The Home Stretch
Josh Tart’s epic kayak-fishing tour hits the Great Lakes
By CONOR MIHELL
Fifteen months ago, fresh out of college and looking for adventure before entering the work force, Cincinnati-area resident Josh Tart embarked on a kayak fishing expedition on the Great Loop, an interconnected series of lakes, rivers and coastal waters, including the Mississippi, Gulf Coast, Intra-Coastal Waterway and the Great Lakes, that circumscribes the eastern half of the United States. Now, as Tart nears the end of his 6,000-mile epic, it’s clear that the trip has been part physical challenge, part voyage of discovery.
CanoeKayak.com caught up with Tart on Lake Michigan’s Saginaw Bay, less than eight weeks from his estimated finish date on the Ohio River in Cincinnati. Click HERE to follow him online.
Every part of this trip has been a highlight in some way. Florida was super cool, primarily because of the fishing. I wasn’t pressed for time then and I got to paddle and fish the entire Florida coast. Not a lot of people get to do that.
Fishing changes everything. When I’m in a rush, missing out on the chance to fish is one of the most frustrating things. So I’ve done a lot of trolling.
One of the biggest challenges came a few weeks ago. I was paddling up the St. Clair River from Lake Erie to Lake Huron, going against the current the whole way. Beneath the Bluewater Bridge [between the U.S. and Canada] there’s a five- to seven-mile-per-hour current. That was a bear of a paddle, I’ll tell you, the worst current I’ve had to deal with. Since the U.S. side is on the outside of a bend in the river, I crossed over to the Canadian side. In the 10 minutes it took me to cross I was swept a third of a mile downstream. Plus there was Labor Day boat traffic to contend with.
I’m a bit worried about the shock of going back to everyday life. I got engaged last year over Christmas and I’m getting married when I get back [in November], so I’m getting really antsy about finishing up.
I’ve raised $8,500 for Charity: Water since I started working with them in January. Everybody seems to appreciate who I’m raising money for. They’re already drilling wells [in developing African countries] and doing good stuff with the money I’ve raised. That’s also been a cool part of the trip, to know that I’m supporting a cause.
Looking back, for every one thing I knew about kayaking and fishing when I started, this trip has taught me 10 more things. When I started I just threw everything I could find together. Now I know a lot more about gear, about what I need to pack and what I can leave behind. In the beginning I was really worried about water. I was always carrying 10 gallons. Now I’ve toned that back to four gallons. On a trip like this, I’m always around some kind of civilization so I’m never worried about dying of thirst.
That’s been one of the most exciting parts—to learn and experiment and dream of doing more things down the road.