When I worked for a major national outdoor magazine, there was often a suggestion that I and others write about “the best boat” for fishing. We never did because the writers and editors agreed that there is no one best boat for all types of fishing. Similarly, from the general point of view of pleasure and family boats, there is no such thing as a best watercraft.
It is clearly difficult to choose a boat that includes all of the family’s outdoor activities, including fishing, cruising, sailing, swimming, skiing, tube hauling, and transferring family members and friends to different locations. The best boats for families must serve many purposes, which is why fishing-only boats rarely fill the bill for general functions.
So you need to prioritize and realize that every boat is a compromise in one or more ways. As someone who puts fishing first, I can assure you that if fishing is your priority, most general recreational boats are not suitable for a variety of fishing purposes, although they can accommodate general family boat interests.
If you are unfamiliar with different types of boats, check out this Take Me Fishing tool. Here are some quick tips on the best family boats.
- House boats. After taking my family on a houseboat cruise camping vacation (hauling a fishing boat behind it) I know my kids would choose this number one among the best boats for families. However, they are huge, expensive, and impractical anywhere except in large inland waters. But with a ship like this, you can tick off lots of fun activities.
- Pontoon boats. These watercraft are very popular and economical for families. They are available in different sizes and performance options as well as with different equipment features. They are very good for backwater fishing, swimming, sightseeing, and general relaxation on the water.
- Bowriders. With space for passengers in advance and the ability to take people to the beach or a swim-friendly sandbar, or to pull skiers and various water toys, these are popular family boat ships. They can be used for some moderate fishing activities, but don’t shine in this arena.
- Fish and ski boats. This is a form of bowrider popular with small families where there are competing interests (like dad wants to fish and mom wants to go boating) and financial compromises. I find that they are tight and neither do either activity justice. They are best for a family of three who occasionally boate with the family and rarely fish.
- Cabin cruisers / walkarounds. Cabin boats are large, heavy, and expensive, but are suitable for families who want to sleep on the water, travel distances across large bodies of water, and visit distant ports. Some have a small galley and a head to allow extended time on the boat. Walkarounds accomplish the same thing as pure cabin cruisers, but offer more space and accessories for serious fishing.
- Sailing boats. Sailboats with cabins also offer long-distance travel, port visits and overnight stays as well as relaxed cruising and can involve all family members in the control and navigation. You cannot return to port quickly and fishing activities are very limited, as is mobility on board in most ships. But for some families, this slower type of boating is very appealing.
Space does not allow one to study the problems of where to keep one of these boats and which ones are better or worse for trailer and launch, which are also property considerations. Finally, remember to register your boat.