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Woodland Trails: There's a boat for every budget

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outdoors River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

When I look back at the boats I've had or fished out of during the years, I am amazed with the changes that we have seen since I was a kid growing up in the '50s and '60s.

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One boat I'll never forget was an old wooden boat we fished out of at a resort. We had gone up to a resort, parents and a few brothers and sisters, and rented a cabin. The cabin was great. Close to the lake it was a farm kid's dream come true.

The boat was a big old wooden monster. It was painted white with green trim and weighed a ton. It had an old motor and oars that seemed huge. It was a stable as a house. You could get up and move around in it and it would never rock. When the motor was revved up it plowed through the waves like a snowplow. Planing was not a part of this boat's vocabulary. My, how things have changed!

According to Mick Howland, owner of the Dry Dock in Hudson, there are lots of great boats out there today with budgets for everybody.

"It doesn't matter if it's Lund, Crestliner, Triton, Ranger, Yar-Craft or Smoker Craft. It's about asking the right questions so a family gets the right boat. We invite the family down and make sure they get the right one regardless if they fish, tube, go on rivers, lakes or big water.

"There is something good going on in Hudson and in the boating community. It's one of the real clean natural sports that the entire family can do. Because we are right here on the river so many of the people living here take advantage of the river for so many reasons. We have such a blessing living here where we do.

"Getting youth back to fishing is something we believe in. It's a clean sport and maybe if we can get more of them to take up fishing we might not have so many of them finding their way into a corner looking for meth, smoking cigarettes or doing something destructive," added Howland.

"I think boating in a family kinda teaches dads to be dads. Teaching techniques as to what a reverent father means. I really believe boating can be a true answer to pulling families together. When I see a family leaving The Dry Dock with a boat we fixed or maybe a new boat and I see them laughing and giggling, that really does it for me. It's like a shot of vitamin B that I can't explain."

There are a lot of the old boats still out there today like the Shell Lake boats Howland's family produced back in the day. And you might even see some of the wooden Shell Lake boats around still. A boat like that would cost less than a $100 when it was made!

I asked Howland to speak of today's new boats.

"Take Yar-Craft, for example. They are made of kevlar, composite decking materials and fiberglass. But they are using a mesh of cordura in the product. You can see the cordura fiber interlaced through it. It's built like a quilt. That's today's stealth fighter or it's a bulletproof vest. It's lighter and stronger. I had a pretty good-sized sheet of that material and was told it's unbreakable. I put it in a big vice and smashed it with the shop mall and then picked myself up off the floor after I bounced across the shop floor. It's truly unbreakable.

"We used to build boats with marine plywood that weighed 130 pounds a sheet and when it got wet it never really dried out. The new composite sheets weigh about 27 pounds a sheet and it's unbreakable. Then they add UV protectors into the mixture and you get a boat with a lifetime warranty that is transferable in boats like Smoker Craft, Sylvan and Yar-Craft."

Both Barb and Mick Howland give back to the community. You will see them involved in many community projects and that is one thing that will never change. For Howland The Dry Dock is a rich history that begins with the Shell Lake boat company that began in 1904. His learning to fly fish from the first TV fishing legend, Gad-About Gaddiss. Or knowing major league baseball pitcher Cy Johnson who used to come to the Howland Resort near Webster. It was all part of his history.

Howland's love of fishing and Hudson is part of the reason that Al Lindner's PWT walleye tournament will be coming to Hudson. Anyone living here in the area can come in, register and fish in it. Although Mick claims his wife is the main force behind the business you know after talking to him that his heart has clean fresh water flowing through it and it's powered by an old outboard motor.

Howland has some advice to pass along to young business people getting started in the community.

"Find a cause in the community and help where 'you' can, especially in youth programs. Get out there and volunteer and you'll be amazed at the rewards you will get by giving."

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