If you’re looking for the ultimate saltwater fishing adventure, it lays far over the horizon where the huge pelagic creatures swim—and you’ll need to figure out what deep sea fishing boat is best for getting you there.
Never fear, ambitious angler, we’re here to help. But first, let’s make sure everyone understands that “deep sea” means different things to different people who partake in different fisheries.
Commonly called “offshore fishing” or “bluewater fishing” by experienced hands, in areas where the Continental Shelf is close to land (like Florida or Hawaii) it can take place just a few miles from shore. In other places, however (such as the Northeast coast or the Gulf coast), cruising for dozens of miles at a time is often necessary. So searching for bluewater beasts may require very different types or sizes of fishing boats depending on whether you live in Miami or Montauk. That said, no matter where you plan on fishing the selection of appropriate choices will include.
3 Deep Sea Fishing Boat Types
Center Console Boats
Center consoles are an excellent choice for offshore fishing because they’re among the most adaptable of all saltwater fishing boats and can be used for a wide variety of fishing methods.
- They offer the ability to swing a rod 360-degrees around the gunwales;
- Commonly come equipped with all the armaments necessary for tactics ranging from trolling to live-baiting to kite fishing;
- Usually designed with sufficient fuel capacity for long runs;
- Feature hull designs that make voyages far from shore safe and comfortable.
On the flip side of the coin, many models don’t offer much protection from the weather and salt spray, other than the console and windshield. Most also don’t have any form of sleeping accommodations and in some cases, may be a bit short in the seating department.
For a dedicated offshore fisherman, a sportfishing yacht is probably the ultimate angling machine.
- Extremely long cruises of up to 100 miles are possible;
- You can fish for days at a time in comfort (even luxury in many cases);
- Perks like onboard air conditioning and ice makers are considered common;
- Plus, the sheer size of sportfishing yachts allow you to go fishing when smaller boats may be forced to remain at the dock due to weather conditions.
So, why doesn’t everyone go out and buy one? As you might expect sportfishing yachts can be quite expensive to buy, operate, and maintain.
Walkaround Fishing Boats
Families that fish blue water will often opt for walkaround boats.
- Having a cabin with a berth and a private head makes it much easier to take a break from the action or get under shelter when a rainstorm breaks out, which can be particularly important if you have kids aboard;
- Many also have fully protected helms, which means that fishing in less than ideal weather is possible and extending your season into the late fall or winter months becomes a more realistic option.
There is, however, a price to pay in the form of fishing space, since the open bow cockpit you’d enjoy in a center console fishing boat is taken up by the cabin.
Key Features of Offshore Fishing Boats
- Start with rod holders—you’ll want plenty, whether it’s to set a trolling spread or just rest a rod between casts.
- Built-in tackleboxes are extremely valuable, as they help keep things organized and eliminate the need to carry a big box of gear back and forth from the boat every time you go fishing.
- Raw water washdowns are considered a necessity by most offshore anglers, since deep sea fishing can get quite messy via either the bait or the catch.
- And if you plan to keep your catch for dinner, an integrated fishbox is another must-have.
There are also a number of features that will be more or less important to you, personally, depending on the fishing methods you like to use.
- If trolling is in the cards, having outriggers become very important and you may need a rigging station with a sink and bait tray, as well.
- Live bait anglers will insist on having at least one livewell, and in many cases they’ll want multiple livewells so they can carry different kinds of baits on a fishing trip.
- Those who use electric reels for deep-dropping or kite fishing will want to have 12-volt outlets under the gunwales.
Along with these built-in boat features, of course, you’ll need to stock up on lots of fishing gear. Just what you need will vary depending on where you fish and what you target, but to get the ball rolling check out Big Choices: The Basics of Big Game Fishing Equipment.
Buying a Deep Sea Fishing Boat
Aside from how the boat’s equipped, there are several attributes that separate the good deep sea fishing boats from the best ones. As you make your choices, be sure to consider:
Does the boat have enough fuel capacity to go as far as you’d like? When calculating a boat’s range, be sure to only use 90-percent of its overall fuel capacity. That extra 10-percent should always be held in reserve, so you never run out of fuel short of the inlet. Many experienced offshore anglers go even farther and use the rule “one third out, one third back, one third in reserve,” to be absolutely sure they never end up short on fuel.
When it comes to fishing miles and miles from the inlet, size does matter. This is another one of those factors that requires you to make a judgement call depending on where and how you fish. Most captains would feel comfortable running a 21-foot center console 10 or 12 miles into the ocean to go deep sea fishing on a calm, sunny day in south Florida. But trying to take that very same boat 50 or 60 miles out into the open Atlantic to reach the edge of the Continental Shelf off the coast of Maryland would be considered by many to be a dangerous over-reach.
A boat’s hull design plays a big role in determining its seakeeping abilities, speed, efficiency, and stability. And all of these factors will make a difference in how far you’ll want to run and the sea state you’ll consider fishing in. As a general rule of thumb, the wave-splitting deep-V hull design is considered the norm for center consoles and walkarounds. But larger sportfishing yachts are often big enough that they handle rough seas well with a semi-V (which has less of an angle in the hull) or a nearly flat bottom. Some offshore fishermen also like multihull designs, many of which tend to run very smoothly through rough water.
Is a Deep Sea Fishing Boat Right for You?
Obviously, we’ve talked about an awful lot of factors—and making a final decision will be no easy task. But we have one final bit of advice that’s as good as gold: before you pick out a boat, spend some time out on the ocean on each of the different types. Go for lots of sea trials, and test out different makes and models.
Visit your local boat show, and inspect one model after the next. Take your time, and do your research. Because once you find the ideal deep sea fishing boat for your needs, you’ll be in for the ultimate angling adventures of a lifetime.
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