Lessons in Launching, Beaching and Fishing From Your Pontoon

A trip to a remote Canadian fishing lodge with a 21-foot Princecraft illustrates the benefits of pontoon boats.

Princecraft Pontoon

Dan Armitage

I tested a new Princecraft pontoon boat on its home turf last week and experienced one of the benefits of our favorite style of watercraft that I have overlooked until now: beaching.

Princecraft started building aluminum boats in Princeville, Quebec, Canada the same year I was born: 1954 so we are of similar vintage. I’ve been reviewing Princecraft pontoons, walleye boats and utilities in boating and fishing magazines for years, and always pointed out that the boats were built in Canada and offered a little something extra in the construction of their boats and trailers. Princecraft engineers realize that some of the best boating and fishing destinations across the Provinces are located at the far end of remote, often gravel-covered roads terminating at less-than-improved ramps for launching towed boats. Let’s just say that the Princeville-built boats and trailers are designed and built to tackle such conditions, and I’ve always thought that was worth sharing.

However, I had never had the opportunity to actually tow and test one on its home turf until earlier this month when I was on assignment to visit a fishing lodge in Thesallon, Ontario. When I learned that there was a Princecraft dealer (Superior Marine; superiormarine.on.ca) in "The Soo" (Sault Ste. Marie) Ontario, which I would be passing through, I arranged to borrow a 2013 Vectra 21 pontoon to use when visiting the Outpost Lodge (outpostlodge.com).

Like many traditional drive-in fishing lodges, the Outpost Lodge targets hard-core anglers and wildlife watchers who use small, outboard-powered aluminum fishing boats to navigate local waters. The 14-18 foot long, open runabouts are built light yet strong to access the oft-rocky conditions found on the pike-and-walleye-and granite-filled lakes that dot the popular Cambrian Shield region of Ontario.

The Outpost was built in 1938, making it one of the oldest fishing camps in the area, and it’s located smack in the middle of a region brimming with walleye and smallmouth and trout waters. Its minimalist ramp was also designed for the launching of the trailerable aluminum runabouts, including popular models built by Princecraft and Lund that the Outpost maintains in its rental fleet and are often brought into camp by its guests.

So when I arrived with a 21 foot pontoon boat in tow, instead of seeking an alternate (read that “improved”) launch site or offering to assist with the launch, Outpost Lodge owners Ann and Jim Kehoe noted it was a Princecraft and simply waved me through. We proceeded to trailer the boat down the steep incline that wound through a deep forest of bracken fern, birch, poplar and hemlock, to the “ramp” – which is really just a lane across a sandy beach they have lined with crushed granite for support and traction, adding additional layers of rock as needed each season or so.

Despite a shallow, gently-sloping entry, the launch went off without a hitch. Large as it was compared to all other craft on the lake, the 21 foot Princecraft proved to be an able angler, offering fishing options such as vertical rod racks and a livewell to complement the wide-open forward deck for casting. The Vectra was by far the most comfortable boat we had ever used on a Canadian fishing trip that normally leaves our backs and butts aching after a day aboard a cramped runabout with wooden bench seats. Having a roomy pontoon underfoot, and upholstered seats underbutt, for the week has left us spoiled for all future fishing trips into the Ontario outback.

It wasn’t until it was time to stop for a traditional shore lunch of fresh-caught walleyes cooked over an open fire that the pontoon boat displayed a welcome attribute. When we spied an isolated sandy beach perfect for building a safe open fire and doing a bit of post-meal swimming, we simply power-beached the twin-logged ‘toon in the sloping sand and stepped off the bow onto shore. We’ve had mono-hulled boats beat-up and hard-beached by wakes and wave action when tethered or anchored or beached for shore lunches over the years; not so the pontoon – which also offered comfortable bench seating around a portable table to allow us to enjoy dining on our morning’s catch.

The more I run pontoons the more I enjoy ‘em. If you have any similar “love my ‘toon” anecdotes to share, please send them my way. I’ll share the best of them in upcoming blogs.