Is there any chance that dogs may like to go fishing as much as we do? Let’s think about that. When you recently got up early one morning, was Bowser looking you right in the eyes, waiting to see if this was a bathroom call or the beginning of a fishing day? You knew he was anticipating the magic words . . . “You wanna go fishing?” And when you spoke the magic words, Bowser did the happy dance by leaping in the air with his tail spinning like a propeller. He barked his answer three times . . . “Yes, yes, yes,” just like some people I know, only Bowser doesn’t require coffee!
If your Bowser is anything like the dogs I’ve had, they race you to the boat after you park the truck. If on a leash, they drag you down the ramp gagging and coughing! Not you, Bowser. Once on the boat, they mount themselves on the helm like a hood ornament or assume the position in the passenger seat. I know this from years of experience! I want to share a few thoughts that I hope will encourage you to take your dog fishing and a few tips to ensure their comfort and safety.
As my first example, Eddie, our Maltese puppy, started fishing with my son Aaron and me when we bought our first boat in 1988. In addition to regular training like sitting and staying, he learned to stay away from the boat's edge, especially while moving. He also learned our fishing routines. We would let him take his sweet time visiting all the trees and grassy knolls. And over time, he mapped out his favorite stops at all the lakes and rivers we fished. The only boating accidents he ever had were because he was feeling well or ate something that upset his stomach.
On the other hand, Sheila, our adult Maltese, adopted about eight years ago, was already trained and instinctively used caution. She was also faithful to map her way around every launch area before boarding the boat and after. Both dogs didn’t require drinking or eating much while on the boat unless it was hot. However, I think it’s normal for a giant dog to drink more water and need a potty break during a full day. I assume every dog is different. That may also explain why anglers have beached their boats during a prime fishing time? Some have a hard time keeping their Labs and Retrievers from jumping in the water after a duck, for a drink, or to pee, and most of the time, there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s allowed and in a safe area. With some planning and patience, almost every puppy can be trained and develop good bathroom habits.
Something else comes to mind about boat safety, and that’s a life vest for your pet. I never felt we needed one, but I think it’s an excellent idea for several reasons. It’s a sure way to protect your dog if they go overboard by accident or on purpose. I’ve also seen people pick up their dogs by the vest with great ease. This would have helped me the time that Eddie fell in the water trying to leap from the boat to the dock at Clearlake in Calif. I barely reached him in time by grabbing his long hair on top of his head as he was going down.
Unlike some dogs, he wasn’t a good swimmer, and he could have gotten trapped under the dock or boat. Using a leash is always a good idea in controlling your dog while on or off the boat. Many lakes require all dogs on a leash on the shore or in the parking lot. Using a leash is how I trained Eddie as an energetic pup. My doggies always loved being around my feet while I was fishing, which created a danger of tripping or stepping on him. If you step on them, their yelp tends to pierce your eardrums and stop your heart! Just a warning.
Weather presents other issues to consider. Extreme heat is brutal on everyone, especially furry creatures! I used to dip my dogs in the live well or over the side of the boat to cool them off. Also, a wet towel over and under them helped keep them from overheating. My dogs preferred to stay under the console when I was fishing in hot or cold weather, especially when I created a tent for them with a towel over the steering wheel. In cold weather, I wrapped them in a dry towel. If your dog likes being under the console while driving, be sure they have padding under them because it can be a rough ride on a bare floor.
My son Chris was fishing Pyramid Lake with his dog Holly and my other son Brian earlier this year. They were catching catfish with hunks of dough balls on large treble hooks. Brian had put his rod down for a moment, and Holly took that opportunity to eat the dough ball. They left the lake and headed for the vet, unable to get the prominent treble hook out of her throat. After finding the hook on the x-ray, they decided surgery wasn’t an option and hoped and prayed the hook would dissolve and work its way out. Prayers were answered, and Holly is doing well today and still fishing. Dogs will do all sorts of crazy things like eating your baits or laying on your lures. They don’t seem to care that you will have to give them a Mohawk or pull and cut the hooks out. In addition to hooks, there can be poisonous snakes, broken glass, and so many other things on the shore they shouldn’t have or be exposed to.
When Eddie passed on about 13 years ago, we went without a dog for over two years. No one could replace Eddie. Everyone knew him as part of the Martens’ fishing team. When allowed, he would always be on the boat during pre-fish and tournaments. Eddie and Aaron were the pre-show and post-show at those tournaments for years. Aaron would tease Eddie, and Eddie would assume his love/hate mode. He chased Aaron around the parking lot, snarling and sometimes hanging on his pant leg. Eddie also knew who our most significant competitors were…Jay Poore and John Ed Wilder. Eddie snuck up on John Ed two different times while we were standing around and peed on his leg. Those times were always good for a big laugh from everyone except John Ed!
It may be my imagination, but does it seem that more and more anglers are taking their dogs fishing with them? And have you noticed that when the dogs are on a boat, they usually smile? I rest my case.
In recent years I have assumed the role of the Gloria Allred attorney for dogs. You can call me Carol Allbreed, and I will plead their case for them anytime and anywhere. Most dogs don’t have a voice, but if they could talk, they would be saying to you, “Hey, take me too!” As Carol Allbreed, I hope you will consider taking your best buddy fishing with you soon. All they want is some fresh air, a change of scenery, and someone on one time with you. You’re their best buddy and the one they live for.
When my fishing pal Sheila passed away two years ago at 14, it left a hole in my life. I miss her terribly, especially when I go fishing. But, I take comfort in knowing she lived a whole life, primarily because of all the fishing trips we had together. The same applies to Eddie, who lived a whole and exciting life on the tournament trail.
In closing, I truly hope you have wonderful experiences with your best buddy in the years to come. Why not ask Bowser what he thinks?