing we could do. The lady just stared as the jerk sped off. We all thought we were going to tip. We landed OK but, man, it was scary.

Another time I was out when a storm rolled in. Actually, it was pre-storm and the wind was the problem. The chop got crazy! This was a river and there were hazards all along shore so everyone had to follow these cruising lanes way out in open water. It was a long, slow, trip back to the ramp. Luckily, I was with someone who was an experienced driver. If it was me driving though, I would not have known what to do.

I guess I'm saying, why so eager to hit these big lakes as a new boater? They're not going anywhere. I have a 16 footer and figure, with experience and common sense on our side, we should be able to fish wherever we want! Even with the big boys. Just maybe not next year.

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ANYWAY, onto the topic at hand. I fish on this boat in Philpott Lake. Philpott Reservoir is a 2,880-acre impoundment located near Martinsville Virginia. I WANT to fish it in Smith Mountain Lake, which is a 20,600-acre impoundment. It's one of the premier fisheries in the VA/NC area.

You'll be fine until about late April. That's when the pleasure boaters and ski boats start rocking SML. If you stay in the creeks you'll be fine but the main lake from just above Halesford down to the S curves will be rockin', so you might want to avoid that area. Plus if the wind gets up while all the pleasure boaters are out, its that much worse.

It's supposed to be 50+ degrees this weekend, you should get out and get a feel for it.

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Rhino really outlined the fact that this is not a yes/no answer.

Just to add, learn/know your running times from your ramp to certain areas. Also, if weather blows up, don't always try to get back to the ramp. Find safe refuge nearby.

I learned to boat in a 14 ft Lund on Lks Erie and StClair and the Detroit River, which is a major pleasure boater path. It was a bit intimidating at first but I learned, both myself and with pointers from others. The help was very important. Being in their boats in bad conditions allowed me to watch first hand. I don't look for trouble but I'm confident in most any conditions now. You will learn too.

TJ

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I've fished some larger lakes (Greeson, Greers Ferry) in my 14 foot jon boat with a 9.9 Johnson.  I made sure to avoid times of high activity with pleasure boats and was always prepared to go to roost on shore with shelter if

un-anticipated high winds came up that kept me from reaching my ramp.

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First I'd like to preface this response with this - Disagreement is not the same as disrespect.

Is it dangerous to take a small boat on a big lake?

This is something you have to decide. There is no set rule as to what size boat should be on what size body of water. Knowledge and experience dictates that decision for each boater. Just like any new venture, learn as much as you can and seek Professional advice.

When people tell you over and over how they take a very small vessel out onto a large body of water all the time and they are fine so you'll be ok - I say check the statistics. You don't want to be one of them. What people are really saying is that "I have been beating the odds so far." During a career in the US Coast Guard with Search and Rescue as my primary responsibility and teaching boating safety to people from all walks of life, it always amazed me how intelligent, successful people were willing to routinely risk their lives and the lives of their families and friends day after day, trip after trip, for some fun in the sun.

The question is - do you want to? I look at it this way ~ "Is it a good idea to drive much faster than the road conditions actually allow or much faster than the vehicle is designed to go" ? Yes you can do it and often times you will be ok but there are many who have not been ok - they're just not here to talk about it.

Rhino provided the link to a site loaded with info. One portion of the site includes Boating statistics of every type. It's allot to digest but this portion is applicable to you.

Year after year the number 1 reason for marine fatalities is capsizing. The class of vessel that capsizes the most are vessels less than 16 ft.

That's not to say smaller boats are unsafe, or that larger boats are safer, they are not - it means people are making the choice to navigate their boat into a situation that either exceeds the limitations of the craft, their own skills or both. And it's done more by people who own smaller boats. But it's not the boats fault. People in larger vessels have made the same decision with similar results. Right job needs the right tool.

So the question you should ask yourself every time you go out is "Am I making a Safe and Smart decision and am I putting myself (and my passengers) in harms way voluntarily?"

Fishing is fun but not worth a life. Every time we go on the water it's a potentially life threatening situation, but as others have mentioned we just have to be safe and smart about it so we can live to catch another day.

A-Jay

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Once the pleasure boaters and jet skis come out I dont think anyone is safe on SML ;)  That size boat will be fine in the creeks and upper stretch of the Roanoke River.  Check out the state ramp at Bay Roc.   

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The size of the lake isn't the biggest factor that determines your safety.  The number of watercraft on that lake is what is most important.  We've had this discussion before and the first lake that comes to mind for me, and other Missouri boaters, is Lake of the Ozarks.  The number and size of the pleasure boats on that body of water is phenomenal and you don't want to be on certain areas of the main lake with those boats in even a 21 foot bassboat.  It is that bad.  The rollers come at you from every direction and they are huge.  In 2004 a 32 foot boat sitting stationary was hit by a huge wave from a yacht and it capsized.  A woman lost her life in that incident.  I've been out on the main lake in a 21 footer when the rollers were bad and it is a very uncomfortable feeling. 

So study your lake and the traffic on it.  If you do choose to go out, choose routes that are the safest and don't be in a hurry if there are some huge waves.  If traffic is a concern, try to choose ramps and areas that allow you to avoid the worst of it.  I owned a 15 and a half foot boat a few years back and I took it out on some huge lakes but I was very careful.  Even then, I experienced some uncomfortable situations now and then.  As A-Jay stated above, you don't want to be one of the statistics. 

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I have seen very small boats on Erie when I went out before. The smart ones, stayed close to shore/launch.

Part of that is Erie is temperamental and can change moods in a hurry. So I would say, you can be safe on the lake IF you take baby steps, get to know its character first under different conditions and do not push it.

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I agree with many of the responses here, your boat is just one of the factors to consider when fishing big water.

I fish the Delta here quite a bit, and honestly what concerns me the most is other boaters.  There are many, many inexperienced boaters out there as well as boaterts that seemingly just dont give a you know what. 

You can know your limits, but unfortunately it can be other boaters that can cause you serious problems.  Keep your eyes open, and in general the larger the boat you're in the safer you will be.

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maybe not the size of lake but can you get out of the wind   i had a   the wind and waves  will get you   i had a 16" lowes boat with a 35   on falcon lake  i was about 3 miles from public boat ramp   wind came up  could not get to  ramp  the wind pushed me to shore  could not go foward.  got to bank and built a fire and stayed the night   on falcon  you have waves when there is no wind  its all flat around there nothing to break the wind

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It's dangerous to take a big boat out on a big lake. the Edmond Fitzgerald sank. Know your boat, basic seamanship and when to run and if its to late to run where to hole up. I wouldn't be concerned about your boat on Smith Mountain so long as I had the basic skills and plugged in the brain.

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It's dangerous to take a big boat out on a big lake. the Edmond Fitzgerald sank. Know your boat, basic seamanship and when to run and if its to late to run where to hole up. I wouldn't be concerned about your boat on Smith Mountain so long as I had the basic skills and plugged in the brain.

lol good point...so did Titanic, and it sank in good part due to the mentality of its captain.

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Is it dangerous to take a small boat on a big lake?

It can be dangerous to take a small boat on a small lake if you don 't take precaution specially if you don 't know the lake.

My everyday lake is small, a few hundred hectares and about 45 deep at it deepest part, it 's choked with submerged timber and you don 't even need a high wind to turn it into a roller coaster ride. The sumberged timber and the 2-4 ft waves can turn a ride in an experience not easy to forget.

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Wow, thanks for all the responses guys. I hadn't logged on in a few days to thank y'all. I'm hopefully going to invest in this "REAL" bass boat before I head up to SML. I've taken safety courses, so I think I'd be more comfortable on a bigger boat.

Thanks again for your responses!

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Also, before heading out take careful note of the wind.  If it will be blowing, find a ramp that will shelter you from the direction the wind blows.  I have a ramp 5 minutes from my house but will drive 40 minutes to a ramp sheltered from the wind if it is expected to blow to any appreciable degree.

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Wow, thanks for all the responses guys. I hadn't logged on in a few days to thank y'all. I'm hopefully going to invest in this "REAL" bass boat before I head up to SML. I've taken safety courses, so I think I'd be more comfortable on a bigger boat.

Thanks again for your responses!

Now really Jon, I think that the boat you have is just as capable, if not safer overall, than that bass boat when it comes to bigger water.  A lot of these folks seem to be forgetting the fact that your Lowe is a V-hull.  That tends to be associated with higher freeboard and and better rough water capability.

People complain about how "unstable" their v-hulls are and how they don't like standing up in them to fish.  This unstable nature is exactly why they make great wave boats.  The boat will rock and roll with the waves, as compared to a jon, or a big deck bass boat, that want's to keep the corners flat.  It's the same reason that an off road rig doesn't run anti roll bars but race cars do.  V-hulls have a built in wave suspension.

In addition, the Ranger is going to have a lot more speed.  Pleasure boaters and the wave moguls that result are much more dangerous with 3 to 4 times the kinetic energy!  Something that stays on the water at full speed, up the front and down the back, is much safer.

Save your money and buy a nice bilge pump for storms when you need to make a longer run. 

They've been fishing the North Atlantic off the coast of Ireland in little 14 foot Dories for hundreds of years...now that's big water!

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my experience is that if you are mindful of the weather conditions, it is sufficient.  don't go out on a mid-summer afternoon with thunderstorms threatening, they pop up out of nowhere.  Avoid high wind days.

If we want to get as good, rich and famous as KVD we need to push the limits in a reasonabile way.

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