As an avid fisherman and a family man, you have to make some tough choices when considering a boat that provides both family fun yet lets you go out for some serious fishing too. Here’s the thing, so many boats on the market are built for hardcore fishermen. I get why that is, I really do. But, with the price of a new boat today, the days of buying a boat for pure fishing are hard to justify with the family when you are going to spend a meaningful amount of money. I also love fishing. With two kids, a wife, and a dog, my breakdown of family boating vs. fishing is realistically 60% to 70% family fun and 30% to 40% fishing nearshore and offshore. For this reason, I wanted to put together a real-world review for people like me who want to have the best of family fun lounging and playing on the water and still be able to do some serious fishing on their boat.
Table of Contents
- What Is The Best Boat For Fishing and Family Fun?
- What Is A Power Catamaran?
- What Do Most Family Fun Boaters Who Also Want To Fish Look For In A Boat?
- Why Did I Move From A Monohull to a Catamaran?
- What About The Fishability Of A Catamaran?
- What About The Versatility Of A Catamaran?
- The Final Criteria We Should Discuss Is Simplicity
What Is The Best Boat For Fishing and Family Fun?
So, what is the best boat for fishing and family fun? A power catamaran is the best boat for fishing and family fun. That’s right, a power catamaran is the most versatile boat available for family fun, and it still has the ability to perform when you want to do some serious fishing both nearshore or offshore.
What Is A Power Catamaran?
A power catamaran is a boat with two hulls vs. one hull. These two hulls, called sponsons, are connected with a center deck to form the bottom of the boat. Then a topside is installed, and the interior cabin functions like any other boat you have seen on the market, only with more space for the family and all of your gear.
In the United States, power catamarans are not as well known as their monohull competitors (most famously, the Boston Whaler), but when it comes to blending family fun with the ability to fish, you will find there is no better option on the market.
What Do Most Family Fun Boaters Who Also Want To Fish Look For In A Boat?
This is where things get really fun. You see with a family of four plus a dog, our boat has to be good at everything. It has to be simple to operate, it needs to be versatile to handle family time and also fishing trips, but beyond all else, it absolutely must meet two sets if criteria.
If a boat is not comfortable for the whole family, the number of days you get to have fun on the water is limited. Lounge seats are a must, but having adequate storage space in your cockpit gives your family room to play.
Safety is pretty obvious for a family, especially with smaller kids. If you do not feel safe operating your boat with your family on board, then you clearly have the wrong cruiser.
These two reasons are why my family made the decision to switch from our very nice 21’ center console boat to a 25’ power catamaran.
Why Did I Move From A Monohull to a Catamaran?
The best way to illustrate this for you is to tell you a story about my first time as a passenger on a power catamaran…
I was down in Morehead City, North Carolina, where we vacationed, and my buddy invited me to go fishing 20 miles offshore. We met at the dock at first light, and away we went. As we passed through the inlet, we were going out with the charter fishing fleet, so all of the massive sport fishers were powering up and throwing off a massive wake.
My buddy was running at about 20 to 25 knots, is my guess, and he cut across the stern of one of the charter boats I thought we were going to break every bone in our body. If I were to cross that wake with my 21’ center console, we would have slammed down so hard that someone probably would have gotten hurt.
So I am white-knuckled, holding onto the railing, just waiting for a beating. We hit the oncoming wake, and I feel the boat lift up and then gently sit back down. I have to admit, I was a bit puzzled as to what had just happened, but then I saw we were about to fly off the other wake doing over 20 knots, and I just knew this one was going to be trouble.
Meanwhile, my buddy has one hand on the wheel and the other fidgeting with some dock lines. I am looking at him like he is the biggest idiot for driving like this!
For a little perspective on how close we were to the charter boat, I felt as if I could have reached out and given the mate a high five! Now, I am being a bit dramatic here. We were probably thirty to fifty yards off of his stern, but it felt really close.
So here we are, we just entered his massive wake, and we are about to launch off of the other wake heading out of the inlet to our targeted fishing grounds.
Do you know what happened?
The bow of his boat raise way up out of the water and it felt like we were going to fly and then just as the stern of his boat exited the wake, and I was still white-knuckled, the entire boat sat right now into the bay and all I could feel or hear was the sound of a “whoosh” of air and the boat softly planted itself and went right back in the direction he has pointed the boat to start with.
If you have ever been in a situation like this you can imagine how rattled, scared and later confused by the entire situation.
My first reaction was to get mad, but the only thing I could say is “how it the heck did you do that?”
My buddy looked at me puzzled. You see, this was his first and only boat. He did not know of the pounding you could get crossing a giant wave like that. It was just a routine event for him.
It wasn’t routine for me at all, and I started looking for a power catamaran of my own as soon as we got back to the dock.
I think this gives you the best first-hand account of why comfort and safety is critical when you have a family, and why a power catamaran fit the bill.
What About The Fishability Of A Catamaran?
First, let’s discuss fishability. It really depends on what type of fishing you want to do. I fish and boat exclusively in saltwater so that is what I know and I will discuss here.
Inshore fishing – Catamaran hull fishing boats offer many advantages. My father-in-law had an 18’ catamaran skiff with a 50 horsepower Honda for many years. We could get that boat in some really skinny water because it had a draft of just 8”.
Beyond getting into the skinny water for fishing, it also was an extremely stable fishing platform. A monohull in narrow on the side and deep in the middle. As a result, they tend to rock side to side each time an angler moves inside the boat.
Contrast this with a catamaran hull that has the hulls on the outside, it creates a very stable casting deck for multiple anglers to move around the boat without tangling their rods.
Even on that little 18-foot catamaran skiff, we could put three or four fishermen on board, we could move around while fighting a fish and all of us might end up standing on one side or the other (regardless of where we installed our rod holders). It really did not matter. This layout was a big safety feature too especially and my father-in-law got older and was not quite as balanced as in years passed.
Offshore fishing – Now you are talking my language. I love nothing more than to be out in the open blue water fishing for elusive game fish, or simply filling the cooler with dolphin (Mahi), wahoo, etc.
Power catamaran boats excel at offshore fishing too. While that little 18’ skiff would not be for offshore, and 23 footers or larger would be excellent offshore. I currently have a 25-foot catamaran and one of our closest friends just upgraded from a 26’ to a 29-foot power catamaran.
One story I will share about offshore fishing in a catamaran was with the same buddy I mentioned above but this was another fishing trip on his 26-foot power catamaran. (For those who are wondering, we always took his boat offshore because it was so much more comfortable than my 21’deep v monohull.)
On this fishing trip, the weather was not that great and we were going to hit a little fishing hole about sixteen miles from the inlet. Not too far that we would not be able to get back if the weather took a turn.
As we headed out of the inlet, we noted there were not make boats heading out, but we overslept so maybe we were just behind everyone else by thirty minutes or so.
You see, this fishing hole we were heading to is not a well-kept secret, it can be a parking lot of boats on a pretty day… but this was not one of those pretty days.
We get about twelve miles offshore and we notice a sixty-foot chart boat heading back towards the inlet.
Both of us were puzzled as to why they were heading back in so early. Seemed like a waste of money to come all this way and turn back so soon.
As a result, we kept motoring right along, eating our biscuits and sipping our coffee. A little while later we note on the GPS that we are getting really close and by this time we should see plenty of other boats out fishing.
To our surprise, there were no boats on the horizon, no boats within eyesight! We had the entire fishing spot to ourselves. We started to power down and get our lines in the water.
Neither one of us get seasick, but at trolling speed we tried to put lines in the water but the waves were to tight together we could barely stand up. We were dancing all over the boat trying to get our bait in the water.
We had one line in and before the second bait hit the water we both looked at each other and said this isn’t going to work.
We pulled the lines back in and headed back home.
On the way back home we got the bow anchor wet a few times but never took one over the bow. The wind had really picked up but that 26-foot power catamaran brought us all the way back to the dock without issue.
What About The Versatility Of A Catamaran?
Catamarans with their twin hulls offer a wide beam and give you more room up front. This creates an excellent place for family cruising, meals on the boat and space for friends to ride to the sandbar or local restaurant with you on your boat.
Catamarans also have a shallow draft so It makes them an excellent boat for beaching at a sandbar or on a coastal island like Shackleford Banks in North Carolina.
Remember, over 60% of my boating time is for family fun and of that time, 90% of it is taking out boat out to Shark Island, Shackleford Banks, or Cape Lookout National Seashore and anchoring up along the beach and partying with family friends.
If I were to make an analogy that most families could relate to, a power catamaran is the SUV of the boating world. You can load up the family, their friends and all of their gear and enjoy the day on the water. Not all boats are made for this type of activity and for that reason, a power catamaran is a highly versatile boat for a family and the fisherman.
The Final Criteria We Should Discuss Is Simplicity
In my opinion, a catamaran is simple to operate, but it has different behaviors than a monohull boat. If you are used to operating a monohull, you will have to adjust your thinking when running a catamaran.
Did you know, many catamarans ride better in rough water the faster you go?
Did you know if a catamaran has two engines you can turn the boat without touching the steering wheel?
Did you know, hitting another boats wake at speed becomes an afterthought in a catamaran?
I can remember so many summer days in our 21-foot center console where my wife would have to lift her bottom off of the seat because the chop in the sound would just beat the heck out of her.
After taking my wife out on a power catamaran I know it would take a whole lot of convincing to get her back into a monohull because of the ride quality.
But boat comfort does not tell us how simple a boat is to operate.
When we focus on simplicity, I would say a monohull or catamaran hull boat with a single engine would be the simplest to operate. However, most catamarans are designed with twin engines and it is a real advantage. If you are comparing a monohull vs. catamaran with twin engines, the catamaran would win when it comes to steering, getting home safely if one engine goes out, and having redundant systems (2 gas tanks, two electrical systems, 2 batteries, etc.)
I hope this gets your mind thinking about a power catamaran as the best family boat for family fun and also fishing.