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A Guide To Lake Fishing On A Boat

Lake Fishing On A Boat

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There’s nothing quite as peaceful as being out on the water on a cool summer morning.  Going out lake fishing on a boat, watching the mist rise up from the glass-like water is such a joy.  The tranquility as the sun slowly peaks up from the horizon is both calming and awe-inspiring.

You gaze out over the smooth waters surface, hot coffee in hand when that big elusive fish launches itself up from the peaceful water.  Preying on a bug of some type which no doubt made the mistake of being above the hungry fish, the large fish splashes the beautiful calm with force and vigor.  It’s early morning, the fish are hungry, and there’s nowhere in the world you’d rather be.

That’s the sort of feeling I get whenever I’m out on the water.  Whether it’s in a canoe, fishing boat, or cabin cruiser, there’s nothing like it.  But making sure you are prepared for your adventure is one way to make sure it stays an adventure and doesn’t become a nightmare.

This guide to lake fishing on a boat is the essential go-to for new boaters.  Keep it simple, keep the guide handy. And in the immortal words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t Panic!”.

8 Things You’ll Need To Go Lake Fishing On A Boat

There are some basic necessities when you’re going to go out lake fishing on a boat, that you will want to keep in mind and pack to bring with you before you go.  Here’s a compiled list of what you’re going to need.


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  1. Licenses – Fishing requires a fishing license in most states, provinces, and countries.  Check with the authorities in the area you want to go before you get out and get busted.  Here are a couple of resources to help you stay legal:
    1. Where To Get Fishing LIcenses – article coming soon
    2. Where To Get Boating Licenses – article coming soon
  2. Life Jackets – remember if you bring your dog, it should have one too.  Check out this great article by our friends at DHT: Dogs and Boating
  3. Safety Kit – this includes a whistle, rope with a floating device, water-tight flashlight and water-tight bailing bucket which holds the kit items.
  4. First Aid Kit – Because fish hooks and fishing knives leave nasty infections if not treated.
  5. Water – Staying hydrated could literally save your life.
  6. Fishing Gear – includes fishing rod(s), bait, hooks, lures, net, et cetera
  7. Maps Or GPS – If you don’t know the area, it can get disorienting, especially in an area with multiple small islands.
  8. Hat/Sunscreen/Sunglasses – The sun not only beats down but reflects up off the water as well.  Keep protected to avoid too much sun exposure.

Let’s break down each of the items with a little more information.  The licenses are pretty straight forward. Keeping them safe and secure is another thing.  I’m a big fan of keeping my wallet with me but I don’t like it getting wet. I use a watertight, floating bag for my wallet and cell phone.  Actually, I’m a bit anal about this so I keep both of these inside another bag which is also water-proof. Here are the ones I use:

Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories

Life Jackets

If you are renting a boat, they will typically supply the life jackets where you rent it.  But let me share a quick story. The second time I ever rented a boat. I used the provided life jackets.  Well, when I got the life jackets, they had been sitting inside a garbage bag. There was a smell of mold to them and although they were dry, they had that feeling of moistness about them.  They were weathered and the tags were illegible so I had no idea just how old these things were. I proceeded to put on the rental life jacket when I discovered there was a spider living on the life preserver I had.  I got a nasty spider bite on the side of my neck that irritated me for the rest of the day.

After that, I bought my own life jacket.  I still rent boats of different types to try them out, and I never take the rental life jacket.  I prefer my own. I’m not a fan of sharing something that other people may have worn out in the sun.  That means that there is probably not only old sunscreen soaked into the life jacket, but likely sweat as well.  And seeing as how most life jackets say on the tag that you can’t just toss them into the wash, that means the rental ones are pretty nasty in most places, in that respect.

What To Buy – Life Jackets

So, what should you buy?  Well, there are life jackets and then there are life jackets.  You get what you pay for. I pay for comfort, and peace of mind.  You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get a decent life jacket.  But definitely get a brand that is comfortable to wear. I really like the Body Glove brand.  They aren’t ridiculously priced, they look cool and they are super comfortable. I could and have worn mine all day long.  I often forget I’m wearing it. That’s the kind of comfort you need when you’re out for the day on the water. Here are the life jackets my family and I are using when we go out boating:

Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories

Safety Kit & First Aid Kit

Just like life jackets, this is essential and if renting this will be provided so you don’t need to go and purchase a kit.  However, if you’re like me and you like to own your own stuff, I do have a few suggestions.

The first thing we need to do is to define the safety kit and first-aid kits.  The safety kit is a boating essential, required by law on any boat. This includes a whistle, flashlight, rope with a floating device and bilge pail.  The first-aid kit is not required by law for small boats but is essential, in my opinion. This I believe to be especially true when considering a day of fishing.  Fishing hooks are wicked sharp and can leave some rather nasty infections in their wake. No pun intended. So, a well-stocked first-aid kit is important to bring with you.

Boating Safety Kits

Basic Boating Safety Kit:
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories

Intermediate Kit:
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories

Boating First-Aid Kits

Basic Boating First Aid Kit
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories

Deluxe Boating First Aid Kit
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories

Fishing Gear & GPS

The last thing I will mention is the fishing gear.  When you’re out on a lake, there are a few styles of fishing you can do, depending on the type of fish in the lake and a few other factors.  Now I’m assuming you already have your style of fishing selected, but just in case you don’t, here’s a quick refresher.


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Out lake fishing on a boat, you are likely to be fishing in one of a few ways.  The first and least obvious to the average person is fly fishing. Fly fishing is typically thought of as a river fishing style but is often utilized on small lakes as well.  Typically this is a freshwater type of fishing and usually only done on small bodies of water, and rivers as mentioned.

Fishing Type?

Next, we have standard casting regular everyday fishing.  You use a normal rod and reel and throw a hook out with a worm and bobber.  This is the basic form of fishing anyone can do pretty much anywhere.

Trolling is another type of fishing which is usually done on a lake or larger body of water.  And no, this doesn’t involve your smartphone and semi witty comments. This can be done on fresh or saltwater lakes.  This involved using a fishing rod and reel and dropping your bait or lure into the water while traveling slowly along in the boat.  In essence, you are dragging the bait behind the boat. This type of fishing is the most effective at covering distances for obvious reasons.

A lot of people who do troll fishing like to use fish finders.  That way you can steer the boat right over the top of where the fish are hanging out and the bait will be dragged along this path after the boat.

I really like some of the new technology coming out.  This is especially true when it comes to fish finders.  There are some really cool ones that work with your phone.  Then, of course, there are those you mount to your boat that is pretty cool too.  I’ve got to show you these though, they are my favorites:

Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories
Recommended Fishing Boat Accessories


Is There A Downside?

The only downside to the cheaper, smartphone-compatible fish finders is that you have to have your phone with you and charged, and you need to stop the boat, drop the buoy in the water, get your results, then scoop the buoy back out of the water before you proceed.  This is fine if you are in a canoe or kayak, in which case this is an awesome tool.


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If you are out on a medium-sized or even a large boat, using the smartphone unit won’t be the best option.  I suggest using one of the more permanently fixed units for your boat. I like both the Garmin and Hummingbird units.  Their built-in GPS is totally useful too, especially if you are in uncharted waters. That is, unknown to you, not necessarily uncharted (that would be cool to find though, right?)

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