In mid 1964 I found myself boatless, living in town (Arlington, VA) with no garage or even a driveway. I parked on the street. I was tired of renting boats and there weren’t any good shore fishing sites that I liked.
I was raising 4 small ones and had very little to spend on fishing. We were living paycheck to paycheck in those days as many are today. I did have the change jug that I fed every night with all coins I had in my pockets. It held about $250 in coins, the accumulation of several years.
I decided I had to have a boat of some sort . . . canoe, kayak or maybe a very small jon or punt. Then I ran onto an ad in the local paper:
The wonderful SportYakII. World’s safest small boat, capacity to 700lb. Optional engine mount for up to 3HP. Weighs only 50lb. $210.
That sounded like it would fill the bill. It was only 7′ long and at 50lb. I could easily fit it into the back of my station wagon. I trotted over to the vendor, plunked down my $250 ($40 for an optional engine mount) and came home with the SportYak and an engine mount.
I acquired a very small electric troller and the following weekend I took her to Occoquan Reservoir south of Arlington. I pulled the battery out of the car and off I went. Occoquan is a long, very narrow lake reserved even then to under 10HP. It was perfect for the little boat. I cruised about for the day, loaded my cooler/seat with slab crappies and returned to the ramp at about dusk. There was enough juice left in the battery to start the car, so my first outing was a big success.
Over the next few years I fished Occoquan regularly, but tried out some different means of propulsion. I bartered a Johnson 3HP outboard from a fishing buddy by letting him use the SportYak when I wasn’t. That extended my range a lot and ended worries that I was going to run the car battery down by staying out too long. To save on gas (the little Johnny would run all day on a tank) I fashioned a skulling paddle that I could use to ease the boat along shorelines while I flyfished for bass and bluegill.
Then I moved to Illinois. I bought a bigger boat (my first Boston Whaler) for the less protected lakes and Lake Michigan fishing, but the SportYak didn’t retire. She went to the Mississippi for the spring walleye fishing, the Fox River in Wisconsin for white bass and more walleye, and became the “Poolyak” in the summer and “SledYak” in the winter for small boys and dogs.
It was while living in Illinois that I discovered the winter vacation in Florida. I had read of the wonderful fishing in the canals along and crossing “Alligator Alley” and decided that would be a great place to spend a week camping before a convention I was scheduled to speak at in Miami. The SportYak seemed like the perfect boat for that, so I tossed her on the luggage rack of my Diesel, tossed tent, outboard, etc. into her, and off I went. It was February and the weather was very welcoming after leaving a couple of feet of snow and life threatening cold. I stopped at a turnoff on Alligator Alley at a crossing canal just about midway across the Florida everglades and set up camp.
SportYak was perfect for fishing the canals. She would get easily into places that probably had never seen a popping bug. I caught several large bass, which I released, and a few smaller 1-3lb. that I utilized for food. Then I fished for bluegills and caught a lot of very big ones, in the 10″ class.
That was the first of four trips SportYak made to Alligator Alley in midwinter. Each time I took a different one of my children with me and we had a wonderful time still fishing from the boat or casting from shore.
When we moved to Texas in 1972 SportYak went into storage for a few years. We lived on Lake Grapevine, which was unsuitable for her.
Then, in 1976, we moved back to Illinois and SportYak came back into regular use. Part of the time she served our fowl as the GooseYak. That is where the years of UV finally cracked her hull and she was retired. We had her for about 15 years during which she fished all over the country, served well as PoolYak and GooseYak and even sledded down a few snowy hills.
Now I am back in Texas, with a nice 2-3acre fishpond. I think another SportYak would be just right for my pond and a couple of neighboring lakes and rivers that I would like to fish. The design has changed some in 45 years, but she looks like she would do just as well.