Fishing Success from a Pontoon Boat
Many people venture north for their summer vacation and try to rent a boat. Most boat rentals have a few fishing boats with most of their inventory consisting of pontoon boats. They are popular because they are large and you can fit many people on them and they are comfortable. For these same reasons, they are difficult to maneuver and control in any type of wind. With a little practice, they can be fished from effectively and efficiently.
First of all, if you are fishing in any kind of strong wind, take down the bimini. It acts like a sail and prevents precise movements. The four methods I will be talking about are working a shoreline or structure, anchoring, drifting and trolling. Make sure you request from the boat rental company two navy style anchors of at least 25 pounds with 50 feet of line. All responsible boat rentals should provide these type of anchors but many will skimp. Be a wise consumer and demand these. They should be on the boat for safety purposes in case the motor breaks down so you won't crash into the shore and damage the pontoon and motor anyway.
The most difficult type of fishing from a pontoon boat is fishing a shoreline. If you have a trolling motor on the pontoon, work into the wind for more control. If you don’t have a trolling motor you will have to back troll into the wind slowly. This takes some practice but can be done. One person should have the task of moving the boat slowly along the shoreline. It is difficult to multi-task when doing this. Slip bobbers can be slowly dragged over structure or people can cast from the sides. Another option is to drop shot over the edge of the boat if you are in deep water or have a quiet 4 stroke motor. Always fish off the back of the boat or cast from the sides so the lines don’t get under the boat.
The second type of fishing involves drifting over productive structure or a weed bed or weed edge. It can be done with a bit of wind. Anything over 10 mph and you will move too fast. You can slow down the drift with drift socks which are mini parachutes which are deployed on the windward side of the boat. Two 5 gallon buckets tied to ropes will suffice in a pinch. First, decide on the area you want to drift over and position the boat upwind and perpendicular to the wind direction. Cast plastics, jerk baits or jig and live bait on the lee side of the boat or the ends of the boat. Long casts are necessary and you will need to speed up your retrieve speed to compensate for the boat moving in the same direction. On the windward side of the boat drift drop shots and/or slip bobbers. A small spinner and bead just above the hook on the drop shot or slip bobber will increase your catch rate four fold. The egg sinker above the swivel allows the hook to remain at the desired depth as you are drifting.
Trolling is similar to trolling on a fishing boat. Have people sit in the back of the pontoon so lines don’t cross on turns. One additional tip is when you have high winds , put the bimini up and position the boat perpendicular and you can troll many more lines over the length of the pontoon.
Lastly, anchoring is one of the least understood tactics. Always fish the windy side of the structure. Fish are more active on this side. Position the boat upwind of the structure so you are a half cast from the structure. Drop both anchors simultaneously and let out line until the angle of the line is 45 degrees or lower. The people casting live or artificial should be positioned in the back of the boat and slip bobbers can be worked off the sides, letting them drift into structure.
Fishing from a pontoon can be frustrating at times but with a little bit of practice it can be very effective.