Call us toll-free at 1-800-661-6954

Welcome to The Fishin' Hole Canada's source for tackle and sport fishing equipment. Try us for all of your sportfishing needs...In store, on-line or toll free. You'll get hooked on the service!

Personal Pontoon Boats 101


It's every angler's desire to fish where others don't, to find solitude and virgin waters. For many, personal pontoon boats can make this dream a reality. A personal pontoon boat is a one-man water craft that uses inflatable parallel pontoons for flotation, with an attached frame and seat from which you propel and steer the boat. They are light and portable - one person can easily load them into the bed of a pick-up. Propulsion and directional control are provided by oars, fins or a combination of the two. Best of all, the minimal draught, superb stability, ease of manoeuvring and durability of pontoon boats allows fishermen to access river and lake waters not easily reached by more traditional boats or on foot. In short, they're your passage to virtually untouched waters.

A personal pontoon boat is a one-man water craft

A personal pontoon boat is a one-man water craft

Rowing Your Pontoon Boat

Most pontoon boats come equipped with oars and oar locks, and these provide the primary means of mobility, especially when you plan to travel significant distances on the water. Start on a lake to learn the basic strokes, not a river, as moving water adds a complicating element to manoeuvring and steering your boat. There are four basic rowing strokes to conquer - reverse, forward, offset and opposite oaring. Reverse rowing is the basic stroke most of us are accustomed to. You extend the oars out and back, submerge them, then pull back, forcing the oar blades forward and the boat backwards. Forward rowing is just the opposite; you extend the oars out and forward, submerge the blades then push forward, propelling the boat forward. With offset rowing the oars work alternately, instead of in unison. This technique allows for a resting period for each of your arms and is well-suited for long distance travel. Opposite rowing, as the name suggests, sees your oars work in opposite directions to one another. With one you reverse row, with the other you forward row. This stroke is particularly critical in flowing water when you have to turn the boat quickly to avoid obstacles. Continual opposite rowing will soon have your pontoon boat spinning in place.

Reverse rowing is the basic stroke most of us are accustomed to

Reverse rowing is the basic stroke most of us are accustomed to


It's advisable to understand the basics of rowing with oars before learning to use fins, though the basics are similar. Kick forward to move the boat backwards, kick backwards to propel your boat forward. Alternate leg kicking in a single direction allows for resting, and opposite-direction kicks will spin your pontoon boat in place. The deeper you submerge your fins, the stronger the kick required and the farther and faster your boat will travel with each stroke. As with rowing, practice your fin work until such time as it becomes second nature, allowing you to focus on fishing. Note that you must be careful how you move your fin back to the starting point of the stroke - if you kick in both directions you won't get anywhere on the water, as you would probably imagine.

Travel on the Water

Once you've got the basics down, you'll find that travel on lakes and ponds is pretty easy, and most often you'll use reverse oaring or fining, moving your craft backwards much as you would with a standard rowboat. On rivers, however, you want to be continually facing downstream so that you can anticipate and avoid approaching obstacles. Fins should definitely not be used on fast flowing water or in areas where you may encounter rapids. Forward rowing and/or kicking in slow moving water will almost be continual. It's important, however, that you utilize reverse rowing when avoiding trouble or lining your boat up to navigate rapids. The first rule of thumb when pontoon boating is that whenever you need to quickly evade trouble, you simply point your boat directly at the source of the impediment and reverse row; no technique is quicker for getting yourself out of an impending jam.

Once you've got the basics travel on lakes and ponds is pretty easy

Once you've got the basics travel on lakes and ponds is pretty easy


Fishing Techniques

On lakes and potholes, most often you'll want to row out to the general area you'll be fishing, then set your oars aside and fin through the best water, much like using your main outboard to reach a specific area on a lake before turning to an electric trolling motor to finesse your way around the key locations. You'll find that casting, whether a fly fishing rod or a spinning rod, is much easier on a pontoon boat than in a float tube as the height above waterline is an advantage. If you find fish, drop anchor and fish without worry, fan-casting as you would with any anchored boat. Alternatively, you can troll across lakes by casting your line out, letting it sink to the appropriate depth, and fining your way across the water. If there's sufficient breeze, pontoon boats are excellent for drifting, using subtle fin kicks to keep you aligned properly. Be careful, however, that you don't drift beyond your capacity to row back to the launch.

Set your oars aside and fin through the best water

Set your oars aside and fin through the best water

River fishing from a pontoon boat is a little more complex, though no less effective. Start on mild rivers without significant current or white-water to gain the comfort you'll need to effectively navigate faster currents. Drifting downstream allows anglers to cast out their line and drift a bait at the same speed as the boat moves, making for long, extended drifts. Cast slightly forward of the boat as this makes watching and controlling your line easier. Fly anglers love this technique for drifting a dry fly along a riverbank for extended distances without drag. Casting and retrieving is also an effective tactic, whether with fly or spin gear; again you'll want to cast ahead and quartering away for maximum line control.

Waders are often worn when pontoon boat fishing on rivers

Waders are often worn when pontoon boat fishing on rivers

The best holding waters on rivers are often found in eddies, the heads or tails of pools, behind obstructions or along current seams. You'll often find that the most effective way to cover these waters is to beach your boat on shore, get out to walk and wade the area. For this reason, waders are often worn when pontoon boat fishing on rivers.

Beach your boat on shore to walk and wade the area

Beach your boat on shore to walk and wade the area

Previous Fishing Articles

(1) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator

(2) What to expect when fishing the West Coast

(3) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing

(4) There’s No Place Like Home

(5) A Golden Opportunity

(6) The Observational Trout Fisherman

(7) Un-matching the Hatch

(8) Alberta Super Bugs

(9) Glass is Back

(10) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca

(11) Speed Kills

(12) Entering the Twilight Zone

(13) Old Man River

(14) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River

(15) Small stream BT fishing

(16) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started

(17) In The Walleye Zone

(18) Zoo Trout

(19) Fly Selection for Beginners

(20) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(21) New Waters

(22) Big Bad Burbot

(23) Looking Back

(24) Out of Africa

(25) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

(26) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(27) The Browns of Autumn

(28) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(29) Walleye Town

(30) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(31) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(32) Going With The Flow

(33) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(34) Swinging The Fences

(35) A View From The Aerie

(36) Dixieland Delight

(37) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(38) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(39) Montana's Cool Missouri

(40) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(41) Toothy Critters

(42) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(43) Top Ten Flies

(44) Northern Exposure

(45) Home Water Lessons

(46) Chicken Of The Sea

(47) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(48) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(49) Keep It Up!

(50) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(51) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(52) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(53) Hawg Holes

(54) Saltwater Salmon

(55) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(56) Down a Lazy River –
A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan

(57) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead



(60) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(61) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(62) Fall Walleye

(63) Wet Flies

(64) Versatility the Key to Success

(65) Grayling of the Boreal

(66) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(67) Size Matters

(68) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(69) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(70) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(71) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(72) The Point Of It All

(73) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day

(74) Fall Fly Fishing

(75) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(76) Big River, Big Fish

(77) Bottom Bonanza

(78) Fishing Small Flies

(79) So Many Choices, So Little Time

(80) Four Seasons of the Bow

(81) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot


(83) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

(84) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box

(85) Edge Walleye


(87) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(88) Four Corners – Four Waters

(89) Chasing Pothole Trout

(90) Springtime Stoneflies

(91) The Torrents of Spring

(92) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(93) Bust Them With Bait

(94) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(95) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(96) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(97) Terrestrials

(98) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(99) Rocky Mountain High

(100) Reading the clues

(101) Where the Trout Are
The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.

(102) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(103) Fly Fishing 101

(104) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

(105) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(106) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(107) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

(108) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital

(109) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(110) Trust Your Electronics

(111) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(112) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(113) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(114) Walleye can be Humbling

(115) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(116) Winter Flyfishing

(117) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(118) Hot Fall Pike Action

(119) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(120) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(121) Frequently Asked Questions

(122) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(123) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(124) Deep Water Perch

(125) Post Spawn Brookies

(126) A Fisher's Life

(127) The River's Last Stand

(128) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(129) Coho on the Coast

(130) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(131) Summer in the Mountains

(132) Peak Walleye Season

(133) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(134) Last Ice Rainbows

(135) The Burbot Event

(136) Tackle Matching

(137) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(138) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(139) The Lure of Brook Trout

(140) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

(141) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now

(142) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies

(143) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan

(144) The Vesatile Plug

(145) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout

(146) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(147) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(148) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

(149) Daily Fish Migrations

(150) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn

(151) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

(152) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing

(153) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing

(154) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser

(155) The Fun in Ultra Light

(156) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

(157) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure

(158) Never Stop Learning

(159) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot

(160) Jigging through the Ice

(161) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

(162) Rainbows on Ice

(163) The Season of Ice Begins

(164) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

(165) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman

(166) Facts On Cats

(167) West Coast Adventure

(168) June Walleye Frenzy

(169) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories

(170) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"

(171) "Northern Exposure"

(172) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish

(173) Early Season Pike On The Fly

(174) Man Overboard