About Pete McDonald

Pete McDonald is a contributing editor to Power & Motoryacht. Previously, he spent 11 years on the editorial staff of Boating. He has won multiple writing awards and holds a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

GUIDE BOATS: Rich Armstrong’s McKee Craft 22

We spent the day chasing striped bass and bluefish with Rich Armstrong of Boston Fishtix charters, and asked him about running his McKee Craft Freedom 22.

Armstrong’s been running the boat for three seasons, and got it for several reasons.

“It was mostly the beam, it’s got one of the widest beams for its size,” he said. “When you’re taking people out you don’t want to be rocking around, and the stability of the boat is great.” Also,  ”With the high gunwales, no one’s going to be falling out of this thing.”

The boat has a full 8’6″ beam and a 22 degree deadrise, similar in its dimensions to the Whaler 220 Outrage (which has a 21 degree deadrise.) Fishing on the boat, we noticed the wide walkway access on either side of the console, and the wide gunwales with molded nonslip.

Armstrong also likes its versatility: It floats in 2′ of water with the Suzuki DF250 trimmed up,  so he takes it into shallow back bays and runs out to Stellwagen Bank and fish for tuna in 2-4′ seas.

“It’s got more fishing mojo,” said Armstrong of his boat. But the guide might have something to do with that.

GUIDE BOATS: Eric Wallace’s Flats Skiff

This is the first in a series of quick interviews with fishing guides, and why they fish the boats they do. Eric Wallace is a fly fishing guide from Maine who specializes in sight fishing to striped bass in clear, shallow water.

Eric Wallace has been guiding for striped bass in Maine for 11 years, and essentially pioneered sight casting to big stripers on the local sand flats. He needs a boat that is easy to pole, tracks straight, balances well, and doesn’t spook fish with hull slap. This year he got a new technical poling skiff, an Inshore Powerboats 16.

“I was looking around for a small light skiff that is comfortable to pole,” said Wallace. “The original reason I picked it was for the price, under ten grand with a two stroke and a poling platform, a pushpole, and a trailer. By the time I got it where I wanted it, it was well above that.”

Eric’s boat is simple, with few  amenities. It weighs about 500-pounds with his tiller-steered 40-hp Suzuki. One change he’d advocate with the four-stroke is to put the gas tank forward towards the bow to even out the extra weight. Another is to make sure the poling platform mounts have backing plates.

His opinion so far? “It’s not designed for big water, but as a poling skiff it’s a wonderful little boat,” said Wallace. “I wanted something able to float in six inches of water and that I could pole through current from a nine-foot tide change.”

Contact Eric Wallace at Coastal Fly Anger dot com.

Kona Press Boat Update: 700-pound blue tagged

photo © jon schwartz

I got an email update from Jon Schwartz, the photographer who snapped a blue marlin as it rammed the press boat at the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament in Kona.

He typed a short message: “Pete, the story gets better.”

He and the other media types on the press boat took part in a battle to tag and release a 700-pound blue marlin. I don’t know how the rest of the tournament went, but this has to rank as maybe the all-time most awesome press boat ever to be aboard.

What Is the Menhaden Coalition?

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC - DECEMBER 19:  Thousands of dead menhaden fish are seen on the beach on December 19, 2005 in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Environmentalist and the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries are speculating that the cause of death may have been caused by a drastic change in water temperature or a large fishing net that broke. Fish and water samples have been sent to the state capital of Raleigh for testing, the results being expected later this week. (Photo by Logan Mock-Bunting/Getty Images)

The decline in the Atlantic menhaden population over the past few decades is staggering: An 88 percent drop in numbers between 1979 and 2009. The population that once measured close to 200 billion is down to less than 200 billion. The fish that some believe to be the most important in the sea is on the verge of collapse. The main culprit? Commercial harvesting.

Recreational anglers up and down the Atlantic seaboard have noticed the increased absence of this essential cog in the food chain. The groups that represent those anglers are joining together to do something about it. A total of 34 organizations, from local chapters of the Coastal Conservation Association to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to Bass Pro Shops–click here for the full list–have signed on to form a grass-roots conservation campaign called The Menhaden Coalition.

Jerry Benson, the Vice President of CCA Virginia, is one of main people responsible for organizing this coalition. His home State still allows commercial harvest of menhaden for reduction in the Chesapeake Bay–the main nursery for striped bass–to the tune of 240 million pounds a year. Where does the commercial harvest go? Into Omega-3 protein for fish oil capsules, and into farmed fish and livestock feed. And fertilizer.

Benson has been fighting to get Virginia to change its menhaden management policies, and hopes this coalition–formed in January 2010–will have an impact up and down the coast.

“We have organizations from New Jersey to North Carolina involved,” he said over the phone. The ultimate goal is to work with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to set restrictions of commercial menhaden harvesting to more sustainable levels to allow the population to recover.

We hope they can make an impact. Otherwise, this graph will continue its downward slope.

Andy Mill’s Tarpon Book

Andy Mill is considered by almost everyone who fly fishes to be the world’s best tarpon angler. Mill, a former Olympic skier, spent years channelling his competitive juices into reaching the apex of his new sport.

Now, in his new book A Passion For Tarpon, he is sharing his collected skill and wisdom with the entire world, or whomever’s willing to pay the $100 cover price from Wild River Press.

I received a review copy of the book. The volume is so dense that it’s going to take some time to give it a proper review, but my first impressions are, Wow, pretty awesome.

There’s so much more to this book than just how-to information. Mill includes a chapter on tarpon biology from well-known marine biologist Jerald Ault, as well as a chapter on the history of tarpon fishing from the Florida guide and fishing historian Steve Kantner. Plus, there are pages of interviews with top-flight Keys guides and tarpon interviews to read through, all paying homage to the people who pioneered tarpon fishing and advanced it to Mill, its modern master.

Expect a full review as soon as I get the time to wade through it all.

Triumph Boat Commercials, Others

After watching “You and Your Johnson” from Jeff Hemmel’s post the other day, I was reminded of the Triumph Boat commercials from a few years back. Most boat commercials are pretty terrible, but the Triumph ones stood out, as did a couple of others.

The Bubba test drive.

Divine Intervention

Evinrude 1

Evinrude 2

Nitro Boats

Yozuri Commercial