Roger and Zimo pick 10 types of boats to get you into Idaho's famous waterways

rphillips@idahostatesman.com pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comFebruary 28, 2008 

Water, fish and ... ? If you answered "boat," you're thinking like we're thinking.

Having a boat opens up a lot more fishing opportunities and gets you access to many more places.

But with Idaho's variety of fishing waters, from urban ponds to wilderness rivers, you need a fleet of boats to fish them all.

So that's what we're showing you.

We've spent a lot of time looking for the perfect Idaho fishing boat and concluded it doesn't exist, but some boats work better for certain waters, and here are some of the better ones out there.

This list isn't comprehensive, and feel free to disagree with certain points we've made about certain boats. But we hope it helps to match your favorite fishing water with a boat that's suitable and affordable.

BASS BOAT

Ideal for: Bass fishing.

Why it's cool: Fast, sleek and very well designed for its task. If driftboats are the Cadillacs of the river, these are the Corvettes of the lake. Bass boats typically are configured for speeding from one spot to another with a powerful gas engine, then anglers sit and cast while using a trolling motor to keep them in position.

These boats are typically designed with a flat deck and lots of internal storage for rods and tackle, as well as live wells.

Downer: Typically configured for two anglers, so taking the whole family might mean cramped quarters. They're pretty expensive relative to other fishing boats.

You also need a ramp to launch them, but many of them travel on water as fast as your truck can travel on a freeway, so it's kind of a wash.

CATARAFT/ PONTOON BOAT

Ideal for: Ponds, lakes and reservoirs and rivers.

Why it's cool: These are very versatile craft that are inexpensive, easy to store, transport and launch. You can row them or propel them with fins, at least for the smaller models. Unlike a float tube, you're sitting out of the water.

You also can take pontoon boats down rivers, but most aren't designed for whitewater bigger than riffles.

Prices range from about $250 to thousands. Larger ones can carry two people and gear but are more expensive and take up a lot more space.

Downer: They can be tough to row over long distances, and they get blown around by the wind. Deflated pontoons stow to small sizes, but frames can be cumbersome to stow in a vehicle.

FLOAT TUBE

Ideal for: Ponds, lakes and reservoirs.

Why it's cool: Float tubes are inexpensive, portable and easy to store, and you can launch them anywhere. They're most commonly used by fly anglers, but you can use them for casting lures, too. There are many sizes and models, which are available with prices starting at under $100, so you can find one specially made for a certain use, such as lightweight models for packing into mountain lakes.

Downer: They're slow and can be cold to fish from because you're submerged in the water from the waist down.

FAMILY RUNABOUT

Ideal for: Multiple use. Go fishing, water skiing, or take family and friends for a boat ride.

Why it's cool: These boats are comfortable, versatile and fast. They come in a wide variety of price ranges and configurations, so you can tailor the price and design to your pocketbook and needs.

Some of these have features for anglers, like pedestal seats and fish finders.

Downer: You're pretty much restricted to large lakes and reservoirs, and you need a ramp to launch them.

CANOE

Ideal for: Fishing small flatwater rivers and streams, sloughs, ponds and the edges of large reservoirs and lakes.

Why it's cool: They are fast and easy to paddle. Canoes are roomy enough to take most of the family fishing and can be ideal for trolling. You can carry a lot of gear and kids in a big 17- or 18-foot canoe. If you like tradition, a canoe will fit the bill.

Expect to pay from $400 to $2,000 for a canoe, depending on the size and how lightweight it is.

Downer: Canoes can be tipsy and there is a learning curve, especially when paddling with the kids and the dog. They are not conducive to some of Idaho's larger, more swirly rivers.

DRIFTBOAT

Ideal for: Fishing rivers with fast-moving currents and moderate whitewater.

Why it's cool: Driftboats are the Cadillac of river craft. They are roomy, stable, great to fish from, and extremely durable. You can hold them steady in current to get multiple casts to a rising fish. Driftboats can haul gear for overnight trips, and experienced rowers can take them through whitewater up to Class IV.

While driftboats aren't designed for flat water, they can be used for trolling.

Downer: Price. Even used boats typically cost several thousand dollars, and new boats start at about $4,000 for a stripped-down model that is basically a hull, seat and oarlocks.

You typically need a ramp to launch them, which limits their use on some rivers that would otherwise be suitable for driftboats.

JET SLEDS

Ideal for: Fishing Idaho's small and large rivers.

Why it's cool: The jet boat or its smaller cousin, the jet sled, are some of the more popular boats in Idaho because of their ability to cruise over the shallow areas of Idaho's rivers, which can range in depth from a few inches to 50 feet. It doesn't have a prop, so there is no chance of breaking a prop on obstacles in the river. Jet sleds and boats are used in both fishing and hunting. They can carry a lot of gear and a big family and dogs. They also can be used on reservoirs and lakes for family activities like dragging water toys. Expect to pay from $13,000 to $50,000 or more for jet boats. They are pricey, but they fit the bill for fishing Idaho's rivers.

Downer: They don't get very good mileage, and jets aren't as efficient as props, but their ability to take on obstacles in Idaho's rivers makes up for that. You also have to learn how to navigate river swirlies, waves and other hydraulic features for safety.

KAYAKS

Ideal for: Fishing flatwater rivers, small sloughs and ponds and the shorelines of large reservoirs and lakes.

Why it's cool: The fishing kayak industry is booming with all kinds of innovations, such as rod holders, fishing deck dashboards, paddle holders, pedals for moving the boat so you don't have to use your paddle and can concentrate on fishing, a speedometer so you know your trolling speed, and removable chairs that can be used in the boat or on land.

They are being built more stable so you can stand up in them and cast or sit over the side to net a fish. Prices range from $800 to more than $2,000 depending on whether they are solo or tandem or made of heavier plastic or lightweight materials.

Downer: You'll have to buy several for a large family.

RAFTS

Ideal for: Fishing Idaho's whitewater rivers.

Why it's cool: Manufacturers are making all kinds of fishing frames to make it easier for anglers to use rafts when floating trout and bass rivers.

Why it's cool: Rafts are also forgiving. That means they can get through Class IV rapids and take you down wilderness trout rivers. They are ideal for carrying more gear, especially for overnight trips. Rafts can take a lot of punishment, like hitting rocks and scraping over gravel bars. They are one of the most versatile fishing craft on Idaho's wild rivers. Expect to pay from $2,000 to $5,000 and more because frames come separately.

Downer: They are not good for fishing reservoirs or lakes because of the difficulty of holding them in the wind. They are also difficult to row on rivers when the wind comes up.

CARTOP

Ideal for: A quick fishing trip. It is a boat that's stable, roomy and easy to get around for lake and reservoir still-fishing or trolling.

Why it's cool: The typical 12-foot car-top boat is just that - something that can be thrown on the roof of the truck or car by two people (they weigh about 110 pounds). Stash the small outboard motor in the back of the truck and you are set. An aluminum boat will last you a lifetime.

Expect to pay about $1,200 for a new one. You can probably find a used one for a lot less.

Downer: You are limited by the size of the motor you can put on the back, but if you don't care about speed, what the heck. It is perfect for trolling.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service