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Anchoring 101

Anchoring 101

Anchoring 101

By
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver

            At a recent boat show, a new fisherman stopped by my booth and asked a lot of questions about anchoring.  I hadn’t thought about anchoring in a while and it is a critical part of fishing – that unfortunately is often overlooked or thought to be simple enough it doesn’t warrant discussion.  Well, that isn’t true and this fisherman’s questions started a thought process that is being answered here.

I Googled anchor and found it to be classified as a verb meaning to fasten, secure, attach, fix or affix something in place and as a noun of the device or object used to make the verb work.  It is entirely correct to anchor with an anchor.  Anchors are very important to fishermen trying to secure our boats in the right place to catch fish.

This definition works pretty well for fishermen that anchor to fish as we are plain and simply just  securing the boat in a position to most easily fish our intended location.  However, I found the use of the word device for the noun part of anchor to be more appropriate than I had previously considered.  I’ve used some unique objects too.  They range from simple to complex, good old common sense to ingenious and all served the purpose of holding a boat in just the right place to fish.

Starting with the simple things, I’ve used bricks, cinder blocks, sand bags, window sash weights and all sorts of things for anchors.  The bricks, cinder blocks and sand bags were used in situations where they might become snagged and lost, so there wouldn’t be a bunch of money lost with the anchor.  I’ve also used sand bags just as a means to slow down a drift with a strong wind or current.  The good thing is that if it hangs up and you lose it, it’s not expensive.

The best example of a cinder block is anchoring below a dam and letting it drop into the rip-rap, then sometimes breaking it to leave.  I have fished jetties, rocks, docks, and bulkheads by anchoring off of them from the bow with a regular anchor and then tossing a brick on a line into the rocks or over a cross brace to pull the stern into position to fish vertically beside the structure.  If the brick won’t come free when it’s time to leave, just break it.

I used the term “regular anchor” in the previous paragraph.  What is a regular anchor?  I guess I would consider mass produced anchor styles as regular anchors even though some of them have specific purposes.  Regular anchors include the various styles of Danforth, Chene, Navy, plow, mushroom and river anchors, plus grapnel and wreck/reef anchors that are made from rebar and metal rods that are intended to snag structure to hold the boat and then bend under harder pressure, like backing down with the motor, to release.  There are multiple variations of all of these.

The Danforth anchor is the most popular, being used from small to large vessels and generally holds well, especially when used in conjunction with a length of chain – and the more chain that is added, the better the Danforth anchor holds.  The Chene anchor has flukes that pivot and dig in like the Danforth anchor, but uses a rail with a sliding ring instead of an arm to attach the anchor rope.  This allows the ring to slide forward to help pull the anchor in to dig in and grab, but then it can slide back to the base of the anchor near the pivot for the flukes to reverse the pull and easily retrieve the anchor.

Plow anchors are named that because they look like a plow and use the sharp to dig into the bottom.  Navy anchors have pivoting flukes, similar to Danforth and Chene anchors, but they are made much heavier and thicker.  The thick flukes of Navy anchors don’t dig into harder bottoms like Danforth and Chene anchors, but use a little bottom grip and their weight to hold.  They will dig well in softer bottoms.  Some fishermen use Navy anchors for special purposes, but they are most often used on ships and larger vessels that have windlasses to retrieve them.

As already mentioned, wreck and reef anchors use flexible tines to grab into the structure and then bend under extra pressure to release.  An inexpensive wreck anchor can be made using rebar, a short section of pipe and some bagged concrete mix.  Mushroom and river anchors are slightly different versions of weighted round anchors with bottoms that look like mushroom tops.  They are primarily are used in low current situations.  River anchors have petals with spaces between them and hold a little better than mushroom anchors.

I’ve already mentioned brick and cinder blocks.  Other anchor devices can be as simple as Cajun anchors and anchor pins.   These are used primarily in shallow water.  The Cajun anchor is simply a long heavy metal rod.  It can be pushed into the bottom or dropped over the side.  If simply dropped over, the Cajun anchor will slip in strong winds or currents and can be used to slow a drift.  Anchor pins are lighter hard fiberglass poles that have a point on one end and a T handle on the other.  They come in various lengths and are stuck into the bottom by hand to hold a boat in place.   Stick It Anchor Pins was the first company to make these lightweight fiberglass anchor pins and they also make a mount that can be used on the deck near the bow or the transom to hold the anchor pin and this is called a Brake.

Devices really fits the following means of anchoring.  First are powered pole type anchors.  There are two primary brands.  Power-Pole is an electric-hydraulic device that mounts to a boat’s transom or a bracket and uses a parallelogram frame with pivots at each end to push a pole into the bottom to position a boat.  Power-Pole also makes a smaller “Micro” unit that is electric and powers down or raises an anchor pin.  Power-Poles are available in several series in lengths from 4 to 10 feet.

Talon is an electric powered pole anchor made by Minn Kota.  Talons mount to a boat’s transom or bracket also.  The Talon’s pole is telescopic and extends vertically and is available in lengths from 6 to 12 feet.

Originally fishermen used a single Power-Pole or Talon.  Now, many fishermen are mounting twin Power-Poles or Talons, one on each side of the motor.  This allows for precise anchoring regardless of wind and current.

The newest device for anchoring doesn’t require anything on the bottom.  Minn Kota and MotorGuide, have both introduced electric trolling motors that have internal GPS units and a program that activates and controls the trolling motor to hold the boat within a few feet of the position where it was engaged.  The Minn Kota version is called Spot Lock and the MotorGuide version is called Anchor.  Both will hold the boat in position and have an option to shift the point of anchor in 5 foot increments.

As you can see, there are multiple devices, objects, and means for anchoring.  Using the Power-Pole, Power-Pole Micro, Talon or one of the trolling motor systems involves having electric power that can get weak.  An anchor is pretty fool proof as long as you have enough line and are strong enough to pull it back up.  The other devices were designed to be easier and more convenient, but I believe the biggest plus is not having the noise and bottom disturbance when an anchor, especially one with a longer chain, is deployed.

One of the ways to use an anchor, but avoid the noise of anchoring, is to use a plastic or rubber coated anchor and chain.  There are available in Danforth, Chene, Navy, mushroom and river style anchors.  Use the Danforth or Chene to dig into harder bottoms, the Navy anchor to grab in softer bottoms and the mushroom and river anchors for low current areas.

Ease of use is important, but whatever anchor or anchoring device you use must properly position your boat for fishing or it doesn’t help.  Being quiet, with no splash, chain rattle, or anchor shaft clunking, also helps fishing by not spooking the fish.  Priorities vary between fishermen, but one of the options listed above should serve your need to get a grip and position your boat just right for catching lots of fish.  You can even invite a few home to be the guests of honor at dinner.

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