On Friday at around 1:30 p.m. Raleigh resident Chris Davis set out for a quiet afternoon of fishing. He took his slow motorized boat out near a bank in the water, hundreds of yards from anyone else, and just began casting. Roughly 20 minutes after setting off, he was reeling in a bass. He released it and cast again.
It may sound like a destination requiring some drivng but the dock from which he rented his vessel happens to be in Garner.
Boathouse season has been open for a few weeks now, and that means on weekends residents of Garner and other areas can affordably rent boats on Lake Benson, whether to fish or just escape for a while.
The town of Garner manages the boathouse and about 16 availible boats as well as four canoes and residents take advantage. Though the boats are simple, worn aluminum jon boats and the motors won’t break any landspeed records, residents have made good use of them. Last year the boathouse facilitated more than 1,000 rentals, according to former parks manager Stephanie Shaffer.
“We have a lot of regulars,” Shaffer said. “It’s a real laid back operation down there; it’s very simple. Which is perfect for fishing.”
The fishing can yield some nice catches. Just after the opening of the season, which runs from mid-March to the end of October, Shaffer said someone caught a bass weighing about 9.5 pounds, and more recently another fisherman nabbed a 13.6 pound catfish. Shaffer said other fish in the 364-acre dammed reservoir include crappie.
Garner residents Harvey Chester and his wife Cynthia were also on the lake Friday for some fishing, floatng probably about couple hundred yards from Davis.
“We love it, we come here every weekend,” Harvey said from his boat as a stiff breeze blew. “They need to funnel some money from Lake Johnson for some more boats.”
A glance at some online comment boards supports the idea that the lake provides some decent fishing. Bass populate many parts of the broader lake. Brandon Schaefer, a freshman at Garner Magnet High School who volunteers at the lake, said by going north from the boathouse under the Buffaloe Road bridge toward the inlet one can find even more wildlife. And going further up the streams feeding the lake from there in a canoe, he said “you can catch catfish all day.”
The Internet also yields complaints that the lake is occasionally windy and generally shallow, particularly so on the east side of the lake. With a strong wind and choppy waters Friday, navigation in places could be tricky with the electric motors.
The City of Raleigh owns Lake Benson and the town of Garner leases the boathouse from the city. City of Raleigh rules only allow fishing from docks and boats, and the Garner boathouse is the only one allowed by the city to rent boats. Privately-owned boats are not permitted on the lake. Fishing from the shore is also not allowed, though it is permitted from the boathouse dock when it’s open.
During the season, the boathouse is open from noon to 7 p.m. on Friday and Sunday, and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday. During July and August, peak heat months, the boathouse is closed on Fridays. It also opens on some holidays.
Jon boats without a motor cost $4 per hour to rent, $20 for the day. With a motor they rent for $8 per hour and $40 for the day. Canoes rent for $5 per hour.
Age 55 and up enjoy a half-price discount off the full-day cost.
Boats can only be rented by someone 16 years old or older, and boats typically have a three-person max, unless the three don’t weigh a lot. Friday John Carey took his two daughters, Grayson and Sophie and Grayson’s friend from East Garner Middle School Joleigh Duty out for some fishing on a boat as well. Carey said they fish at Lake Benson two or three times per year. He’s had his daughters fishing at an early age, and they say they enjoy the change of pace.
“It’s something different from sitting on your computer or your iPod all day long,” Grayson said.