River Anchoring 101

US Coast Guard Rules : River users are reminded that although it is legal to anchor in the channel, it is illegal to block the right-of-way of a vessel that is restricted to using the channel, meaning a cargo ship or tug boat with a barge in tow etc.

Five blasts of a horn signifies danger and you as a smaller more readily movable boat MUST take action to avoid that danger. Learn the USCG right of way requirements, local river usage and the horn whistle meanings AND your obligations.

In this article we will be discussing anchoring for power boats, as opposed to drift boats, which may be covered in another article as time permits.

This article will mostly cover anchoring in a large river system like the Columbia River, which at times can become very dangerous if the boater becomes lax. If you can anchor safely here, the others will more than likely be easier.

Choosing your anchor system

(1) Have a Good Anchor & Enough Chain ; There are numerous different types of anchors, but most are not really suitable for large rivers like the Columbia River. The general opinion for anchoring in a current, is that the rocking chair style is the best. These anchors are sometimes called the Columbia River style anchor. The anchor size for lighter boats in the 16′ class, usually consists of 12″ of a 1 1/4″ round bar of steel as the shaft, welded to the center of a crossbar of the same size. On the crossbar is welded a flat 1/4″ X 1 1/2″ X about 16″ total length bar, shaped as a “C”. These “Cs” are welded onto each end of the crossbar which look much like a rocking chair. There is a single chain link welded onto the bottom center of the crossbar and another on the top of the shaft. This anchor weighs in at 16#. It is best to find one that is galvanized, as painted ones will need to be stripped then repainted from time to time. For boats in the 16-18′ heavier class, it may be best to go to a 20# or more anchor.

These rocker type anchors, like most of the others, are measured by poundage and are usually made in about 3 different sizes for use with different size boats. The design is basically the same, but there can be slightly different designs as many of these are made in small welding or “back yard” shops. There is one brand of this style, made by EZ Marine, that is made of square steel material which is a fold up type that especially good if your boat is not designed with a bow anchor holder where you need to store it in the boat.

One important thing on using these types is that the real attachment point is not on the upper part of the shaft like most, but on the BOTTOM. Attach a chain from the bottom eye of the anchor with a small clevis, run the chain along the side, up to the upper eye then use a plastic tie tape or Dacron line thru the chain and into this upper ring. Now depending on the size of your boat (heavier boat, – larger tie), the HP of your motor, attach the chain with Dacron leader 100# or 120# tie it up, double and triple knot it and it will last a month of use or more. You will see the Dacron wearing and can replace when needed. Yet it is strong enough to do the job and not break when you are in a hogline when the wind or current picks up, but that WILL break under extreme stress. Some will use a single 75# (8″) plastic tie tape instead of the Dacron. Others use a cotton twine, but it is hard to find twine that is in the breaking strength range that is needed here, however the stuff used on escape holes for crab pots works fine.

The chain should be large enough, (5/16″ dia. link material at least) long enough and heavy enough (approx 6-10′) to equal the anchor’s weight. Using chain adds to the total weight giving you more holding power which allows you to use a smaller anchor. This additional chain weight helps keep the anchor flutes digging in as the chain is laying on the bottom, instead of the anchor line just being attached to the anchor itself which may be pulled up and out of the bottom with wave motion. Using this method, a few feet of chain that is attached to the anchor line may pick up off the bottom on a heavy pull (depending on the amount of line out), but the anchor itself will remain dug in. Have an additional 4′ section of 5/16″ chain along with a clevis that you can add onto your anchor system if you start slipping downstream.

With this type of anchor where the chain is attached to the bottom of the anchor, if the anchor does become fouled or stuck, as in underwater brush or a log, you can motor in the opposite direction where the theory is the attachment twine will break off the top of the anchor allowing you to pull the anchor out backwards or the way it went in. But be very careful if you are in a swift current and trying to pull a stuck anchor upstream. And when in a current, NEVER pull it with the line attached to the transom.

 (2) Anchor Puller System ; In the picture below you will see a short section of 1/4″ line tied to the top eye of the anchor. This is to help lift the anchor into the boat if need be and also to tie it in the chock so it does not bounce out when the boat is running. This particular unit is used on a 16′ sled and has about 6′ of chain along with 150′ of 3/8″ anchor line. An additional section of chain (or a 10# mushroom anchor) can be snapped into the existing chain end to give more holding power. This size of float seams to function on this small anchor, but larger ones are recommended.

The normal amount of line for anchoring is in the plastic bucket, with a loop temporarily tied in it at that length. The rest of the line is STUFFED, not coiled, into a laundry bag along with a boat fender. The fender has a snap that is attached into the line’s loop. If the boat needs to be disconnected from the anchor system, simply throw the bag containing the excess line and fender over the bow, (but not the bucket), lift the line up out of the chocks so the boat is free of the anchor. This way there is no excess loose line floating to get tangled, as it is all inside the floating laundry bag for easy recovery later.



Rocker type anchor with a sliding puller & float system


(3) Many Experienced River Fishermen Use an Anchor Roller System on the Bow ; You need a wide enough roller to accommodate the anchor shaft and the chain. The most universal system is the roller just forward of the bow enough to have the anchor line over the roller and enter the water without having any interference from the hull. On the sides of this roller support on top and rearward of the roller are protrusions that go up then forward forming a horizontal cradle type forks that supports the anchor’s cross-bar when the anchor is in and tied down. One commercial brand of this style is made by Motion Marine.


Other brands are designed for usage on jet sleds and drift boats, so you will have a variety to choose from. Three of the more common are Motion Marine, Leelock, and Anchor-Caddie. Different boats require different types of anchors, this is not one size fits all. I am sure that like most inventions, someone designed the first one then others improved or redesigned it for their needs.

The system pictured below uses a custom built bow roller nest with built in bow navigation side lights for this older jet sled.

Here is a copy of the Motion Marine anchor nest with a 20# Columbia River anchor, 8′ of 3/8″ chain in a rubber shaft nest using cam lock cleat & the anchor top tied to the mooring cleat of the boat.

In case you wondered, the rod-holder bases visible on these bows, are for mounting detachable docking lights


In my opinion it is better if the roller is wide enough so that in use, the anchor is pulled all the way up and over the roller, creating better boater safety instead of having to lean over the bow trying to juggle a heavy anchor line into the narrow roller (been there-done that on a friend’s boat). This wide roller also allows the cross-bar to be pulled in, then come to rest in the cradle without a secondary movement. The cradle needs to be placed in a position far enough forward so that when the anchor is pulled up and into the cradle, that there is clearance for the flukes of the anchor to clear the hull of the boat.

You also need a secure method of holding the anchor when traveling. Some styles utilize a cross retainer pin, others have a slot milled in the rear of the cradle where a link of chain can be inserted thereby securely holding the anchor in a position just outside. Or you may want to tie a 4′ section of 1/4″ rope into the top anchor ring to use as a means of securing the anchor to a cleat if your chock position does not allow secure retention of the anchor and to hold it in place against the cradle when traveling. Most of the bases will have at the rear, a notch that is milled in the sideplate so that you can let the anchor out partially, slip a chain link into this notch, thereby holding the anchor ready for deployment. Pull back the line disengaging this link which let the anchor out. This works great when you are searching for underwater formations, and are alone or do not want to pull the whole anchor aboard so your buddy does not have to hold onto the anchor chain for what may be a considerable length of time before you find what you are looking for. Or when you manually pull the anchor while in a hog-line then need to motor away to a safe distance before stopping to make the final pull of the anchor aboard.

The rear now, or top of the anchor, needs to be set into a small cradle to keep it from bouncing sideways and out of place while the boat is under power. The Motion Marine website is, http://www.motionmarine.com/ they also have a raised base for the open boats that house a set of navigation lights. Motion Marine, Anchor-Caddie, Miller Marine and LeeLock units all have sides that come all the way back which keeps it from jumping sideways. The Anchor-Caddie has a cross pin at the rear to retain the anchor AND a plastic lined nest to protect both the anchor and the nest, plus keep any rattle down. Their website is http://www.anchor-caddie.com/ Another well designed system is the Leelock. Their website is www.leelock.com. All three do the job well and I am sure there are probably others out there also.

What I will say about the LeeLock is that it is a SYSTEM. The inventors are fishermen and have pretty well covered about as many anchoring styles of small “river type” fishing boats, from drift boats to larger sleds. And in their Columbia River Anchor nest model they also offer a additional quick release that is a snap over hook as compared to a camlock. The difference is on the anchor line when you get it out to your desired distance, you tie a loop in the line then this loop then is snapped into the hook that is rotated over center holding the line in place. Jerk a cord on the hook release and the line goes free. It also has a easily removed snap on lock pin.


The photo below is the LeeLock system.  This is indeed a SYSTEM as described above 

Anchor Caddie with the anchor hanging, note the wedge style chock mounted high enough to secure the line when deployed

The Miller Marine Products system shown below is again a well thought out anchor nest.   Their website recommends that you only use a short chain attached to the anchor and then a longer section attached to the line that is stored separately, then clevised or snapped together only when needed which seems to be a great idea.   This gets the bulk of the chain off the deck.  Like others, the anchor is secured in the nest by a cross-pin that goes thru a chain link.  Miller’s website is http://millermarineproducts.com/

The Miller Marine Products system where the owner has tie taped a section of foam onto the anchor shank apparently to cut down a rattle.   Also notice the cross-pin thru a chain link to hold the anchor in place.

You will need some sort of a anchor line retainer when the anchor is deployed.  DO NOT USE A CLEAT.  These can be a simple serrated wedge system so that the more pressure that is put on the line, the deeper it is pulled into the wedge as seen in the photos above.  There is also a set known as Cam locks which uses 2 opposing spring loaded serrated eccentric cams.   The LeeLock has it’s own design which is a fast break away, but it takes a bit more time to set up.

One suggestion again as recommended by Miller Marine by to help keep your deck clean, is to only run a short section of your anchor chain, (just enough to exit the rear of the nest).  Get a galvanized clevis or heavy duty snap to connect this short chain to your longer section only when you are needing the anchor to be deployed.  This way you can store the longer section of chain and the attached anchor line in a anchor locker or plastic bucket, keeping your deck clear of loose obstructions.

In the photo below you can see the side notches in the nest with the anchor hanging off the roller ready to be deployed.  If you look close you will see a clevis connecting the 3/8″ chain 3 links back from the top of the anchor.   The white 1/4″ tag line us used to secure the anchor when in the nest by attaching to the main cleat inside the front of the bow opening.  This line can also be used to assist in bringing the anchor aboard if needed.  One thing I have found is that, at least for my anchor system, that the anchor has to be in the position shown below and not hanging partly on the shank otherwise there is enough weight or leverage and that the tie tape will break. 

Here the Motion Marine anchor nest copy is further modified with a rubber trailer bow bumper & notches to hold the chain allowing the anchor to hang. 

If you have to use the anchor lock style that the line runs thru a hole and is retained by a weight type cam lock, DO NOT tie a knot in the end of the line.  The reason is IF you need to get away FAST and have to drop off the anchor, all of the line HAS to be able to readily slide out thru this hole.  However this style is probably used more on a small skiff or drift boat.

You will notice on all of the anchor nests shown above that there are slots milled on each side of the rear of these units.  These can be used in a couple different ways.  (1)  These slots are actually there so the anchor can be “preset” so it can be deployed from further back in the boat.  The idea is the anchor can be pushed out of the nest several inches then hanging as shown in the Anchor Caddie photo above right, then a link of the chain is secured in one of these slots.  This allows the boat operator to go back to the helm with anchor line in hand then idle the boat into position.  A quick tug on the line will pop the chain out of the slot which will allow the anchor to deploy. (2) Or after deployment, the anchor line can be ran thru these slots on either side and then to a cleat off the the side on the bow if the boat is not equipped with a chock directly behind the nest.  This is to be sure the line does not jump out thereby compromising the actual anchoring if the boat swings or has excess pressure on the line.  (3) Or as mentioned above, when you manually pull the anchor while in a hog-line and need to motor to a safe distance before stopping to make the final pull of the anchor aboard.

Each boat is going to be somewhat different.  If you have a cabin or even a convertible boat that does not have a walk-thru windshield, where you can not readily get to the anchor release, you may have to be inventive.  Here is one suggestion.  Run your anchor line as mentioned in (2) above, but around a side bow cleat, then back to the rear where you have ready access and tie off the a cleat as shown in the photo below.  Using this method, you can readily grab the tag end, just jerk it, releasing the anchor line from the boat.  If your boat does not have a cleat in the desired location, attach one as shown in the photo below.  However burn the end of the line so you do not have a knot there to hang up as the line slides around the cleat.

Quick release anchoring knot on cleat

(4) Use Sufficient Anchor Line ; Most Coast Guard classes recommend a slope of 7 or 8 to 1, (7′ or 8′ line out for each one foot of water depth) which is a considerable ratio to the depth. This seems to be recommended for anchoring boats at moorage or during a storm or in a strong current. This in many opinions does not quite apply to fishing where a 4 or 5 to1 seems acceptable depending on the conditions and the current, as a fisherman you are there close to the action and can readily adjust the payout if the anchor starts to slip. Most common size of anchor line for small boats will be 3/8″ with 1/2′ for larger sport boats. In the lower Columbia River 150 feet is usually enough for salmon, while in faster current near Bonneville Dam, 300 feet may be needed. Many will use 2 different anchor lines, depending on where and when they intend to fish, as a 150′ with another 300’+. If you are using the above mentioned float/puller system you can not have a knot or snap in the middle to tie 2 sections together.

One thing that many experienced fishermen will do is to mark your anchor line in say 50′ increments. Some will simply paint a color with a can of spray paint, I however like to intertwine into the line a few 12″ lengths of surveyors tape. I use different colors for the different 50′ depths and then 10 feet apart for the last 30′ above the anchor. This will help you determine how much line is out, not only for the anchoring, but on the retrieving as well.

There are 2 schools of thought on how far to have your float in front of the bow for river fishing. Some say 20′, however I like mine shorter more like 6′. I do not want the float very far in front of the boat so IF you need to use a boat hook to fend off floating debris, you need to be able to reach the debris before it gets tangled in the anchor line and or the float. I have seen logs or even whole trees floating downriver after a storm. The advocates of the 20′ seem to favor only 4′ of chain, while I go for 8′. AND NEVER attach the non anchor end of the line permanently to the boat.

 (5) Use a Float ; These floats are used for 3 purposes. (A) To be able to go back to exactly the same spot you were fishing from when you caught the fish as per above. (B) To claim your spot in the river, when you hook a salmon or sturgeon that you need to fight it away from other nearby boats. (C) To act as an anchor puller when using a one way slider on the line.

Usually these floats are round orange bumpers in size from 9″, 15″ and 20″, depending on the size of the boat and weight of the anchor. (Their use is explained later)

 (6) Sea Anchors ; Sometimes called drift socks, if in the smaller sizes you really need two, one for each side. One is usually enough off one side of the stern, you can place it on either side to help maintain your position, as it tends to shift you slightly toward the opposite side. As the tide comes nearer slack, you may need one on each side. Size will depend on the size of the boat, but the small size that Fisherman’s Marine sells, (about 12″ dia.) is usually OK for a boat in the 16′-18′ size. With a deep Vee fiberglas boat with no cabin, you may not need them as much. But flatter bottomed boats or ones with a cabin or convertible tops sway badly in the wind or at a slack tide without a sea anchor. When rigging these up, you want to tie a small cord to the bottom end, so you can pull on it which will reverse the funnel, tripping this sock letting the water out allowing you to pull it in backwards, decreasing the effort to retrieve it, as when a fish is being reeled in. Also you may consider attaching a small crab float to the line just below the eye used for attaching it to a stern cleat. It can be rather disheartening to see the whole thing go downriver, slowly sinking out of sight if you happen to loose grasp of the line.

(7) Use Your Kicker Motor ; When the tide ebbs and the socks are not efficient enough to keep you in position, but still enough current to work your lures, put your kicker motor into reverse then at a high idle, pull the boat against the anchor to maintain your position.

Picking your spot.

Obviously, depending on what specie you are targeting, this spot may vary. This decision can be a very precise for some experienced fishermen, as they know from previous trips or can read the sonar bottom structure, to be just where they want to be. They will defend their “right” to be there and not have “their” TERRITORY encroached on in any way.

Know the current you’re anchoring in. Not all current seams run parallel to the bank – you may not always end up anchored where you thought you would.

Below are some basic methods of finding an anchoring spot.

(8) Scattered Anchoring ; Along a section of the river may to some seem to be just that, but in reality each boat is trying to find a certain depth, ledge, spot or trough to be in, and yet not interfere with other nearby boat’s chances of success. There will be preferred locations. These “hot spots” may change from day to day and also with the tide.

In the photo below you will notice that the floats are not that far in front of the boats. I believe this is a good practice to get into just in case a floating log or other debris happens to get near the float, where if you catch it in time you can, by using the boat hook push the debris off to the side so that it does not get caught on the float.

Here are some boats anchored using the float system on the anchor line

It also makes a difference if it is a boat with just 2 fishermen in it, or a guide boat with 4 to 6. The guide boat will have his clients cast their lines to fan out which cover as much water as possible. Therefore he needs more room here than if he was trolling. By room, this means leave enough space between you and your new neighbor, both sidewise and up or downriver so that you do not have any chance to have a running fish interfere with or tangle their lines. Or if below them, if they have to cut loose and drift to fight a fish, give them enough room that the fish will not get into your anchor line.

When motoring into a prospective location, look at the boat / boats nearest you. You may not be able to hear him, depending on the distance, wind, etc. But if he makes any visible negative motions, giving you a thumbs down, or even as subtle as shaking his head, move farther away. You may not be able to get the exact spot you want, but usually there is enough spots to anchor in any given area that you can drop the anchor without a confrontation.

 (9) Hog Lining ; In some locations this may be acceptable, other locations this is not. The definition of a Hog Line pertaining to this type of fishing usually means that they are all abreast of each other partly across a section of the river. The scattered anchoring could possibly be construed to be many small hog lines if consisting of more than 2 boats. When you approach an area you intend to anchor in, observe how the boats are anchored, then “go with the flow”. A bad thing on full blown hog line is that you do not have the opportunity to really pick your location, as for a shallow depression in the bottom that may be a fish run channel, where only one or 2 boats may catch the majority of the fish. If this happens, when they limit and move out, normally every boat shifts over one spot. A hog line may be the only way to go in some locations, but if you are in one, then be aware that you need to observe and follow a few common courtesy “RULES”. When your neighbor hooks a fish on your side of his boat, it is best that you reel in all your lines on that side of your boat. He needs to also do the same for you. That alone helps in keeping fishing lines from getting tangled in most situations. If a fish is going to go sideways, it will do it no matter how fast you drop out of the hog line. On smaller fish, it is preferable to net them while still on anchor. It usually takes a bit of time decide if the fish is large enough to necessitate getting off the anchor fast anyway.


(10) Picking the Spot you Want ; One thing that should be stressed in this situation, is that if something happens, either in anchoring, or pulling the anchor in tight quarters such as in a hogline, things can happen fast where more than one boat can get involved very quickly.

If a hog-line is already established, motor up from the downriver side slowly, through the spot you intend to inhabit. This does several things, it lets everyone know you are going to anchor there, if they have a problem with it, you know about it before you are drifting into the line. It is a good time to “test the waters” and greet the guys that will be next to you the rest of the tide or day. If they are close enough, you might even engage in conversation with them then ask them permission to anchor along side of them.

Position yourself by finding a land mark that is in a straight line and equal distant, side to side, of your intended slot. Go through the hogline AT SLOW SPEED and proceed upriver far enough to make sure your anchor holds when you finally get yourself even. It’s also easier to follow their anchor ropes up to make sure you are on target, or to see if the hole isn’t a hole at all, but just a temporary boil. They may also know of underwater obstructions in your intended spot that can be costly for your lures or lost fish.

Remember that since the current is normally running, that you probably have to go slightly upriver from where you intend to drop the anchor off, as by the time the anchor hits the bottom, you may have drifted back more than you expected. Just like leading a bird with a shotgun.

The MINIMUM distance between boats will vary on the river, the location on the river and even the season. On a large river like the Columbia possibly 50′ would be a minimum in a particular area, yet a smaller river 20′ would be more practical. In the fall on the upper side of the Astoria bridge, I have also seen hog lines there each boat is tied to the others with bumpers between them.

(11) Normally When You Get 100-150 Feet Upstream From the Boats ; (depending on the water depth and your anchor line length) cut your speed to where you are standing still, and drop the anchor, while keeping control of the line. If you are unsure AT ALL that you are not on your spot, DON’T DROP THE ANCHOR TO THE BOTTOM as you do not want to drop it over another boat’s anchor line. Just be patient and wait until you KNOW that you have dropped it in the right spot. No sense to get in a hurry. If wind, or a boil takes your boat off the mark, then just troll around up there until you know you are right on, then dump the anchor. Again don’t get in a hurry. This is probably the second other thing that causes most accidents or boat wrecks. You can visually use the other boat’s anchor lines to get your direction, don’t look only at the actual boats as the current may not be going straight downriver.

When dropping anchor, be sure the line is free of tangles and always keep the line in the bow guide then pay it out instead of just throwing it over the side. This assures there are no tangles in the line after it hits the water. It is best to place the line in your roller, (if the boat is so equipped) if not, then over the bow and let it out by hand to the bottom. This also ensures that your bow will always be facing into the current should something unexpected happen. Hold the boat in position with the motor until the anchor hits the river bottom. Keep tension on the anchor line as you let it out so it won’t “droop” back into your prop.

Slow your motor down or put it into neutral, and wait for the boat to start pulling the line out as it drifts downstream with the current, then start to back down into your desired spot by letting line more out. If you are using a on the line puller, you will have to keep ahold of it in the tripped position to allow the line to pass out until you get to your desire location. It’s the anchor boy’s job to keep the line taught enough & under just enough tension, to let it out yet keep it out of your prop.

(12) If You are Edging Into a Spot Between Other Boats ; you will have to be very careful to control the drift with your motor, to avoid drifting into an anchor line, or one of the other boats, if in the hog line. This is especially so before your boat is under the total effects of the current as you are drifting back. You may sway back and forth before you finally come to your position. It is therefore possibly better to, as you are drifting back, to take up the line slack before you get into the final position above them. When your boat settles down against the anchor, then pay out enough line so you will be stern to stern to the other boats beside you.

Also, do not to rely on reverse to come into a hogline as you can not control the boat to any degree of accuracy with this method and it can be attributed to one of the 3 main causes of accidents.

If you are on the edge of a hogline, steer the bow slightly away from the line below you (approximately 10 degrees) and then drift back, letting the boat pull the rope. This allows you to slide back away from the closest boat and then by controlling the motor, you can swing with the current into place.

(13) When you get Close to the Established Line or Location ; slow your speed with the motor. When you’ve let out your line and are in position, always “tie off” to the bow or bow cleat. Never tie off to the side or transom. It is recommended to use a jam cleat instead of actually tying a knot on this cleat, so you can throw the anchor line over in a split second if necessary without having to untie any knots.

When in position you may find the boat drifts slightly to one side or the other, to compensate for this, you have to turn your motor slightly to one side or the other and use the underwater skeg as a rudder to actually position you where you want to be if you are drifting near other boats. If you are using a outboard jet, this does not work as well, but if you have an outboard kicker, put it down and use it to direct you. Or put out a drift sock if needed to help the sway and possibly control the side drift if the motor does not do it all.

Also, watch the wind. Particularly for small boats, you can get blown sideways quite a bit on the drift. It can blow you into other boats if you are not watching, (well, maybe even if you are watching).

When you get established with your rods out, you then need to prepare for when you hook a fish. Keep your anchor line neat and orderly, place it in a 5 gallon bucket, the square type works great. Extra line can be stuffed into a $3.00 Wal Mart mesh laundry bag and a boat bumper shoved into it to keep the whole thing floating. If the bag is small, then attach a tag line and float to the outside of the bag. Others may just use a bungee cord around the bundle of line, but the bag is a lot neater. When at anchor, just keep the extra line coiled inside the bag, in a 5 gallon plastic bucket. Tie a temporary loop in the anchor line behind your tie off cleat after you anchor at your intended position. Use a carabineer type snap to attach the bag’s handle into this loop in the main anchor line. Then when ready to move away, un-attach the anchor line and toss the bag and all over the side.

On boats that do not have a forward walk-thru windshield or deck, then pull a loop of anchor line over the windshield and under the top or along side of the cabin. Use a jam cleat at the bow. When releasing the line from the cleat, everything goes over the front on its own.

(14) What if the Tide Changes & the Boats Turn Around? ; This situation will not usually happen unless you are down far enough in the river that tidewater really effects you. If it does, I would use the drift socks off the stern first, then the kicker motor in reverse until the tide becomes slack. Then pull up and troll until the tide changes or starts running the other way. If you are still determined to fish a hogline, then re-establish it again.

(15) When you Hook a Fish While in a Hogline ; You will have to make some quick decisions. First and foremost, the decision will be governed by how close you are to the other boats. This closeness may not only be side to side of you but below you also. Next probably will be the size of the fish, where it is hooked, where it is running plus a multitude of things go into the equation.

Here is one sequence of procedure that seems to work on a fish that you WILL net from still being on anchor.(1) determine the size of the fish and whether you need to reel in extra lines. There may be other fish in the school you hooked this one in so you need to determine whether you can leave the lines out on one side of the boat or not.

(2) pull in socks

Now, after a short period of time, you should be able to determine if the fish is of any size, or hooked in a manner that it can be fought while still anchored. At this time, if you decide the fish is small enough or fighting in a manner that may be conducive to bring it in without falling off the anchor, like the fish wanting to stay on one side of the boat, you may decide to leave one rod that is on the opposite side as the fish still out in hopes of hooking it’s sibling. However have that fisherman alert to possibly rapidly pulling in his/her line if the fish runs that way or conditions change.

If it appears you may need to GET AWAY from the hogline then the following may apply.

(1) reel in extra lines

(2) start kicker motor, READY to put in gear

(3) check to see if your neighbors have pulled their lines in

(4) throw the line bag and buoy off the bow

(5) pull in socks

The other rods should be reeled in first thing unless it is obvious that the fish will stay on one side of the boat and the other rod/rods may be moved instead of pulling them in. However it’s easy to get tangled with your own crew while you do everything else. It may be also prudent to fire up the kicker AS SOON AS YOU CAN, just in case you need it to steer around boats, lines, etc. You never know when the current will throw you one way or the other. You could change the sequence of (4) and (5) if conditions suggest, but leave the sea anchors out until after you throw the anchor line over, as the socks will help you drift back out of the line better. But that is one of the last decisions to be made before you decide to throw off the anchor line or not. Remember if there are other boats anchored near enough below you to create a problem if you drift into them, so be ready to maneuver out of their way.

If the hogline boats are close, then hopefully the guys next to you will reel in too. Then as soon as you get the fish under control if you are to net it at anchor, when you get the fish in, the others near you and the other fisherpersons on your boat can start bouncing back and often get another fish out of that same school that is still moving upstream.

If the fish happens to tangle up with the extra rod or your neighbors line before it is gotten out of the water, so be it…they can then FREESPOOL the reel and you can untangle the mess later.

Pulling the anchor

(16) Wear your Personal Floatation Devise ; Retrieving the anchor can the most dangerous part of this type of fishing, as if something goes wrong, things happen in a FAST FAST forward mode. You will have to decide the method, depending on where you are, how deep you are anchoring, how fast the current is running, and other variables. If it’s a tight spot, you are in a hogline, with many other boats near you, PULL THE ANCHOR BY HAND, unless you are physically unable, or there is lots of room all the way around you. Most all the bad boating wrecks in the last few years were involved using the anchor pullers systems in close quarters.

When pulling your anchor with any method, have everyone onboard wear their PFD’s if they are not already doing so. With the inflatable PFDs available these days, they are very comfortable to wear, so get in the habit of putting one on each time you board a boat. The manual operated PDFs are a reasonable price of about $75.00, while the automatic versions are higher, upwards even into the $200.00 range. One thing to consider is on each vest to have a lanyard attached to a folding stainless steel boating knife, and also a small whistle. I also like to have sticky backed reflective tape on the front of the air bladder tubes.

Make sure everybody is seated and the boat is balanced. Make sure there isn’t any big wakes coming your way that could throw you or your crew off balance. Be very aware of other boats, anchor lines or other obstructions that may interfere with the safe pulling of your anchor. So before you start, make sure everything in the boat is stowed/stored neatly and there isn’t any clutter to get in your way.

Which ever method you decide to use, convey to your passengers exactly what you are trying to accomplish and what you expect them to do. You want no surprises or assumptions during this process.

 (17) Pulling the Anchor Manually ; As said before, pull your anchor line by hand whenever possible IF NEAR other boats. Anchor pulling systems are fine, but are not really necessary in many places that some people use them. The manual retrieval method is probably the safest of all.

If your anchor retrieval is this manual variety, (or the designated the guy in the passenger seat,) motor slowly upstream but don’t over-ride the anchor line as your anchor boy hauls in the line and your bow is directly above the anchor. As he pulls in the line, have him coil it in one place or into a bucket for safety’s sake. He then pulls until the anchor breaks free, and as he keeps retrieving the line, you then slow the motor down or put in neutral until he gets the last few feet up, or the chain shows. But be careful to not allow the boat to drift sideways to the current or back into the close hogline you just left. When he has it in sight, either have him pull it all the way in as you motor upstream and away from the hogline, or he can slip the chain into one of the side slots, securing the anchor hanging just above water.

When pulling your anchor by hand, always keep the line in the bow guide. This ensures that the bow will always face into the current even if you need to stop pulling for whatever reason. Keep tension on the anchor line if the puller is other than the motor operator, do not let the operator get ahead of the puller so it won’t “droop” back into your prop.

You can do this yourself if you happen to be fishing alone by just keep pulling from an anchored position, takes just a little more effort to pull the boat upstream and over the anchor. You do not have to haul the anchor aboard just now. Leave it hang just under the bow as long as it will not snag on bottom or other anchor lines, move upstream out to a open area and then if you have to, move to the bow leaving the motor unattended while you get the anchor aboard, which is usually no major problem. The key issue here is SAFETY, and keeping from getting the line tangled in the prop or jet pump is an issue. Been there, Done that, no fun.

Also when deploying or pulling by hand, be very careful that the person pulling does not get their feet tangled in the line. It has been proven that random lengths just laid or stacked in a pile won’t tangle, but coils will, unless you are VERY good at coiling the rope. Take a look at how the rope is loaded in rescue throw bags – its all random lengths. That’s also how you need to load the line into the laundry bag.

(18) Pulling the Anchor with the Most Common Anchor Pullers ; There are numerous different brands of anchor pullers, some shown below. The most popular ones used on the Columbia River are made by EZ Marine or AnchorLift. EZ Marine uses a slider and a nylon roller, their website link is HERE. The website ink to the AnchorLift is HERE.

The EZ Marine puller also has a Nylon pulley that makes it a universal unit that can be used as a game hoist.

The problem with these two, is that the anchor line has to be inserted inside the puller and can not be removed unless you come to one unknotted end. This then really makes it a dedicated puller to that line only.

For all the photos shown below, the anchor will be attached to the line to the left and the buoy to the ring at the top of the puller.


E Z Marine Products Ironwood Pacific AnchorLift sliding puller

These three shown below allow the anchor line to be inserted then removed without having to be permanently attached to the puller. The puller on the left is something I picked up somewhere, there is no name on it and my memory is blank as to the maker. It is unique in that it is built like a rat trap, where you can work the line under the spring tail, and then into a notch under the heavy main part.

The puller ring photo in the center below allows the line to be inserted between the 2 eyes and then the snap placed securing these eyes together. The snap and short line are attached to the buoy. This one has to use a anchor chain of of slightly more weight than the anchor. In use when the chain is pulled in to where the anchor hits the ring and stops movement, then there is a balance between the chain and anchor whereby the whole system remains afloat . Where this system shines is on a larger boat that has no walk thru or open bow and the anchor line is stored in a compartment under the front deck.

Oval’s is kind of a combination of the other two. I was at the 2006 Portland Sportsman Show and had the opportunity to inspect a new puller by the name of Orval’s EZ Pull. This one is a heavy aluminum casting that does not have to be dedicated to any one line and can be put on or removed from a anchor line when desired. It can be used for a anchor puller when needed, then removed from that line and used to pull a crab or shrimp pot on a separate line if so desired. It uses a spring loaded locking cam with a outer over-ride trip lever for letting out line or removal. There website link is HERE


??  brand spring type (Anyone have a brand name ?) Ironwood Pacific puller ring Orval’s  E Z  Pull

When using any of these anchor pulling systems, regularly check the condition of the puller and connection of the buoy to your anchor line, as if the buoy comes loose at the wrong time, (say before the anchor is off the bottom) things could go bad fast. The AnchorLift is made of a nylon and with abuse can become cracked, so check it occasionally replacing it if need be. The EZ Marine puller is made of marine grade anodized aluminum and is considered a higher quality by the diehard fishermen. The Orvals looks like it is also a very high quality item which works on a spring system instead of gravity so it can be removed from the line when needed.

All of these pullers are units that go over the anchor line, which essentially allows the line to move freely one way but will not allow it to reverse until YOU trip it. When letting the line out to anchor, you just trip the lock holding it back while the line pays out, retaining the puller unit on the boat until you are ready to retrieve the anchor. When using any anchor pulling system to pull the anchor, secure the anchor line to the bow or just to the side of the bow while motoring upstream but NEVER tie off to the transom. This way if your anchor hangs up on something, your bow will swing around instead of pulling your transom under water.

Using the puller, the float is attached to the one way sliding puller with the float attached, which will slide down the line while the boat is moving away, when the floatation of the float is more than the anchor and chain, it lifts the anchor off the bottom and the slider keeps sliding down (as long as you are still under power AND going away) until it can’t go any farther against the chain. Depending on the weight of the anchor and the size of the float, sometimes as the float slides down, it will disappear under water, then when the anchor is dislodged, the float will pop up to the surface, sometimes even slightly out of water. Other times if the float is larger, the float will simply stay on top, so you will have to judge whether you have moved far enough to have raised the anchor. When the anchor is up, it hangs directly under the float the distance of the length of your chain. Or if it is the ring style puller shown in the illustration below, it slides over the chain and this chain weight (which needs to be heavier than the anchor) retains the anchor in a up position.

Depending on your location and other boating activity, tow it either upstream or out in the channel, (being sure the line is not near the prop), far enough so you don’t drift into boats below you when retrieving the line. Now all you have to do is pull in the floating line, float and anchor to the boat.


Shown here the puller ball, due to water resistance is sliding down the anchor line, thereby lifting the anchor, but it needs to be pulled farther & over the chain


(18a) Pulling in More Open Water ; For pulling a anchor with a boat in open water and or with a windshield, the windshield acts as a guide holding the line away until you get arced enough upstream and more away from the float. Then when in gear swing out in a arc (about 10 -15 degrees) to starboard side, (steering station side so you can see better) power forward which helps keep the line out of the prop. Once you get the line clear of the prop, give your motor a medium power then stay with it until the anchor is up.

(18b) Pulling in Confined Locations ; For a open boat that has no windshield, you will need more distance between bow and ball before you start the pull. If the anchor was set with a good scope you should have about 10-15 feet, if not, let more line out before starting the pull. If not, when getting ready to pull, let out at least a boat lengths worth of line. Then head straight toward your buoy just until you have a small belly in your rope. THEN angle around the buoy a small amount and pull. This will keep the rope safely in and under the bow roller. Also by pulling straight (which is how it’s done in a hog line) you will not hook neighboring boats that are still on anchor. Pulling your anchor on an angle in a hog line can make for some angry people.

In a open boat if you have a rod holder, hook the line under the right rear rod holder which sticks out past the side a little ways it keeps the rope along the side of the boat well out of the danger of tangling in the prop and out of the operators face during the initial part of the pull.


Here the anchor was pulled by using the puller/float system.  The float is now floating with the anchor & chain suspended directly under it.  It is now being easily retrieved to the boat. Here a guide boat had just landed a Chinook & pulled back into the hog-line.  The helper is retrieving the floating anchor line bag & has just reattaching the line to the boat’s bow, thereby saving his spot in the hog-line.  Note the extra small float attached to the bag that he is holding on to, this helps in retrieving the bag.

The first time I was exposed to a system of this kind was in Alaska fishing for halibut in Cook Inlet in 600′ of water. Without it, we probably would not have anchored there and missed a lot of halibut fishing. This method can be a back saver under the right conditions, but you have to play the game by the rules or you can get in trouble quickly.

When using a puller, it can take some time to get your method figured out, so you may want to practice in an area out of the current and away from other boaters. If there is any doubt as to safety, then pull the anchor manually.


(19) Safety, Safety, Safety ; Go back & re-read #15.

Being anchored in a swift river like the Columbia, it is way different than being anchored in a lake or bay. When sitting on anchor in a river, be ever vigilant of other boats, river debris, partially submerged or floating logs are all things that can and do end up on people’s anchor lines, and can potentially pull your boat under water. Using the float system, if something does hang up on your anchor line, just raise the line out of the chock, throw the whole line over the bow allowing the boat to drift back and away. Throw the line overboard immediately if you even remotely think there may be a problem. You can come back and get it once the object floats down past your line or becomes dislodged from it. A tree or log floating downriver can be disastrous to a anchored boat.

Make sure you don’t get your feet or any other part of your body tangled in the line you’re pulling in. The time you have, once wrapped in a rope and pulled overboard is measured in seconds, even though it may seem like hours. If you have the knife, and you are clear headed enough, you do have an opportunity to cut yourself free from the line.

When pulling your anchor by hand, always everyone wearing a PFD, have the motor running and ready to react, and have an extra floatation device ready to throw overboard to the MOB (Man Over-Board). Be prepared with a VHF radio set to channel 16 for distress calls.

Practice both methods of anchor pulling many times in calm water. Have a pre thought-out safety plan and share it with your passengers.

(20) A Point of Caution ; On those boats that do not have a jam cleat or chock, but have to tie off to a regular cleat, use a quick release knot, make provisions for a KNIFE TO BE PERMANENTLY affixed by a cord to a nearby location, yet readily removable just in case you do need to cut the anchor line. Also it might be prudent to attach a sharp knife onto your boat hook pole (photo shown at #21) to extend your reach just in case you need to reach the prop area without swimming. Anchors, line and floats can get expensive, but they are replaceable, a life is not.

If you fit the previous circumstance, and have to use a attached cleat as a anchor point, make sure it is forward of the midway point on your boat. If you run the line on a roller type front system and tie off on a rear cleat, (so you can get to it readily from your fishing position if you have a cabin boat), you run the risk of a potential wave from a passing ship or what have you, flipping the line out of that front roller. This tie off can be done from the rear, but the method of tying off needs to be VERY READILY untied. If the above were to happen, your boat will immediately spin around and if the force of the water builds at the side or stern BEFORE YOU CAN CUT YOUR LINE, your boat will be sucked down, and be pulled under faster than you can realize.

(21) NEVER Pull the Anchor From the Stern or the Side of the Boat ; If the anchor does not come free and the current is running hard, you now have the boat broadside, or the stern upstream. The stern is lower than the bow and does not have the ability to survive a heavy pull with the current against it AND can get easily pulled under.

The above 2 instances can happen faster than you can even begin to realize what is happening, then the water conditions that caused the situation make it even harder to move fast enough to do anything.

 (22) In a (AP) newspaper article dated Monday 5-31-04 — “Boater Missing in Columbia River Mishap. PORTLAND (AP) — River patrols searched without success Sunday for a Tigard woman who is missing and presumed drowned after the aluminum boat she was in capsized on the Columbia River near Camas, Wash.

Janet Wildish, 27, and four others were thrown into the river Saturday when the 18-foot boat had trouble with its anchor line, got turned stern first into the strong current and started taking on water, said Lt. Michael Shults of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office river patrol.

A 20-month-old girl was wearing a life jacket, as required by law, but the adults weren’t.

The survivors were pulled from the chilly water by Gary Skaar, his son, Richard, and friend Forest Sherer. The three were in Skaar’s new 20-foot fishing boat.”

In the above accident, you can see what may be the outcome of something unforeseen happening FAST. You were also cautioned to be careful to keep the anchor line out of the prop. Just stop and think, what will happen if the anchor is attached to the bow, over the side and you wrap the line around the prop. You may be in a cabin boat and can’t readily access the tie off point of the anchor line, but in this circumstance getting it undone from the bow is of little consequence. You will now have the motor pulled tight against the anchor line which is still attached to the bow, the current will swing you around and you will be dead in the water with the stern pointing upstream AND the anchor MAY still be on the bottom. You can not tilt the motor up even if it a power tilt because it is now tied TIGHTLY to the bow of the boat. To get away from the anchor rope you will have to have a LONG knife or machete to be able to cut the line between the prop and anchor, (cutting it at the bow will not help in this case UNLESS it is only wrapped a couple turns) or you will have to go over the side to cut it. And whatever you do it will have to be done FAST.

One alternative is that IF you have a large enough trolling motor that starts with the first pull, or is an electric start, you MAY be able to get enough control to keep the boat from going DOWN. Then the sweat begins on how to get out of the situation. I have personally been in the above predicament where the trolling motor saved my bacon. Kind of makes you want to kiss the kicker motor after things settle down.

(22a) “Officials search Columbia River for boy, 13, after father, grandfather rescued” Published: Monday, May 28, 2012, 12:10 PM By Lynne Terry, The Oregonian

Officials have deployed a helicopter and several boats on the Columbia River to look for a 13-year-old boy who was with his father and grandfather earlier Monday on a small boat.

The grandfather and father were rescued by a nearby boater after their own vessel overturned and sank. The boy, who was not wearing a life jacket, has not been seen.

Their vessel went down near the east end of Lady Island off of Camas, Wash., said Sgt. Fred Neiman of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. He said a witness reported the incident about 10:15 a.m. The witness watched as the small boat that was anchored got entangled in the anchor line and overturned.

Several agencies are involved in the rescue, including the U.S. Coast Guard which is searching from the sky in a helicopter. The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Portland Fire & Rescue, the Gresham Fire Department, the Port of Camas and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office are also involved in the search effort. Several of the search vessels are equipped with sonar equipment and surface-based locating devices. Portland and Gresham share a dive team as well but divers have not been deployed, said Gabe Watson, spokesman for Portland Fire.

Watson said conditions were good, with overcast skies and a calm river on the surface. But underneath the currents run fast, and the boat overturned in an area up to 100 feet deep.

No details were released about the family. The grandfather was taken to an area hospital and treated for exposure, Watson said. The father was treated on site.

Officials from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office are investigating.

(23) Emergency Long Handled Knife : Some fishermen recommend securely attaching a folding serrated blade knife to you boat hook. This would give you a 4′ plus length to be able to reach with and may save a cold swim.

There may become a time if you boat long enough. when you could get a anchor line wrapped around your propeller or in your jet intake. Just how far can you safely reach from your boat with a knife in your hand? The photo below is pretty self-explanatory to an seasoned boater.

You do not want a regular sharp edged knife, but the serrated blade type. The one below is an all stainless lock blade from West Marine that is just tie taped to the head of a boat hook. With the knife closed the boat hook can still be used for what it was intended. But the lock back blade can be deployed in a very fast time. The brown coloration on the knife itself is from a heavy duty corrosion inhibitor spray compound that was used to ensure that it does not become inoperable at the wrong time.

Boat hook modification.

(24) One Last Thing on Safety, the Columbia River has commercial shipping traffic. Be aware of the marine rules of the road and if you are anchored in or near the channel, you ARE obligated to move. These ships can also create quite a wave depending on whether they are loaded or empty as they pass by. Large cruise boats are another to look out for. If you are at anchor, your boat will rock quite a bit, as compared to just being afloat when they pass by. Some fishermen may not move if they are out of the shipping channel when a ship passes by, but they may start their motor & position their boat so the bow enters the wake of the passing ship.

If you are using a anchor puller and get caught in a situation where you need to move out of the path of a ship or barge rather rapidly, just move off out of the way as if you were pulling the anchor. This will get you out of the way relatively fast and you can drag the floating anchor and fishing gear to a safer position.

The shipping lanes are like a highway, the upstream bound ships will use their right hand side of the channel, while the outbound use their right side, or the opposite of the inbound. One thing that can happen is if 2 ships meet and pass exactly at your location. You may think you are out of their way, but it is in your best interest to MOVE because of the waves created. Believe me, I have seen that first hand, been there / done that.

The Columbia River will have tidal influence all the way to and past Portland (usually Camas). There may be minimal height change (from in to out) from about Longview and above there will not be any change in the direction of the flow. Below Longview the flow will slow down at low outgoing tide and then there will be minimal flow on the incoming tide. Here the river height will raise or lower depending of course on the tide. The amount will depend on the actual tidal exchange at the ocean. Also in the mix can be the amount of water that Bonneville Dam spills.

This article will give you some idea of the principles of anchoring. As you talk to other experienced fishermen and gain more insight plus experience, you may find a way for some aspects of anchoring that fits you and or your boat better. Always have your eyes open when it comes to improving your methods. If it works, copy that method, no matter who thought of it or you saw using it. In any situation it may well be better to learn from the mistakes of others than find out the hard way.

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