Coleman Crawdad Boat Review

Sun Dolphin Sportsman Fishing Boat. Sort Of.

Key word: boat. We mean it: boat.

We know. We know. We know.

The Hughes Brothers, who promise you nothing if not integrity, are not writing at this moment about a kayak. No, we’re writing about the best, most inexpensive fishing boat we ever owned.

Coleman Crawdad Boat Review by
Coleman Crawdad Boat Review by

The Coleman Crawdad.

Also, we’re writing, or will be writing soon, about the SSun Dolphin Sportsman, which may come close.

Last built new in 1991, the Coleman Crawdad.

In the heyday of our fishing for bass and bluegill on Kansas-only waters in the early and mid-1980s, the Coleman Crawdad – with our puny shared little trolling motor attached – made us happy, the three oldest of us, in a way that, frankly, no kayak, no boat of any sort has since.

Damn, we loved our ‘dad.

Doubled-ended. Three times as long as it was wide. Flat-bottomed. If truth be told, built according to Phydias’ golden, Greekly rectangle. We spelled it a “john boat.” “John,” not the Englishly orthographical “jon.” But “John” after “John Howard Hughes,” our oldest brother who, as the oldest of us contributed more dollars to the Crawdad’s purchase than did the marginally employed rest of us.

Oh yeah, the mounting of the motor. Mounted back and forth among us.

You want versatile? The Hugheses give you versatile. That puny shared little trolling motor? It could be mounted at either end of the Crawdad. Either! We’d be on some twisted-up conservation impoundment, and the propeller was wrapping itself around some steroidal weed not yet identified by anyone unfamiliar with marine plants made mad by agricultural fertilizers, and one of us would muscle that motor out of the water, pull off the four-foot green killer snakes, and pass it back, or forward!, to the brother with best chance of pulling us out of our shared, if momentary, captivity.

Even Joel, probably the strongest Hughes boy ever, wanted some help.


Its aluminum frame, its eighth-inch – okay, maybe its quarter-inch – thickness of the plastic hull aside, our Coleman Crawdad weighed 131 pounds. Joel could take our boat in and out of our sort-of-brand-new 1978 GMC pickup by himself, but even our young (then) third-oldest brother, Joel just come fishing fresh from the weight room, would strain. He’d turn as red as ever he did on a tractor on a long August afternoon, but he could – he could – lift our boat for us by himself.

But we love Joel, and we didn’t ever want him to hurt himself. And, all of us, we helped.

Poundage, schmoundage.

As we say, with Joel around we didn’t much worry about load limits. So what if we rode a little low in the water? Why, all the better to lip a smallish bass, to remove a barbless hook, to release the goofball, without every taking the little guy out the waater.

We were told, we read: 420 pounds maximum weight for our Crawdad.

Hell’s bells! How are three of us going to fish together?


Forget published facts, even facts from the venerable Coleman Company, to this day a proud, a storied Kansas business. We usually loaded this way. John Howard, James, and Joel drawing straws for the fore and stern seats, and then a lucky younger bro – Curtis or Mike or Dave – amidships with his ass being split – in parallel – by our boat’s one-inch center stringer.

So it goes, Curtis or Mike or Dave. Just be damned glad one of you got to come with us.

Well, a fine mess of things, we’ve made here.

Remember the Sun Dolphin Sportsman Fishing Boat?

We were going to talk about that fine, fine watercraft hereabouts.

Not to worry.

We’re going to review the Sun Dolphin Sportsman now. Right now.

And never, ever – in the next half-hour – will you find the words “Coleman Crawdad” coming out of any Mac anywhere near us.


Sort of.