Howard Delo

Even though I didn’t grow up on the water, I have enjoyed boating once I was introduced to it. I made the occasional fishing trip on a boat as a kid, but the trips were always for lake fishing. The lakes were small, and the fishing entailed catching bluegills, catfish or “bullheads, and the infrequent carp. The Midwest was not the place for salmon or trout when growing up in those days.

I’d never operated a powerboat on my own until coming to Alaska.

When I started with Fish and Game and located in a coastal area, I began running 20-foot aluminum boats with outboards, 17-foot Boston Whalers, and Lund 16 to 18-foot riveted skiffs with 35-horsepower outboards, depending on where I was stationed.

I ultimately advanced to part-time operation of an old style 32-foot Bristol Bay gill netter while I was in the Kodiak area. The department had “inherited” this vessel. That old diesel-powered boat never went faster than, maybe, eight knots. It could handle rougher seas than I could, and it could carry a surprising amount of weight, if needed. I learned a little about radar while driving the boat through low visibility situations.

While working in the Kodiak area, I had the chance to buy a 20-foot fiberglass open hull with twin outboards. My wife and I glassed on a cabin and the boat looked, in silhouette, like a small purse seiner.

We used that boat for fishing around Afognak Island and some hunting. We brought the boat to the Valley when we moved, and I made a black bear hunt with it out of Valdez and into Prince William Sound. I sold that boat when we quit making regular trips to the coast.

After retiring in the Valley, I bought a 16-foot tunnel boat with a 65-hp jet unit for running the rivers in the area. We used it a couple of times while dipnetting in the Kenai River, near the mouth, and for dipnetting hooligan in the Susitna River. I got thrown from the boat on a bear baiting trip after checking the bait site on the Big Su. That’s a whole other story, but suffice to say, I was a little spooked about that boat.

Shortly after this incident, I had the opportunity to buy a 20-foot inboard riverboat with a cabin, which I still have. It’s hard to get thrown out of a boat with a cabin! I sold the 16-footer and concentrated my boating on learning to handle the much bigger and heavier boat.

That’s my powerboating history. I must admit, however, I enjoy using “paddle boats” almost as much as the big boys. I’ve had a canoe for almost 50 years and have done a lot of lake fishing and some duck hunting with them (I’ve had two canoes). I bought an 8-foot inflatable to use as a companion with the 20-foot saltwater boat. I kept it when I sold the bigger boat and use it occasionally for local lake fishing. I have an older 4-hp outboard and a 40-pounds-of-thrust trolling motor I can use if the gas-powered engine is not legal on a valley lake.

The most unique boat I’ve used is what I call “the duck boat.” I bought it while living on Afognak Island to use for some lake fishing and, primarily, for duck hunting. It has a low-profile, partially enclosed deck.

The 12-foot boat is built along the lines of some of the turn-of-the-20th-century East Coast sneak boats.

The fiberglass boat was built by a company called Arthur Armstrong and they told me it was the last “Widgeon” model boat they built. I’ve had that boat for over thirty years.

I recently dug the duck boat out of my storage shed and began cleaning it up to use for some lake fishing.

The gel coat could use some buffing and there are a few spots where some silicon sealant would prevent rainwater from leaking along the edges of the partial deck, but the boat is still quite useable.

Either my 4-hp outboard or the trolling motor works well with it and it rows very nicely.

A five-pound folding fluke anchor I ordered on sale a while back was added to the boat gear to make it “good to go.” Now I just need to find the time to tow it over to my favorite local lake and start fishing for some rainbows. I’ve got a couple of new ultralight rods I need to christen with their first trout!

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