It would be a lot easier to catch fish if they didn’t live in water, but I don’t suspect that’s going to change any time soon. Couple that with the fact that it’s been two thousand years since the last documented case of anybody walking on water, and we’re left with little choice but to use a watercraft if we’re going to fully enjoy the best of Canada’s angling. Boat ownership is one of the joys of the fisherman’s lifestyle, though admittedly one of the heartaches as well. Purchasing a boat, the right boat, allows you access to angling opportunities not available by any other means. The challenge lies in identifying your needs, especially considering the diversity of fish and waters that Canada boasts.
Boats allow anglers access to some of the very best fishing, and scenery, Canada has to offer.
Float tubes excel where light weight, portability and affordability are your most important considerations. The design and features of float tubes have come a long way since their introduction, but the basics remain the same. In essence a float tube consists of a Cordura or similar skin wrapped around one or more inner tubes. They typically feature a suspension-style seat that allows you to propel yourself using fins, most often while wearing waders. If your vision is one of idyllic evenings slowly kicking around your favourite trout pothole, or hiking into a remote backcountry lake, it’s tough to beat a float tube.
Float tubes are perfect when light weight and portability are important.
Pontoon boats are the evolved form of float tubes, incorporating similar inflation principles but taking the concept to a new level. They’re built on parallel pontoons and feature a frame supporting an elevated seat. You propel yourself with oars or an electric motor. The height makes for easier and longer casting than with a float tube, and the ability to forward, reverse or offset row gives you the steering control required on fast-moving rivers. Pontoon boat are equally at home on lakes of all sizes, provided you’re not expecting to travel great distances. While significantly larger than a float tube, one person can still load a pontoon boat into the back of a pick-up or onto a roof rack. These boats come in one-, two- and even three-person configurations, and can be outfitted with rod holders, an anchor system and an electric trolling motor. For versatility, portability and affordability, anglers are hard-pressed to beat a pontoon boat.
The manoeuverability of pontoon boats makes them well-suited for fast streams and rivers.
Canoes are the red-headed stepchildren of today’s boating options, yet the benefits they’ve offered anglers for several centuries are as applicable today as they’ve ever been. Select the appropriate length and style and you’ve got a boat well-suited to fishing large rivers and lakes of all sizes. They can be easily carried on roof racks, are simple to launch, and can comfortably carry three anglers and lots of gear; in fact, they’re the best choice when portability and camping are part of the equation.
Canoes are a great choice for multi-day fishing trips when you’re camping.
Car-top boats are the quintessential everyman’s fishing boat. 10- and 12-foot aluminum models are most common, powered by electric or gas-powered motors up to 20 hp. For those looking for family-friendly, affordable vessels well-suited to lakes and reservoirs, a car-topper is the perfect choice. They’re easy to store and can be quickly loaded onto roof racks by one or two people. These boats can be easily accessorized with rod-holders, downriggers and portable live-wells, making them effective fishing platforms whether you’re casting for pothole trout, jigging for walleye or trolling deep for lakers. Further, they offer the stability and safety that young families seek.
Car-toppers are affordable and versatile, capable of handling a wide variety of fishing scenarios.
For those not familiar with them, think of a Jon boat as a car-topper’s flat-bottomed brother, usually painted in olive drab. That colouration is a clue to a Jon boat’s alternate use; it’s as much at home in the hunting world as it is carrying fishermen. Jon’s are durable, versatile and available in a wide range of lengths. Smaller models are ideal on rivers and pothole lakes - their short-walled gunwales make them easy to row, while the transom is able to handle outboards up to 25 hp. and more. Those who fish our broadest rivers will appreciate the tunnel-hull models designed to accommodate jet-drive outboards, while the largest versions can handle the "mud motors" that allow anglers to safely fish shallow rivers and lakes. The sacrifice you make with a jon boat is reduced freeboard, meaning they’re not well-suited for lakes where large waves are common.
Jon are a great choice on both rivers and lakes.
Hard-core, dedicated lake fishermen find no substitute for a decked out "Walleye boat". Evolved to meet the needs of tournament anglers, these boats are designed for speed and convenience, are often console-operated, and are typically powered by outboards ranging from 100 to 250 hp. Rod lockers, live-wells, pedestal seats and strategic storage is standard, as is the wiring required to power your electronics, from bow and stern trolling motors to multiple depth-finders. Both aluminum and fibreglass models are available - aluminum is considered more durable and better suited for river-running, while glass boats are warmer and appear more luxurious, though they’re usually heavier. In either case, trailering is a necessity and you’ll need considerable storage space if you want to keep your boat out of the weather through the off-season.
A tricked out walleye or bass boat represents the epitome of fishing boats.
The last couple decades have seen the emergence of pontoon cruisers in the fishing world. No longer are these mere party boats; manufacturers are designing crossover boats with features specifically designed to meet angler needs. These include pedestal seats, live-wells, rod holders and more. Pontoon cruisers are family-oriented boats that handle large groups of people without difficulty. What you sacrifice in speed and manoeuverability you make up for in creature comforts. Ideal for family cruising and sightseeing, or for pulling the kids on a tube, they transform quickly into an efficient and effective fishing boat. Given that speed is not one of their virtues, pontoon cruisers aren’t typically powered by large outboards, making them an affordable option as compared to dedicated walleye boats. But be forewarned, with their wide beams they pose challenges both for storage and for trailering around town.
Pontoon Cruisers are multi-purpose boats, including offering a comfortable fishing platform.
Dedicated northern river anglers require specialized boats, and that usually means welded or riveted aluminum boats designed with durability and power in mind. They must accelerate and turn quickly to navigate around obstacles in strong current, yet be tough enough to withstand the occasional impact. Most river boats are powered by inboard motors, though some of the smaller models perform well with large jet-drive outboards. These terms are relative, however, as a small river boat is an 18-footer, with many extending to 24-feet and beyond. River boats are not an appropriate choice for fishing anything beyond large rivers. Further, their rugged design means they’re usually not as generously accessorized as a walleye boat. But if access to our most remote waters is your dream, these boats are custom-designed to make those dreams come true.