Boat fishing is fun in an entirely unique way. When it goes right (and for the harder-core anglers, even when it doesn’t go all that right), it’s a comfortable excursion into nature, generally surrounded by beautiful scenery. It can also be a relaxing way to unwind on the water, and when fish are biting, that relaxation is punctuated by the excitement of playing and landing fish.

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There’s nothing quite like it, and it’s even better shared with friends and family. However, it’s easy for experienced boat fisherman to forget that loving it isn’t automatic. Not only that, a bad first time on the water can turn someone off to boat fishing entirely. And that can prove incredibly disappointing when a best friend, or even a child, sour on an opportunity for fun and bonding they may have come to love. So the goal is to ensure that someone’s first time out serves as a way to learn and experience everything about the pastime (lifestyle) that’s so terrific.

Be Prepared, Get Organized, Have Fun

Loading a backpack cooler up with ice and beer and throwing it in the boat isn’t enough. (Though it’s a good start.) You don’t want to find out on the water, or the dock, that there’s only one functioning rod, the outboard won’t start, or the boat is out of gas, etc. Run some basic diagnostics on your boat before you go, double-check the number and quality of life jackets, make sure the fish-finder is turning on, and that there’s no mono filament wrapped around the prop, etc.

When you’re done with that, string up as many rods as you’ll need with the rigs you’ll be using, then string up a couple more. Check your tackle box and organize what you’re likely to use. Throw some warm clothes into a dry-bag, and have some rain gear on hand, just in case. Now you load that cooler backpack up with ice and beer and throw it in the boat. At least be sure you have the ice and beer, water and juice, and lunch and snacks needed prior to heading out.

If you’re taking kids out for the first time, be sure to bring something fun for them to do during the downtime. If you’re taking buddies out, there’s a fair chance that what you brought them to do during the downtime is carbonated and comes in 12-ounce cans. Be the designated driver for the day, on the water and off. Good food and drinks, consumed responsibly, never hurt a day of fishing.

Choose Your Targets Wisely

Choose your day wisely. While a blustery, intermittently-raining, high-chop, muddy-water day may be fine conditions for an experienced angler like yourself, it’s likely not going to be fun for a newbie to sit cold and wet in a lurching boat and not catch anything.

Choose your fish wisely as well and consider your companions. Experienced anglers are going to be more inclined to spend hours trolling down deep for the solo-cruising lunkers or chasing more discerning, finicky species. However, less experienced fishers typically want to feel a hit and play a fish. Cast for bass along the shoreline or troll for trout in productive spots if either are common.

If you know any local fisheries with good northern pike territories, consider seeking them out. Pike are aggressive, can make spectacular surface strikes, are good fighters, and tend to be a decent size. For most future fishers, all it took was the thrill of playing and landing one decent, or even not-so-decent, fish to get hooked (so to speak).

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