No boat? No problem.
Any angler who has spent any amount of time as a serious fisherman understands there are special challenges to enjoying your hobby if you don’t own a boat.
These are some of the things that only those anglers who don’t own a boat can relate to.
1. Opportunities are reduced, no matter how big the body of water.
If you don’t own a boat, it’s likely you’re primarily a shore or pier angler. In these instances, your opportunities are greatly reduced. A lake can be 5,000 acres, but you may only have access to a few hundred yards of public access shoreline. Even then, it’s not guaranteed it is legal to fish there.
Ah, the dreaded “No Fishing” sign. And if the fish are biting in one particular location, but it’s only accessible by boat, well, you’re out of luck.
2. Shoreline and pier angling competition is fierce.
Boat fishermen can get up and go if the spot they are in is too crowded. Not so for a shore fisherman. Some of the best spots are no secret, and at the best fishing times, are more crowded than a mall on black Friday. Some are seemingly always full of anglers, much like yourself, who have no boat either.
If you’re a shore fisherman, you can forget about having a secret spot. If it’s within distance of a road, some other angler will see you and your hot spot will soon be overrun. Public shoreline spots can also be full of fish, but often these fish will have seen every lure and bait known to man, making them significantly harder to catch.
3. You’re on others’ fishing schedule.
Assuming you have a friend or family member does own a boat, and is willing to take you along, you’re still limited in your freedom to fish. You have to work around their schedule to go with them or you don’t get to go at all.
No solo fishing excursions for you! And if the fish are really biting, but your buddy is working? Well, too bad for you!
4. Some species and techniques are near impossible from shore.
Sure, there are some creative shore anglers out there who have found ways to catch fish traditionally caught in a boat from shore such as sharks or grouper. But some fish, like marlin or swordfish are almost impossible without owning or hiring an expensive charter.
It’s tough when the salmon are biting 200 yards offshore and you’re stuck on the pier.
5. Fishing books, magazines and TV shows aren’t catered to you.
Every once in a while, a major magazine will have a really short article about shore or pond fishing. But for the most part, the articles and books seem to be written exclusively for people who own $50,000+ boats with all the latest technology and access to thousand-acre lakes.
They almost never cover small bodies of water and they never seem to consider the reader might not own a boat. I used to thumb through whole issues of Bassmaster magazine and realize that I could utilize none of the techniques within the pages because they all required a boat. It’s what eventually led to me dropping my subscription. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fishing show where the hosts were fishing from a public spot on the shore.
6. You have to find creative ways to fish.
Utilizing techniques like wading, float fishing or maybe even kayak fishing are just some of the ways you’ve found to fish. You likely don’t have fancy electronic fish finders or other devices, so you have to find fish using the power of observation. Does the shoreline indicate hidden structure? You make use of topo maps and not electronics to find the structure off a dam.
Can you find a fish in a unique spot no one else has thought to try? Maybe you found a great-looking bridge to fish, but there’s nowhere to park next to it. No sweat. You parked a half-mile away and biked there with your equipment. You just find ways to get it done.
7. It’s harder to get away from people and just relax while fishing.
Boat fishermen will never know how much shore fishermen get harassed at times. Shore fishermen sometimes get harassed by people in legal locations to fish! Sometimes these angry people will even call up the police while you are doing nothing wrong!
Some of it harmless, but still annoying. There are the non-fishermen that might wander by asking “Did ya catch anything yet?” You’re also more likely to have your license checked by conservation officers because you’re the first thing they see when they arrive at a boat launch or while passing any popular shoreline spot.
8. You envy the boaters that can reach “the spot.”
You know what I’m talking about. There’s that one perfect ‘spot.’ You can see it easily from the boat launch or a road running along the lake. Maybe it’s an island with a perfect-looking field of tree stumps around it. Maybe it’s an area of logs and lily pads surrounded by private property. Perhaps it’s just the spot that all your boat-fishing friends gush about, but won’t take you to.
Whatever it is, it’s a spot you’re dying to go to but cannot reach. But the spot might as well be on the other side of the moon because it is completely inaccessible without a boat. Every time you pass the spot, you are in envy of anyone with the ability to fish it.
9. You’re not “boat broke” fortunately.
Sure, your buddy just got a new $60,000 fiberglass bass boat and it’s got everything. Radar, sonar, electric toothbrushes. But now he/she can’t buy as much tackle or go fishing as often as they used to. That’s because they’re sinking that extra money into their new craft. They probably don’t own the boat yet fully and are making bank payments. They have boat insurance payments.
Don’t forget extra things like marina fees, boat maintenance, storage, winterizing and fuel. There’s also the trailer to haul it and the registration and insurance for that. Man, boats are expensive! See? You thought this list would be all bad. There are advantages to being nautically-challenged, and the biggest one is a bank account that’s a lot less empty!
As you can see, there are some pros and some cons to not owning a boat. But if you don’t own one, it’s OK, because there are still a myriad of ways to enjoy your favorite hobby without one. You just have to be creative and find them!