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120,054 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am considering purchasing a pontoon boat, and I would like to hear the pros and cons of owning and operating one.

I would like to know the "why spend more" ideas on pontoons.

I have questions like,

Are they comfortable to cast out of?

If I wanted to anchor in swift water to pull plugs or hang a kwikfish, will I be whipping around, or does it work alright?

Are they comfortable to row?

What is it like, say, going from the park down in that kind of whitewater? How much white water can they take?

Is there any pontoon that I would be able to put my dog in, to go with me? Has anyone seen one retrofitted so that there is a dog area?

Has anyone put an electric motor on theirs, for going against the tide?

How difficult would it be to row one against the tide?

When you transport yours, is it easier to trailer it, or take it apart and put it in the trunk?

Do you think it is necessary to have a casting bar to lean on?

Could I, in an emergency, drag my own pontoon around a river blockage?

Is the rowing position comfortable?

Anyway, I can't think of any question I don't have.

Oh! One more: If I get a two man, is casting a hassle with two people from the pontoon? If you had two people, would it be better to get two one man pontoons, or a bigger two man?


372 Posts
I have a pair, so I'm setup to drift with a partner.
I can load them in the back of the Van & lock then up. Can't leave anything around to be thieved, you know. I hang them on the wall in my garage, so they don't take up alot of rrom when not in use.
> I have no problem casting from them.
>I anchor & the head of holes & drop a diver and bait through. It can take some muscle to pull up my anchor system, it's at the back of the toon.
I heard of a guy with a alot better set up, so if i were you I look for a "easy" anchor pulley set up.
> I don't do plugs off them, but I can boondoggle a run with them. Have fun fighting a fish and trying to row at the same time.
> They row like a deam & are very responsive.
> Ask Mad Mikey how much white water they will handle. I know it's a lot more than I'm ready for.
> I can stand up and grab the frame of my toon, lift it and walk it, or ot's easy to drag.
> I don't use a casting bar. Or the seat blet in the thing. If it flips I don't want to be along for the whole ride. I also double belt my Simms & wear a PFD.

249 Posts
I have a pontoon boat and love it however i would spend more for one that has the best ore locks and the one with the adjustable seat and an anchor system you can pull from the front. I Carry it on the top of the car inflated or on the back of the 5th wheel.

2,604 Posts
I had one for awhile, and loved it. Had to get rid of it cuase a new DB joined the family. I do plan to buy another. They are easy to row, but I found they were difficult to row against the current cuase of the amount of drag they have. ( not like a DB) Also, with my anchor system I found it alot easier to pull up my anchore by using a series of pullies. If you get a Toon boat, look closely at the oarlocks. Get the ones that crimp down on the oars. I had a big problem with keeping my oars where they needed to be, and when I applied alot of force to the sticks the would pop out of the locks. So go with the more solid oarlocks. And last but not least. I strongly suggest you use the term "you get what you pay for"


62 Posts
Jennie, I have 2 of them. A little 7 ft. I 've had for about 4 years that I landed a chinook on last October in tidewater fly fishing on the Salmon R. at the Bray hole, without having to hoist up my anchor. Last month in my 8 ft. I was able to bank land another chinook casting a spinner on the Little Nestucca by just letting it tow me around until it played out. Then tightened my drag and towed it to a shallow bank. Lots of fun. They are both great in whitewater on the N. Santiam, and rowing against the current in tidewater hasn't been too hard. If I could afford it, I'd sure like to try the 2-person type with the casting stand for easier casting while fly fishing.

1,459 Posts
If you "anchor in swift water", have a sharp knife handy in case the upstream end starts to submerge. The line can easily foul and you know how much force moving water has; be careful out there!!!
I have a Waterskeeter "Vision" 96x16" tubes that I've modified with a swivel seat-I sit higher; easier to cast, catches more wind. I've also installed a rod holder and a rear platform for "Rykar" my amphibious Vizsla.
If the point of anchor attachment is centered on the long axis of the float tube, you'll remain fairly stable in the current.
Usually I throw mine on top of the canopy, but I have removed and deflated the pontoons and placed everything inside. The frame breaks down into three pieces, not counting the oars. Assembly time is less than ten minutes, including inflating the tubes.
I paid $190 for mine on sale and it handles class II water. Someone makes a two-man craft that seperates into two singles; I can't recall who.

120,054 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I love the advice. Thanks!
The sinking anchor thing scares me. How can I avoid that?

1,459 Posts
The easy answer: DON'T ANCHOR IN SWIFT WATER!!!
But if you must, use a knot that's tied on the blight; one yank and you're free. Don't have the running end going thru pulleys or around the frame where it can hang up during an emergency release. Just don't plop the anchor overboard and quickly snub it up tight; take it slow and easy as you anchor. You'll sense if something doesn't feel right.
For that two-man craft I previously mentioned, click on "pontoon boats", then "double take II".

Premium Member
6,276 Posts
I have a Waterskeeter River Tamer (plus two other small toon boats) and I love it. I use it primarily to fish the middle section of the Washougal River for steelhead. Very few drift boats go through this section as there are some hairy slots to drop through. I have had the river to my self and plan on multiple fish days on each trip. I have had deer swim below me, bald eagles fly over my head, and a 10 pound, hot, native steelhead charge the boat, come up between my knees, go 4 feet into the air, summersault in my face, re-enter the water and continue the battle. (Fish was released unharmed--it was native, and besides, who could kill such a magnificant fighting creature) Let me give you my opinion on your questions. I have a lot of drift boat experience (first rowed a wooden one in the early 70's on the Kalama).

Get a trailer for it, unless you have an open bed pickup. It is so much easier then hoisting over your head, especially if you go alone. I take a bicycle, lock it to a tree at take out, and ride back to my rig when done. I have found putting it together/taking it apart at roadside a bit of a hassle--especially on a rainy December afternoon after a day on the water.

If you plan to pack it to/from the water, get a wheel for it. You can push/pull like a wheelbarrow.

Get the best/biggest in your budget. You will want to run some whitewater in the winter and longer/larger diameter pontoons is important. Make sure that the pontoons have a good rake angle at the ends to handle whitewater.

Bronze oarlocks that will not let your oars pop out are crucial--they only pop out in the middle of the worst whitewater of the day. Carry an extra oarlock in your dry bag--they are cheap.

Make certain that you sit high enough for comfort/fishability. Also, make sure that when rowing, your hands are not too high. If you hands are too high you will put strain on your shoulders when rowing under pressure (current/whitewater/etc).

I use a 10 pound pyramid anchor with a good gold braid rope. It goes through pulleys and I do not tie a knot in the end. I use a cleat like you find on a sailboat to secure the rope. The rope just pulls into a notched slot and the ribs hold the rope. Simply pulling up on the rope releases it to slip through. Have a knife available, at all times.

If you have to work around river blockage or water that you are not comfortable with it can be done. Stop well above the area and scout it on foot. You should have scouted the area prior. I carry a long section of strong nylon cord for floating it through sections if I have to. You can break it down and move it by pieces if you have to, but that would be some work.

I pull plugs from my toon boat all of the time. It is a real challenge getting them out at the head of a run. Also, when the rod slams down, getting a hook set, and getting the fish under control along with the boat is a riot--my fishing partner claims that a video of that process is going to be in the works someday. I now wear kick fins on my wader shoes. I can "kick" myself out of the slot and into calm water while holding fighting a hot fish. I've lost too many trying to manage this process, so I went to the fins and found a great improvement. Just be careful about standing on slippery rocks with those fins on--OUCH that's a hard rock!

They are a bit hard to cast from as you are almost locked into a forward position, and turning sideways is difficult. I have found that anchoring and turning sideways will work. It's better to beach and wade if you can.

I would not get anything shorter then 8 feet, and recommend a 9 or 10 footer for a single rider. I don't like the double set up. Look for a floor under your feet (unless you want to dance with a steelhead like I did). Where a GOOD VEST--I wear sospenders, as slipping into the water is always possible.

Get good oars of a good length for leverage and control--some manufacturers skimp here. Make sure they'll float. (cork filled)

I plan to upgrade someday and really like the looks of the Skookum and Bad Cat products. Best of luck, and if you enjoy a more personal on the water experience--pontoons are the way to go.

Mike Evans

35 Posts
I have a 16ft aire cataraft. Anything a drift boat can do it can do better and safer. Much more stable, nible, lighter, quieter, won't sink.

If you can row a small drift boat you can handle a large cataraft.

I recently took my pregnant wife (8 months) , two dogs and all our camping stuff through numerous class lll's on the Deschutes. Don't try that in your drift boat.

As to anchoring, run a bar between the aft D-rings and attach a pulley (I can send you a picture of the set-up I welded). That way the anchor line pulls from as far aft as it can AND is centered so that the boat won't occillate back and forth.

I have an Outcast PAC8000 and it's about as nimble a little boat as you'd want. I don't have a lot of advice because I'm new at this too except to advise against any pontoon boat that has the straps going around the pontoon itself. You'll drag bottom a little in lower water and these straps will wear out and maybe even break.
I've taken mine down the Wilson and in Kilchis tidewater but really got it for trout fishing high lakes.
Should be a real adventure hooking a big fish in it.

4,909 Posts

Just got back from flyfishing the Green below Flaming Gorge in northern Utah. There were a bunch of guys using pontoons to float the river. I was using a 16 foot cat boat (BIG pontoon boat), but they were having no trouble with the little ones. Even in the one rapid "Mother in Law", watched one guy go through on his fins alone, never touched his oars. At the current flow, it is not a difficult float, but I was impressed. I'd have one except for the fact that I fish with my kid a lot, and so someday I'll have a real driftboat. Oh yeah, the town of Dutch John, Utah has more drift boats than people!!

3,628 Posts
Since you will be wearing your PFD all of the time that you are using this boat, I would like to recommend that you look into obtaining a rafter's knife designed to be attached to the patch on the upper front of quality PFD's like Lotus or similar brands.

Then, in the event you need to sever your ancor rope; or in the event you slip off the boat in swift water and become tangled in somebody's abandoned mono or Tuff line, you can just reach across your chest to the knife and start cutting yourself free.

It is really difficult to fumble through your pockets and try to open a folding knife while submerged and fighting for your life. I'll e-mail you a website where you can find these knives.

91 Posts
It can not be a pontoon discussion without mentioning the Steelheader brand. It is without question the best brand out there. Built tough with a platform you can stand or it is awesome. Check some of the history on this topic, you'll see the replys on what a great brand this is. Yes they are pricey, but worth it.

22 Posts
I have a Buck's Bag pontoon boat that I love. I can easily launch it myself - don't need a launch area so you can get to places some drift boats can't. I can deflate it and put it in the back of my Explorer so no need to have a trailer. I like the roomy bags that are strapped on each pontoon -- it can store a ton of stuff. I have a ten pound anchor that is released in the front. It is not the easiest thing to release and pull up, but I have had no problem anchoring. I find it a bit cumbersome to cast from, I usually use it to get to all those places that can only be got to by a drift boat. I bungee chord a container on the platform behind the seat and my dog rides comfortably behind me : ) I have two rod holders which are a must . One holds my rod with a drift setup, the other for pulling plugs. I would put money into the oars and oar locks as that is a crucial part of floating in these. Because they are light, you can go over extremely shallow areas. Sometimes, on a re-eeally slow day, I love just riding over the rapids .... have to remind myself to stop and fish! : )
The only drawback is you are right on the water and always getting splashed somewhat so it can be a cold ride if you aren't prepared. I just got a jet boat but .... my heart is still with my little pontoon boat. : )

24 Posts
I purchased a 9ft fishcat from GI Joes last July. Its been great, I have drifted down the Nestucca 5 times now, Once last winter when it was at almost 6 Ft. I have also went down the North Umpqua last July, not the real hairy parts but it really gave me some confidence about the boat. For the cost it's a great boat, I will be getting a second boat (same one) from a friend that spends most of his time in DB's. I have both boats at my house if you want to try one out let me know I would love to have another excuse for a fishing trip. My inlaws live in Tillamook and we usually make a few trips down in any month.

120,054 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Got an e mail that I thought you'd all benefit from. Very interesting reading...

I read that you were interested in a pontoon boat and I would like to throw
in my two cents. I have three pontoon boats, an 8' Outcast (one person),
12' Maravia (two person), and a 16' Aire (three person) and one 17' FishRite
drift boat. Each boat has it's own pluses and minuses and I hope I can
write well enough to explain my experiences.

Lets start with the 8' Outcast. This is a great one person boat, highly
maneuverable with oars, can be propelled with fins like a float tube, and
can handle up to class III water. The tubes and frame are well constructed
with the frame having an anchor bracket that can be switched with a motor
mount. I have used this boat with an anchor and an electric motor. The
anchor works well in calm water but it gets more challenging in faster water
- I will address this issue later. The electric motor also has its set of
challenges. When using the motor, additional weight is added to the back
of the boat from the motor and battery. Having the extra weight in the
back requires the operator to move forward in the boat. I have long legs so
when I need to adjust forward, the foot pegs are to close for comfortable
operation. The boat operator must sit in a fixed seat facing forward so
trying to run the motor (or pull the anchor) that is positioned directly
behind the operator is not comfortable. The motor and battery take up most
of the storage room on the boat.

Some of the bigger rivers that have been ran with this boat include Hells
Canyon on the Snake River and the upper Clackamas River (both rivers have
class IV rapids). Bonnie (Bright Hen) has ran the North Fork Nehalem River
with this boat from the hatchery to the next takeout below Ericksons place.

The 12' Maravia is a great one or two person boat. This boat has a lot more
room then the Outcast, is also highly maneuverable, and can easily handle
class IV water. This is Bonnie's favorite white water boat. I designed and
built a custom break down frame for this boat so I could fly the boat into
remote Alaskan areas. The frame was designed to allow the rower to sit at
the back and the passenger (or gear) to sit up front. An anchor system has
been rigged to use with this boat. I have pulled plugs from this boat and it
works well in slower water (roughly 3 mph and less). Plugs can be pulled
in the faster water but the rower should expect a good work out. Plugs can
be effectively fished from this boat, but a drift boat is much less physical
to operate.

The 16' Aire is the white water, gear hauling, barge boat. This boat is not
as maneuverable as the smaller boats or a drift boat but it still is more
maneuverable then a raft of comparable size. The frame is modular so it can
be adjusted to meet the type of trip that is being taken and can also break
down for fly in trips. If the trip is for white water rafting, the frame
can be adjusted so the rower's seat is towards the front of the boat with
the passenger seats at the rear of the boat. A cargo deck is placed in
front of the rower for the gear and Huntley (the white water rescue dog).
If the boat is being used for fishing (usually on the John Day), the
passenger seats are moved to the front of the boat. The cargo deck in front
gives the passengers a floor to stand on while fishing. The rower's seat is
moved towards the back of the boat. This boat has been primarily used for
rafting trips (working a little fishing in) so no anchor system has been set
up for this boat.

There are a few challenges to using an anchor with/on a pontoon boat. The
biggest challenge of anchoring in moving water is that a pontoon boat does
not track well. A drift boat has a nice wide flat bottom (kind of like my
girlfriend, only different) that can absorb some of the weight shifting that
takes place in the boat. Some moving around can be done in a drift boat
and the boat will not swing a whole lot on the anchor rope. A pontoon boat
has two small contact points (each pontoon) with the water. As the weight
in the boat shifts, one pontoon will sink deeper in the water causing the
boat to swing on the anchor rope. A pontoon boat on anchor, in current, is
extremely sensitive to weight shifting and will encounter a lot of side to
side and twisting movement. (There are two pivot points that need to be
dealt with. The first pivot point is the anchor. The boat is on the end of
a rope swinging from a fixed position, the anchor. The longer the rope, the
greater the distance between the pivot point and the boat. The second pivot
point is where the anchor rope is attached to the boat. The twisting
movement is created when the boat pivots around the point the anchor rope is
attached to the boat). One pontoon tube will grab, swing the boat, then
the other tube will grab, twist the boat, and swing the boat in the opposite
direction. This makes it difficult (but not impossible) to fish from. The
swinging and twisting motion also makes the anchor retrieval a little more
difficult because the boat, as it swings back and forth, is alternating a
heavy-light pressure on the anchor rope. When the anchor does break loose
from the bottom, the boat is not always pointing downstream and in a
position that the rower would want. Not a problem in calm water, but in
heavy current the rower usually needs to be on the oars and ready to roll in
a relatively short period of time. A pontoon boat will create more drag
then a drift boat so more anchor weight will be needed. This raises another
issue. What is done with the anchor when it is not in use? The anchor can
be secured like a drift boat anchor but keep in mind that a pontoon boat is
usually smaller than a drift boat. The extra weight hanging off the back
end of the pontoon boat affects the maneuverability of the boat and may
cause the boat to ride back-heavy.

One thing that helps when dealing with the anchoring problems is to have a
good anchor bracket and mechanism to let out and retrieve the anchor. In
calm water (still water) anchor retrieval is not an issue, but throw a
little current into the situation and retrieving an anchor becomes a little
more difficult because of the swinging and twisting motion. To help reduce
the swinging and twisting motion, have the anchor rope pivot point as far
behind the boat as possible. The farther away from the back of the boat the
anchor rope pivot point is, the less twisting the boat will do. Swinging
is still an issue I am trying to reduce.

Bottom Line: I love my pontoon boats, but I love fishing out of my drift

12,322 Posts
Have had drift boats, small pontoon boats, big (14 ft.) catarafts, and 15 ft. Aire self-bailing rafts.

All the inflatables track poorly and are a bear to pull plugs with (too much drag). Do not anchor with them in swift water. They are mainly useful to get from point A to B, and I still value them to get down the river in ultra-low water at times. They also look cool. Heaters are likely a "no-no".

For regular fishing, plugging, backbouncing, etc. I would go with a drift boat.

120,054 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Heck with it. I'm just going to stick to my pink USIA dry suit, and jump in and go!

Wonder if I could figure out an anchor system for those dry suits???



97 Posts
I have 2 pontoon boats. Creek Company 10' and a 12' Bad Cat from right there in Tillamook.

I used the 10' on the Alsea last week and got 1 chinoook. I wanted to take the 12' because I had another person but the water was too low. So we took the 10' and he (250lb.) sat on the back with 2 cusions. I am 220lb myself and I am sure it looked funny but it worked. I repositioned the toons so that the bulk of the toon was toward the back of the boat. We were low in the water but it worked well for transportation. I had to pulled him through some low spots and he got off and walked where it was too low to ride.

I have drug that boat a long way through the woods to put in and take out -- over logs and through black berries. That PVC is tough stuff!

I agree with almost everything that has been written. There are two comments that I want to make that might be helpful to some. 1). I tried lead anchors and kept having to increase the weight. I got it stuck on lava rock bottom too many times and went to a chain anchor. I strongly recomend a chain anchor because it seems to hold better than lead and comes loose much easier. I agree that it seems to take more weight to anchor a pontoon boat. 2). I stopped the swaying by putting rubber sleeves on my oars and positioning the paddles vertically. This makes the oars act like rudders and works very well. You just have to be able to set the paddle vertical and have enough friction to hold them in that position.

The one person is complicated to fish from when you have rapids coming at you and have to reel everything in to keep from getting snagged up. The one person boat is hard to fish from but fun.

I may try the fins idea. That may help.

In addition, try to get one with a platform to stand on. I took my 10' to tide water and bobber fished by standing on the seat. I felt quite high but it was a lot more stable than I thought it would be. I didn't feel a need to sit down when other boats went by. I am planning on adding a platform to my 10' boat but haven't done it yet. Research on the web suggests that 10' bananna shaped pontoons need to be at least 10' before a platform is used -- though I don't know for sure yet.

I had a blast this last summer in white water on the Mckinzie. My mom is 78 and she giggled as she went down. On my 12' Bad Cat I made a brace for the front person to stand and hold onto while fishing. My mom was standing through most of the class 2 rapids. It was great fun. I had to talk hard just to get my dad into trying it in a lake. Maybe next year I'll get him on the river.

Oh yea. Be sure to add safety staps to the oars. I have had one pop out and then had to try to catch it before the next rapid while rowing with one oar. Not good. If you get oars like the Carliles try to upgrade the paddles to Cataracts. The Cataract paddles don't sink so they don't get stuck in the rocks as easily when you are just drifting along.

I think pontoon boats are great. Have fun. :dance:

Thanks for a great website!
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