Fishing is one of America’s favorite pastimes. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), recreational anglers caught an estimated 1 billion fish in its fisheries in 2020, releasing 65% of those caught. The total recreational harvest was estimated at 344 million fish weighing 353 million pounds.
One of the ways people like to fish is on a boat. This gives you access to deeper waters, where more fish tend to hang out.
If you’re considering trying out boat fishing yourself, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll go over five tips to make your first boat fishing experience successful.
Let’s get started!
1. Pack the essentials
You can’t go boat fishing without the right gear. Here’s a basic packing list to follow so you don’t show up unprepared:
- Fishing rod
- Tackle box with hooks, lures, fish bait, bobbers, swivels, sinkers, fishing line, line cutter, etc.
- Needle nose pliers to retrieve hooks from inside fish’s mouths
- A net or bucket to help you land and carry fish
- Pole holders that attach to your boat so you don’t have to hold your rod all the time
- Gloves to help keep your hands clean
- A cooler to store fish and other food and drinks
- First aid kit
- Bug spray
- Life jackets for each person on the boat
Most of these items aren’t absolutely necessary. However, they can make your boat fishing experience more enjoyable.
2. Dress right
What you wear while boat fishing is important. For starters, check the forecast to see what the weather will be like and dress accordingly. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to wear layers so you can adjust your clothing as the day goes on.
You may also want to wear sunglasses to block UV rays and reduce glare while fishing. Waterproof gear such as rubber boots is also nice for inside the fishing boat, which might get wet, or for when it’s expected to rain.
3. Check local fishing laws and regulations
Each state has different rules regarding fishing. Do your research upfront so you don’t run into any issues while you’re out.
For example, there may be rules about what types of fish you catch, how big they can be, and whether you can throw fish remains back into the water. This is why it may also be a good idea to bring a measuring stick so you can measure fish before deciding to keep them (it’s also good for keeping track of your personal record).
In addition, you should have all the appropriate permits, fishing licenses, and insurance with you on your fishing boat—just in case you’re asked to show them to a fishing patrolman.
4. Choose the right spot
There are three main types of boat fishing:
- Freshwater fishing. This is the most common type of fishing since freshwater is much more widespread and available. Common freshwater catches include trout, bass, and catfish.
- Saltwater fishing. This is fishing along the coastline of an ocean. It’s a great place to catch a larger variety of fish.
- Deep-sea fishing. If you head farther away from the ocean coast, you can deep-sea fish. Here, you have the opportunity to catch much larger fish, the size of which might surprise you.
Wherever you decide to go boat fishing, scope it out before you go. You may also want to ask other anglers or your local fishery where the best fishing spots are for the season.
5. Choose the right time of day
In addition to choosing the right spot, you need to choose the right time of day to fish. The best times to fish are early morning and evening. Why? Because fish are most active during cool hours.
If you must fish during the day or it gets sunny and hot, seek out shady spots since this is where fish are most likely to hang out.
Also, consider the tide schedule when choosing what time to fish on the ocean.
Some additional tips
It’s impossible to review every helpful boat fishing tip in a single article. However, here are a few more to round off this post:
- Get the right boat. There are many to choose from. Boats with electric boat motors can make it easy to be quiet and not scare fish away. Whatever boat you choose, make sure it has plenty of space to store all your gear.
- Choose the right trolling speed. Trolling means fishing by trailing a baited line along behind your boat. If you try it, you should match the boat’s speed to a natural fish swimming speed.
- Leave enough line out when landing fish. You want to leave some line out since you’ll have limited space to set your rod down, and you don’t want the caught fish to knock it off the boat.
- Change tactics if you’re not having any luck. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else. You could change spots, bait, lure, etc.
- Learn how to tie proper fishing knots. If you don’t, it’s easier to lose fish, hooks, and other gear.
- Follow good fishing etiquette. Though there may not be any official rules, it’s good etiquette to give other anglers their space and respect the environment by leaving no trace.
- Be patient. Learning to fish can take time, but it’s well worth it. So just take your time and have fun, whether you catch a fish or not!
If you’ve made it to the end of this article, you’re much better prepared to go on your first boat fishing expedition. Refer to these tips if you ever forget something or have a question. Good luck!