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In the "early days,"South Texas Fisherman had a problem. The problem was the miles and miles of shallow waters of the Laguna Madre. In order to get to the fish, there was a need for a better boat - a boat designed to run in very shallow water. Anglers were restricted to staying on the deeper waters of the bay or wading to where the fish were feeding on the flats. Changing conditions and the opening of the Mansfield Cut in Padre Island allowed more reds and speckled trout into the bays.
The larger specs and reds were many times found miles from deep water where conventional water craft had to either stop and the anglers walk in or wait for a flood tide. By the time the tide was right, the fish had moved to other shallow areas to feed.
Although he won't say in so many words, Russell Dargel invented the Skooter. He was the boat building innovator who made the idea available to the fishing public. His plans and drawings were used to construct some of the first personal scooters for the bay.
Several fisherman in the the Rio Grande Valley had been experimenting with flat-bottom plywood boats with a slightly turned up bow and small outboard motor. The "scooter" was steered by the operator shifting his weight. These little boats worked very well, and some of the more adventurous anglers even took these little crafts a short distance out into the Gulf.
Russell Dargel moved to the valley in the 1920s from Wisconsin. He was a farmer, but was interested in boat building. He took courses in yacht design and built his first wooden boat in 1933. The craft was a conventional design, pointed-bow boat made from oak and teak.
In the years that followed, Russell built more boats and started building them for other people. By the late 1930s, Dargel Boat Works became a reality.
At that time, most of the boats were wood and took many hours to build.
"I had made up my mind that if I was going to build a boat, it was going to be the best boat I could build." That saying still holds true today. Every Dargel boat is built to Russell Dargel's exacting standards.
"In the beginning, some of the other boat builders laughed at us," he added with a smile. "Later, some of these same builders copied our designs."
However, as has been the case with "man" and the evolution of his "toys" a way to get to the fish was not only discovered, it was improved and then made available to the fishing public. The person who was in the forefront of this development was Russell Dargel.
The first production scooter was built in 1958 and Dargel Boats has been building them ever since. One of these scooters appeared on the cover of Outdoor Life magazine the next year. The design was coming of age.
Later, a fiberglass model was introduced and subsequently accepted by the fishing community. These boats could never be confused with pleasure boats. However any fisherman worth his salt (no pun intended) will tell you what a pleasure it is to be able to go where the fish are.
Fishing trends change. As more families started fishing, the "no sides" design was replaced by larger fishing craft with sides. These boats led to the decline in popularity of the small scooter and Dargel Boats discontinued it in the early 1980s.
Quality and pride in its workmanship has been the way Dargel Boats has operated since the beginning. It is something that has helped the company through hard business times as well as through the good years. Through the years the business grew and Russell was joined by his son Rusty, recently the reins have been handed over to Cleve and Miriam Ford. Miriam is the Great Niece of Russell.
Today, Dargel Boats is under the strict supervision of Cleve Ford. Cleve is in direct communication with every employee in the company and inspects each boat to be sure it meets the high standards set forth by the company. The company builds its own molds and each boat is built one at a time from the hull to the upper deck. Consoles are also made in the plant for all the Dargel boats.
Over the years, Dargel Boats reputation has grown and its boats are now sold across the country at designated dealers. Dargel Boats produces several hull designs, including the Skout 240, 220, 210, 190, 186, 170, and 140. Dargel Boats also produces the Fisherman 210 and 186.
Dargel Boats has reintroduced the 13-foot Skooter with numerous updates and improvements. The "Skooter 136 Sport" has been very well received.
What goes around comes around, and once again the popularity of the smaller go-almost-anywhere fishing craft prompted reintroduction of this model. One-and Two-man "real fishing machines" are back again. The Skooter is also being built in a 16 foot and 19 1/2 foot model.
So from the farm fields of Wisconsin to the shallow flats of South Texas, the Dargel Boats family has made the transition in style. And, in doing so, it has made a valuable contribution to the fishing community throughout the country.
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