Before you acquire a boat, know where you’re going and what you need
January typically kicks off boating season in Texas. That doesn’t mean folks are flocking to the water with their boats in tow in the ever-changing winter weather. It means most boaters and anglers have the spring and summer fishing seasons on their minds. With boat shows and hot deals, January launches a period when a lot of people start thinking about boats.
No matter what bay they’re fishing, most anglers have one thing in common that stands between them and the species they pursue, and that’s the vessel they depend on to carry them to the fishing grounds. Now, I’m not saying you can’t catch fish in our upper coast estuaries without a reliable, seaworthy bay boat, but having access to one sure does make it easier and can provide you with more options. And when it comes to fishing, options are good.
Whether you’re looking to buy a new or used boat, or you’ve already got one, there are several aspects that all boat-bound anglers should consider.
Understand your boat’s limitations
First and foremost, it’s extremely important to know how your boat or the boat you’re fishing out of will handle a variety of scenarios and conditions. Despite what some boat manufacturers might claim, there isn’t one hull that can do it all. Some are made to run and float in skinny water, and others are made to take on rough open bays with ease. Very few do both.
Knowing a vessel’s limitations will help you decide where you can and cannot take a boat, which ultimately will help you narrow down your targeted fishing grounds. Understanding the limitations of a vessel also will ensure that you and your fishing buddies are safe each time you hit the water.
At the very least, anglers should maintain a good idea of how much water the boat that they’re fishing from needs to float. This typically is referred to as the vessel’s draft. A boat that drafts 9 inches means it can float in as little as 9 inches of water.
Another must-know about a vessel is how much water is needed for the craft to jump up on plane. This is the water depth necessary for the boat operator to throttle the engine forward until the boat levels or planes out as it’s running across the water surface. If it’s too shallow, the boat won’t be able to get up and get going, which could be dangerous in emergency situations.
Other vital information to know about a boat include how fast it can go, how far it can travel on a full tank of fuel, how it handles large waves and rough water, and how operating the vessel’s electronics and other accessories affect the life of the batteries used to power them.
Decide what you want to do
It’s worth saying again there isn’t really a boat hull out there that can do it all. After learning the limitations of a particular vessel, anglers should consider just what it is they want to accomplish on the water, and then choose a vessel that can help them achieve those goals.
For example, if you want to fish super-shallow marshes and back lakes, then you’ll likely need a flat-bottom skiff or catamaran-style hull to get you where you want to be. If you would rather travel long distances across deeper, open bay waters, then a V-hull probably will fit your needs much better.
Wear a kill switch
Even though it’s now the law in Texas, I still see hundreds of folks regularly operating boats without wearing a kill switch. This is just plain carelessness that could result in serious injury, or worse. For the sake of yourself and the other anglers onboard, always wear your kill switch while driving a boat. It’s easy to do, and the device, used to stop the engine in the event of a boater being thrown out of their seat, can save lives.
Be kind and courteous
I have witnessed numerous situations in which an outsider would’ve thought an all out war was being waged between boaters at a boat ramp or on the water. The ironic thing is all parties involved are just trying to enjoy the same common resource. Instead of being quick to anger, be courteous to fellow anglers and boaters.
Good practice would be to launch your boat in a timely manner while using a boat ramp, and to get out of the way of the ramp for others to use it as soon as you can safely do so. Avoid using bright lights that hinder the vision of others during low light conditions or in the dark around boat ramps and boat docks.
While on the water, give other anglers and boaters plenty of space. If someone already is fishing in an area, stay as far away from them as you can and operate your boat at appropriate speeds that won’t disturb them.
Finally, if another boater does something that you think is wrong, try talking to them rather than immediately chewing them out. More and more people are getting into the sport each and every day, and some folks just don’t know they’re doing something wrong. If more anglers and boaters adhered to this, there would be a lot less unethical behavior between them on the water and at the ramp.
We may be entering into one of the coldest periods of the year, but it won’t be long before the upper coast weather we know and love returns. Follow good boating strategies and you’ll be ready to hit the water.