pontoon trout

WaterLine photo by Kimball Beery

Les and Sue Bisbee, a friend from New Mexico without boating or fishing experience, with a fine seatrout. She’s a perfect example of someone more comfortable on a pontoon boat with a free guide and chauffer.

We are dedicated kayak and shore anglers who don’t currently own a powerboat. However, there are occasions when visitors come to town and we want to get everyone on the water. Solution? Rent a boat!

Depending on the size of the crew, we usually end up with either a pontoon boat or a smaller center console skiff. There are several rental marinas in the Englewood area. Over the years, we have tried most of them. While we are not ruling out the eventual purchase of another boat, we have found advantages to renting occasionally.

We have friends who own boats but rarely use them. We have other friends who go out almost daily. The daily bunch definitely is not in the market for a rental boat. But for the occasional boater, renting from a reputable marina makes a lot of sense. A boat used in salt water needs a lot of maintenance and care. Actually, a boat that’s just sitting does too. Busy lifestyles conflict with maintenance time when all you really wanted to do was go fishing.

And consider the expenses involved with owning a boat. License fees for the boat and trailer plus storage costs quickly add up. And don’t forget insurance and the all-important towing insurance. If you run it a lot, fuel will probably be the biggest single expense. Of course, smaller boats have better fuel economy, but the average 18-foot boat still gets less than 5 mpg.

Fishing boats must have all the required safety gear for the inevitable safety check, plus other fun things like GPS and depthfinders. For our shallow waters around here, a jack plate and trim tabs are nearly essential.

Comfort add-ons like cushions and bimini tops will cost extra and need replacement periodically. Power-Pole, anyone? All this fun and we haven’t even considered the engine yet, so let’s don’t even go there.

For less than $200, you can rent a boat for a half-day with these things already taken care of. Most marinas sell live bait and snacks, and there may be a cooler under the boat seat. The 16-foot Carolina Skiff we rented had two circulating livewells. Rod racks? Check, GPS? Check. Bonus: We didn’t even have to interact with folks at the boat ramp learning to launch their boats.

A whole day rental is usually less than twice as expensive as a half-day but you might be surprised how much territory you can cover in a few hours. We love our kayaks, but once they’re launched, we find ourselves pretty much stuck in that spot. A skiff allows you and your crew to “pick up and move” if the area you’ve selected is not producing.

Another good thing kayakers notice about boats is they don’t blow around like kayaks do. Of course, the comfort factor of being able to stand up and walk around feels good even for kayakers with iron butts.

There’s a flip side, though, and kayakers will quickly discover the disadvantages of rental boats. Most kayakers have found shallow paths around our bays and creeks that powerboats just can’t use. The average kayaker in a skiff for the first time will be surprised at how much water it takes to float a boat with the motor down. Learn this without tearing up the grassflats. The traffic out in the channel with other boats can be daunting, especially on a weekend. Go slowly until you learn to navigate the deeper water boats require.

Pontoon boats are better than skiffs for family outings of several anglers and sun-seekers. They are considerably slower than a skiff, so your range will be limited, and they bounce around more in big wakes as faster boats pass you in the ICW.

We find that pontoon boats have a lot of wind exposure and will blow across a flat faster than a skiff and nearly as fast as a kayak. For overall comfort and deck space, though, they can’t be beat.

So, even if you are a devoted shore or kayak angler, try a rental boat when you have folks visiting. Be sure to know and follow all regulations and signage that you might not have noticed while kayaking. It feels a little like cheating when you fire up the motor, but it sure feels good heading effortlessly into the wind. Hmmm … maybe we should look into a powerboat.

Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing Southwest Florida” and “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida,” contribute these columns to promote the excellent fishing available in Southwest Florida. Their books are available at most tackle shops in the area, AnglerPocketGuides.com, or Amazon as a download or hard copy.

Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing Southwest Florida” and “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida,” contribute these columns to promote the excellent fishing available in Southwest Florida. Their books are available at most tackle shops in the area, AnglerPocketGuides.com, or Amazon as a download or hard copy.

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