An homage to the boat launch: Where the promise of the day ahead begins


Truth be told, it’s hard not to assume how a day of fishing is going to play out based on the conditions of my old go-to boat launch. After all, the dock is long gone, the water is low and the concrete is busted.

But as I stand there under the stars and moon, long before the sun even contemplates the idea of rising, I know that the possibilities are endless as my day officially gets underway. It’s the same with all boat ramps, although they’re not all created equal.


Over the years, I’ve seen launches as pristine as you could imagine, but just like my old put-in, I’ve also seen them broken, forgotten and essentially lost to time. I remember one boat ramp that was down such a steep, unforgiving road that it prevented most folks from actually getting to it.

The launch is where it all begins (Photo: Jorge Maddix)

Sure, as long as you had four-wheel-drive you’d be just fine, but even then, it sure didn’t look like it. Appearances certainly can be deceiving, especially when it comes to those older, crumbling launches. Never passing up an opportunity to cast a line from one, I’ve tangled with more surprise fish off old ramps than anywhere else.

In more recent years, the boat launch is where my solitary mornings of paddling in the dark to reach those hallowed duck spots tend to begin. No one else bothers to be there in November when it’s 5 a.m. It’s so quiet, I can sometimes hear the whistle of feathers as common goldeneyes and buffleheads fly past in the dark. The ramp is indeed a year-round destination, with boats arriving during the open-water months, followed by sleds once the hardwater season opens. And no matter the time of year, the launch remains the beginning, the opening chapter in the story of the day that’s about to unfold.