Understanding Anchoring in Rivers

Discussion in 'Outdoor Articles' started by CaptainBrad, Jan 15, 2008.

  1. CaptainBrad

    CaptainBrad Active Member

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    Written by Kent Hollands (Landscats) and Brad Durick (CaptainBrad)

    Fishing in rivers can have an element of difficulty other than that of a lake. This difficulty could be viewed as a minor inconvenience, but it is easy to overcome with just a little knowledge and understanding of anchors and equipment. Anchoring plays a very important role in river fishing. Whether you’re planning to fish holes, cuts, runs, or flats staying put matters.

    Types of Anchors


    There are many types of anchors that all do the same thing. Some work better in certain situations than others. The real key to any type of anchor is understanding when one style works better than the others. This is determined by what type of river you are planning to anchor in, what type of hull design your boat has, and what bottom composition the river bottom provides.

    Mushroom anchors are a round-shape that has no teeth or hooks to grab into the bottom. Like the name says it looks a lot like a mushroom. This style of anchor tends to slip and not grab in heavy currents. They work the best in slow rivers with muddy bottoms or weeds.

    Fluke anchors have two triangle hooks that turn down into the bottom when pressure is applied. These anchors are known to be lightweight and easy to let out and retrieve. They work great in sand and mud bottom compositions but have a tough time grabbing on hard bottoms. When anchoring in heavy currents these anchors will require many feet of rope to prevent slipping.

    River anchors are very heavy anchors that work very well in heavy current. Once they are let out they will hold the boat tight. Their design is made to catch on hard bottoms and will also work very well in mud or weeds. The downfall to this style of anchor is they tend to be very heavy hence making them difficult to retrieve.

    The grappling anchor is a very effective when used with smaller boats. These anchors are small and light with four hooks that fold down to catch the bottom. Unless you are using a canoe or very small boat a grappling anchor might not be the best choice in anchors. A modified grappling anchor that is heavier and has fixed spikes on it can however keep most boats in place. The only problem that arises with this type is that the spikes can get caught in tree branches or between rocks forcing you to cut the rope and lose the anchor.

    The last style of river anchor is a cross between the grappling anchor and the fluke anchor. It has the slim lightweight design with fluke style spikes that can be bent if the anchor gets caught on the bottom. Not only is this anchor easier to maneuver because it is lightweight but it will grab in almost any bottom composition and hold any type of boat even in heavy current. The problem with this anchor is that to manufacturer makes them. The design must be custom made to fit the size and river conditions desired.

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    Understanding your boat


    Your boat’s size and shape tells you what size and style of anchor you’ll need. Most riverboats tend to be shallow running or a moderate v shape. Understanding what type of boat you own and how to work with it when anchoring you will save yourself many headaches.

    Shallow running boats are very popular among the river running crowds especially when the river is known to be very shallow. The words shallow running tells it all. Shallow running boats draw almost no water when running and tend to sit high in the water when at rest. This attribute helps them move about in the shallow stretches of a river.

    The medium v type hull is most common in today’s boats. These boats sit in the water from a foot to 18 inches depending on the weight. The main feature of these hulls is that they run smooth in smaller waves and have great control while running in moderately rough water.

    A deep v boat sits deeper in the water when at rest. The V in the hull helps push water outside when running. This attribute helps these boats run in very rough water without beating up the passengers. This ability to run in big waves is not necessarily a good thing when anchoring due to more drag in the current. Deep V boats will work in bigger rivers but may not be the best choice when shallow spots are common.

    Successful Anchoring


    Once you have learned which boat you have and the types of anchors available it is time to find the anchor will work best for your river fishing situation. Shallow running boats tend to ride the current and get caught up in waves making it more difficult to keep anchored straight. If your boat is a larger flat bottom you will need to have a heavier anchor and more rope to keep the boat where you want it. Medium or deep V boats will need to be anchored accordingly to the size of the boats. Because the V allows them to cut the water a bit the current will hold the boats straighter in the water. This sometimes means they require less of an anchor than some flat bottom boats with ideal conditions. Wind and other factors can change those requirements however.

    You have now chosen the anchor that fits your needs. How you use that anchor is the next item to think about. The length of anchor rope used is as important as the anchor you choose to use. A 100 length of at least 5/8 nylon rope is standard. This will allow for long lining in deeper or faster water if need be. A good rule of thumb in rope length is the rule of three. For every foot of water you plan to anchor in you should let out three feet of rope. For example, if you plan to anchor in 15 feet of water you would let out at least 45 feet of rope. If a strong wind is coming from the same direction as the current you may required to let more rope out to keep they anchor held and the boat in place. Once you let out the proper length of rope tie it off to the front eyelet or a cleat added to the center of the bow to keep the boat as straight at possible.

    There are other ways the wind can affect your ability to stay anchored in your desired location. If the wind is from the side or against the current the boat will tend to swing. Sometimes only a few feet side to side and other time right back over the anchor setting you against the current. When this happens throw a second anchor out the back of the boat and tie the rope vertical to hold the back end of the boat from the swinging. This second anchor can make landing a fish more difficult because the fish can get wrapped up in the rope. If you don’t want to take a chance with losing a fish to the rope another way to keep the boat from swinging is use a drift sock out the back. The rivers current will catch in the sock and your boat will stay straight right in the strike zone.

    If anchoring with the boat facing into the current doesn’t make you comfortable there is another method. Some people prefer to side anchor. This anchoring technique is when there is an anchor out of the bow and one off the stern forcing the boat to sit perpendicular to the river’s current. When side anchored you cast down steam with all rods out one side of the boat. This method tends to keep the boat straight and lines away from the anchor rope but it has downfalls. One major downfall to this style of anchoring is that the occupants tend sit with their backs into the current and may not notice a floating danger such as a tree floating at them. If one of these logs were to hit a boat or the anchor ropes it could sink it in mere seconds. The other downfall is if you have wind against the current your boat will still sway in the wind.

    Successful anchoring in rivers means successful fishing. By understanding what style of boat you own, what bottom structure your river has will help you choose the right anchor. Once you choose the right style of anchor for your needs and learn how to use it properly you will never have problems staying in the strike zone and staying in the zone equals more success in the river.

    Happy Anchoring