Fishing With Planer Boards
In the shallow waters of the western basin of Lake Erie, planer board fishing has increased in popularity. One of the reasons may be that the water seems to be clearer as the zebra mussels have established themselves. Another reason may be that they work very well. If you have never heard of fishing with planer boards, then you may be missing out.
Planer board fishing is a means to place your lures out to the sides of your boat rather than behind. It is a simple concept but difficult to develop an image if never seen. Planer boards themselves can be hand made or purchased online from various venders. Big Jon Sports is one such manufacturer that provides all the essentials for planer board fishing. Basically, the board itself works like a skier pulling to the sides of the boat. As the boat moves forward, the planer board pulls away from the boat. A line, usually brightly colored, is attached to the planer board from the boat. There is usually a port and a starboard planer board, but fishing with one board can be just as effective.
The line attached to the planer board from the boat can vary in length. On average, 75 foot of line is considered sufficient for most situations. The line is attached to a reel, either electric or manual. The manual reels are a cheap alternative to electric but can be cumbersome to crank in at times. The reels are attached to a mast, usually at the bow of the boat. The mast is elevated in order to keep the line from touching the water as it pulls the planer board. It will become clear as to why this is important a little later. The ideal height of the mast or reel depends on the boat. Again, the goal is to keep the line from touching the water.
Now the fun begins. How do we use the planer boards to fish? Set your boat to trolling speed, set up your planer board, and let out the line from the reel. Now, you can take your fishing pole with lure and let out the desired amount of line for your fishing situation. It is important to know how much line is out and this can be done with a line counter. Next, attach the line to the planer board release and attach to the planer board line. There are currently many options available for releases form manufactured (Cannon, Big Jon, Scotty) to home made using clothes pins and shower curtain rings, or even rubber bands. Whatever you choose, you will need to test it for your fishing needs.
As the boat moves forward, the tension on the line from the lure pulls the fishing line towards the planer board. Now, the line can be set to stop at whatever distance out from the boat that is desired. Place the pole in the pole holder closest to the bow of the boat. This process will be repeated for whatever number of poles that will be used on that side of the boat. This process is repeated on the other planer board.
Now that the planer boards are set up and you are anxiously awaiting your first hit, it is important to remember that once a fish hits, be patient. After the release lets go of the line, gently set the hook and apply tension as the fish passes all the other lines to the back of the boat. This is a must in order to reduce tangles. After landing the fish, simply let out line from the other rods still attached to the planer board. The pole that was just used to bring in the fish now becomes the inside pole. This can be repeated over and over as long as enough releases are available. Once there are no more releases, simply bring in the planer board and collect all the releases.
There are some simple steps one can take to master planer board fishing. One is to have line counter reels on your poles in order to know how much line is out for each lure. This will help reduce tangles. If your farthest pole is running 120 feet of line and your inside pole is running 200 feet of line, then a tangle is sure to happen when bringing in that next fish. Another easy thing to do is have enough releases. Constantly bringing in the planer board to collect the line releases is cumbersome and can take away from a catching that next fish. The last simple tip is having the pole holders situated so that the poles can be easily repositioned when changing after a landing a fish. Setting up the layout at the back of the fishing boat, depending on the fishing situation can be scary. Think that on each planer board (port and starboard) there may be 3 to 6 poles. At the back of the boat, there may be a pair of downriggers with 1 to 2 poles each. There is a lot that can happen with this many poles in the water, not just tangles+
Why is planer board fishing increasing in popularity? One theory is that spooked fish swim out away from the boat. As they move to get out of the way, the lures attached to the planer boards are out there waiting for them. Another theory is that planer board fishing enables fisherman to add many more lures to the water minimizing tangles and increasing their catch. Whatever the purpose, planer board fishing is a great way to catch fish and for those interested, all it takes is getting the right equipment and having a little patience. Good luck and go fishing.