Kayakers can go farther, stay longer

Kayak angler built houseboat to serve as mothership and reach new areas

The limited range of kayaks for fishing is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it forces you to fish the conditions given and therefore, fish an area more thoroughly and become more familiar with it. However, it is a curse because there is always that nagging belief that the water may be cleaner or greener over there — too far for you to reach. Wendell Dietz of St. Francisville struggled with that desire to venture farther and came up with a personal solution — the Delta Dawn.

A self-described builder, Dietz said he’s happy making things, be they furniture or boats. Having two beautiful aluminum vessels under his belt, Dietz’s love of kayak fishing sparked another idea: a houseboat.

Dietz has been in the welding industry for 25 years and works as an aluminum products specialist for Miller Electric/Hobart Brothers. Though he’s not a welder by trade, he developed a passion for it being in the industry for so many years. He wields an aluminum welding gun as precisely as Michaelangelo did with a paint brush — pure metal-working artistry.

The Delta Dawn is a beautifully crafted vessel — 30 feet wide and 10 feet long. It took about a year to build. Topwater Marina in Leeville is Dietz’s home turf, and he knows the area like the back of his hand. He enjoyed kayak fishing out of the marina but could only cover so much water within a reasonable range of the launch. Knowing he could possibly catch more fish if he could get to here or there, Dietz came up with a solution: a mobile kayak launch.

The comforts of home

The Delta Dawn’s large front deck is great for mothershipping kayaks, and the cabin and bunk areas provide all the comforts of home. Sitting fairly low in the water, it is easy to load, launch and board the kayaks. The shallow draft also allows Dietz to anchor the houseboat in virtually any of his favorite fishing areas or new areas he wishes to explore. Literally fishing circles around the floating home base, it is easy to return to the houseboat for a rest, bathroom break or lunch. If the fishing is slow or the conditions are not perfect, the fully loaded and rigged kayaks are simply pulled aboard the deck, and it is off to a new area.

This shallow-draft houseboat is used as a floating marina to get Dietz close to where he plans to kayak fish and serves as a mobile base with all the comforts of home. With his generator and on-board chest freezer, 3-day trips are no problem.

On a recent trip to Leeville with Dietz, the wind was a bit high, so we decided not to venture out to the nearby islands as originally planned. After fishing the evening before, dining on fresh trout and enjoying a solo night sleeping in the marsh, Dietz motored the Delta Dawn back to Topwater Marina to meet me at 6 a.m. It took just a few minutes to load my kayak and gear, and off we went.

After a beautiful sunrise cruise to some nearby ponds, we staked out the Delta Dawn. I was eager to splash my ’yak and get to fishing. However, Dietz had some other hi-tech plans. “Why don’t you go fish that big pond over there; I’m going to put up the drone and have a look around,” he said.

Eye in the sky

Wow, I’ve been around drones for filming, but I had never fished with one. I headed out and proceeded to beat the banks.

The water was a little choppy and a bit murky. I was unable to see any signs of fish or bait. I heard the drone buzzing in the distance a few times, but could never pinpoint the location of the miniature flying machine. I kept blindly chunking my weedless gold spoon at any spot that looked promising. No luck. A few minutes later, I heard Dietz calling my name. I failed to hear my phone ringing, so he pedaled out to find me.

“There’s bait and a couple of reds in the back corner of that pond over there. Stay here, get your phone out and wait for me to call you,” he said.

Wait, what?

The Delta Dawn parked for an overnight fishing trip in the Leeville marsh. Wendell Dietz built the small house boat in order to maximize his fishing time and extend his kayak fishing range.

Drone marks the spot

Dietz headed back to the houseboat — now a floating drone airport — while I sat wondering why I wasn’t heading to that pond to fish. After a couple minutes, the phone rang. “Okay, put your phone on speaker and lay it on the deck. I’m putting the drone up and will tell you what to do,” Dietz said.

Again, what?

I heard the drone approach, and Dietz said “You there? Watch where I hover the drone and there will be a redfish under it. I’ll raise it up and you can cast.”

What is this, a video game? The drone marked the fish, and I made a cast. Spooked it. Dietz watching all on the drone monitor saying, “I see him. He’s moved further down the bank, but he stopped again. Watch the drone and get ready.”

He marked the fish with the drone again, and I made a cast. This time the fish bumped my spoon, but no hookup. So close. Another quick cast to the same spot and this time, the fish inhaled the spoon. Fought and landed, I gave a thumbs up to my drone pilot. Wow, that was cool.

We went back to the houseboat, took a leisurely break and watched the footage on a laptop. We loaded the kayaks on deck and made a move. We found a few more fish, including trout and a big black drum.

Home base established

The Delta Dawn served its purpose that day as a mothership, an airport, a break room, a bathroom, a camp and a boat launch. Dietz said his favorite things are the peace and tranquility, combined with the ability to go where he wants, move where he wants and fish from daylight to dark without ever being far from home base. Dietz summed up the trip perfectly.

“We didn’t kill the fish, but that wasn’t our intention. Mission accomplished.”

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About Chris Holmes 219 Articles
Chris Holmes has kayak fished in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and many places in between.

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