How to Fish from a Jet Ski
Jet ski fishing is one of the newest water sports to emerge in recent years. This exciting, dynamic activity can be enjoyed by experienced fishers and boaters and beginners alike. Read on to learn more about jet ski fishing and how you can get involved with the sport.
What Is Jet Ski Fishing?
Human beings have been fishing for nearly as long as we have existed. In the ancient world, fishing was a crucial survival skill on which many people relied for food and other basic necessities. In modern America, and in many other parts of the world, most people engage in fishing as a fun hobby or a competitive or recreational sport. Recently, fishing from a jet ski or other personal watercraft (PWC) has gained rapid popularity across several different countries. The popularity of jet ski fishing continues to grow around the world, thanks in part to innovations in PWC design and fishing equipment on the whole.
In its most popular forms, fishing is usually done from the beach or shoreline, or from a dock, pier, jetty or other structure. If people who fish wished to have access to deep water and the creatures who live there, they have traditionally needed to use a boat of some kind. However, in more recent years, jet skis and other PWC have become adaptable to the needs of people who fish. Thanks to the relatively small size and ease of maneuvering — in comparison to traditional boats — jet skis and other PWCs can be great options for anyone interested in fishing in the deep, open water.
Jet ski fishing, as a sport, first emerged in South Africa over the past decade. From there, it traveled to Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of Oceania and has continued to grow in popularity over the past few years. Around 2015, North Americans first started to express an interest in the sport of jet ski fishing. In most cases, jet ski fishing is done from two- to four-seater PWCs in order to accommodate the equipment and space needed to fish effectively.
How to Fish From a Jet Ski
Jet ski fishing is not as complicated as you may fear. While this type of fishing does require a bit more planning and consideration than more traditional types of fishing, jet ski fishing can be enjoyed by many people with basic watercraft and fishing abilities. In recent years, the sport has rapidly gained popularity, thanks to advancements in jet ski design and size. The following guidelines can be a great starting point for anyone interested in trying out jet ski fishing, whether for recreation or competition:
The basics of jet ski fishing. The actual tasks involved in jet ski fishing are relatively simple and straightforward, especially for those who are already skilled in more traditional methods of fishing. First, you will need to equip your PWC with a fishing rig. You will also need to feel comfortable and skilled enough to drive your PWC into open water and then to maneuver it throughout your fishing outing. With a properly rigged and stable PWC, you can fish from the watercraft essentially in the same way that you would from a traditional-sized boat, a dock or from the shoreline. The same basic fishing skills and considerations apply whether you are fishing from a jet ski or other PWC as when fishing in a more mainstream fashion.
Fishing rigs and other essential supplies. In order to fish from a jet ski or other PWC, your vessel will require a fishing rig. There are three basic types of rigging from which a fisher can choose:
Pontoons. Many people will be familiar with pontoons in the context of traditional boating structures. Pontoons can be fitted to jet skis in order to accommodate jet ski fishing. Pontoons are stabilizers, typically constructed from fiberglass, which can increase the buoyancy of your vessel as well as increase its storage capacity.
Rear basket system. A rear basket system is one of the simplest and least-invasive types of fishing rigging for a PWC. As its name suggests, this rigging consists of a simple tray-style basket that can be attached to the back of the jet ski using bungee cords, clamps and straps. The basket can then be used to store a cooler and other equipment.
Bracket system. Generally considered to be the safest, easiest and most affordable option, a bracket system for rigging is also one of the most popular. With a bracket system, you will install one bracket on or near the jet ski’s steering column and another bracket at or near the back of the jet ski. This method is a great option for beginners, as it requires minimal installation and is a relatively inexpensive option.
Chrome tubes. Chrome tubes are the most elaborate and permanent types of fishing rigs for a jet ski or other PWC. This type of rigging involves drilling into different parts of the jet ski in order to attach chrome tubes, which themselves function similarly to pontoons. Chrome tubes can be highly effective, but they can also be expensive and potentially damaging. As such, this rigging style is typically not advised for beginners.
Licensure. As is true with any type of watercraft, in most places in the United States, you must be properly licensed in order to operate a jet ski or other PWC. You can consult this database along with your local municipal regulations in order to receive the most comprehensive understanding of boating laws and legislation in your areas. You will also want to check on any applicable fishing licenses that may apply, depending on the time of year and location of your fishing activities.
Where to fish. Depending on where you live, there will be different laws and regulations specific to your local area that may dictate where you will be legally allowed to fish — via jet ski or otherwise. Many people prefer to use jet ski fishing in large lakes and inlets, though this type of fishing can also be done on the open ocean. Consult municipal regulations in your area for the most accurate information about fishing laws and appropriate fishing locations.
Safety tips. The safety tips for jet ski fishing are similar to the safety tips that apply to any boating activity or activities on the water. First, your vessel should always be equipped with basic safety items, such as life vests, rescue boards, a reliable communication device (or two) and emergency beacons, among others. You should also take care to travel with basic survival items anytime you are out on the water — this includes items like drinking water, sunscreen, a multi-tool and a hat.
Popular Jet Ski Accessories for Fishing
There are nearly as many types of fishing accessories as there are types of people who fish. Jet ski fishing is no exception to this. Fishing rigs, as previously discussed, are an essential piece of equipment for jet ski and other PWC methods of fishing. The following accessories are popular additions that can greatly increase the effectiveness of a jet ski fishing outing as well as protect and ensure the safety of those who are fishing:
Cooler. Most fishers will want to have easy access to at least one cooler onboard their vessel throughout any fishing outing. Coolers can keep human drinks and refreshments cool and fresh. They can also be used to store any fish caught during the outing. As such, coolers are one of the most popular and essential accessories for jet ski fishing.
A fish-finder and/or GPS. Many experienced or more serious fishers will want to invest in the newest location technology in order to enhance their fishing outings. GPS can be used to not only locate potential catches, but also as a key part of safety onboard, as they locate the position of your vessel and can help you to navigate through the waters. Similarly, traditional maps or compasses can offer critically important navigation support onboard a jet ski or other PWC.
Jet ski canopy/umbrella. While many people who fish greatly enjoy being out in the sunshine, sun exposure can pose serious, significant health threats, especially over extended periods of time. Jet ski canopies and other umbrella-like attachments are a popular way to mitigate the potential damage from sun exposure, as well as from rain and other types of sudden, inclement weather.
Fishing rod holders and other general fishing gear. As is the case with traditional boat fishing and fishing of any kind, you and other members of your fishing outing may greatly prefer to have fishing rod holders onboard the jet ski. These holders can give your body a break during a fishing trip, and they can also free you up to maneuver your vessel, apply sunscreen, adjust your canopy and other actions that require the use of both hands. Other basic fishing gear — including bait, hooks, fishing lines, rods and reels — as well as scissors and/or knives, gloves and pliers are commonly used by fishers of all skill levels and experience.
Extra fuel. Depending on the type of fishing rig that you have and the size of your jet ski or PWC, you may have the storage room to take additional fuel onboard. When possible, this is often a wise decision to make, especially if you plan on an all-day outing and/or if you like to move to different locations during a single fishing trip. As is true with any kind of outdoor activity, unexpected weather events and interactions with wildlife can potentially have great impacts on plans and routes. As such, extra fuel can be critical to safety onboard, as it can ensure your ability to travel unexpected distances when needed.
These fishing accessories are simply some of the most useful and most popular. This list is not meant to be a comprehensive explanation of all possible accessories and types of equipment. The exact needs of each jet ski and PWC — and of each person who fishes — will vary based on the specific situation. For safety, no fishing excursion should ever take place without sunscreen, water, reliable communication devices and navigation tools.
The Pros and Cons of Jet Ski Fishing
There are numerous factors to keep in mind when considering a new hobby or sport such as jet ski fishing. Some of these factors may be considered advantages, and others, disadvantages. If you are interested in taking up jet ski fishing, the following pros and cons can offer some insight into the actualities of this trendy new activity.
Pros of jet ski fishing. Some of the most common advantages, or pros, of jet ski fishing include, but are not limited to, relative affordability, ease of storage, efficiency, speed, ease of operation, proximity to water and versatility.
Relative affordability. No one would argue that jet ski fishing is an inexpensive activity, especially in comparison to more traditional fishing methods such as fishing from the shoreline or from a public dock. However, when comparing a jet ski or other PWC to a full-size boat, jet skis are considerably less expensive. Not only can the purchase price of a jet ski be much less than that of a boat, but maintenance, fuel and storage costs will likely be lower as well.
Ease of storage. Depending on where you live, there may be certain rules and regulations against parking a full-size boat on the street or in your driveway or property. Most boats will be too large to fit inside a garage, meaning that in many cases, boat owners will be required to store their vessels at expensive marinas or other boat landings. Jet skis, in contrast, are much smaller and thus easier to store in a garage, shed or other type of carport, eliminating additional storage costs.
Efficiency. In nearly all cases, jet skis and other PWC rate much higher in energy efficiency than full-size boats. This means that jet ski owners can expect to spend much less on fuel than they would for a full-size boat. In addition, because jet skis and PWC tend to be much smaller and less complex, mechanically, than boats, owners will likely spend less time launching, cleaning and maintaining their jet skis than they would a boat.
Ease of operation. Similar to efficiency benefits, the ease of operation of a jet ski can make it a highly attractive alternative to a boat or other large vessel. If you feel comfortable driving a car, then you can feel comfortable driving a jet ski. Proximity to water. Many people who enjoy fishing find jet ski fishing especially fun and dynamic given the proximity to water that these types of vessels allow. Some fishers even report better catches and better overall results from jet ski fishing as a result of this proximity.
Versatility. Thanks to the many different types of fishing rigs and fishing accessories, as well as the various jet ski designs themselves, the possibilities for a jet ski fishing vessel are numerous. This allows the owner a great deal of flexibility and versatility, in which they can adapt their PWC to suit their specific wants and needs.
Cons of jet ski fishing. Some of the most common disadvantages, or cons, of jet ski fishing include, but are not limited to, passenger capacity, storage capacity, comfort, protection from the elements and safety.
Lack of passenger capacity. As you can likely imagine, jet skis are typically designed to hold between one and four people. Many boats, especially large pontoon vessels, can easily accommodate eight or more people. As such, jet ski fishing is not the best option for fishers who enjoy laidback fishing trips with large groups of friends. Rather, jet ski fishing tends to be better suited toward serious hobbyists and sportspeople who are interested in getting the best possible catch.
Lack of storage capacity. Similarly to the constrictions on passenger capacity, the small size of a jet skis and other PWCs means less storage space than a full-size boat can accommodate. Though additional riggings and add-ons can be used to modify and expand the storage capacity of a jet ski, it is highly unlikely that these small vessels will ever be able to offer the same level of storage as a boat.
Lack of comfort. Keep in mind that jet skis and other PWCs are small vessels that were not initially designed to be used for fishing, or indeed for anything other than riding. Jet skis rarely have full seats with backrests or other comforts (such as adjustable chairs and footrests) that you commonly find on many types of boats. While comfort may not be the top priority for many people who enjoy jet ski fishing, it is a consideration to be aware of and may impact your physical enjoyment of the activity in the long run.
Lack of protection from the elements. While jet ski accessories such as canopies and umbrellas do exist, these additions cannot offer the same level of protection from the elements that many boat designs can offer. Many styles of boats have full interior sections, making rain or excessive sunshine relatively easy to escape from. However, on a jet ski, even with a canopy, you will never be fully protected from the elements, including inclement weather.
Safety concerns. With proper training, preparation and experience, there is no reason that fishing from a jet ski should be inherently unsafe. However, statistics indicate that traveling on the water via jet ski or PWC carries more risk than traveling on a boat. Up-to-date licensure and ongoing water safety education can help jet ski owners to mitigate the potential safety concerns that these types of vessels may pose.
Three Crucial Factors to Consider When Buying a Jet Ski for Fishing
If you’re ready to invest in a jet ski or PWC of your own, there are many different factors to consider. The three most crucial can often be budget, weight limit and performance.
Budget. Your budget will likely be the single biggest determining factor when selecting a jet ski to purchase. Your financial investment in the vessel should take into account not only the initial purchase price, but also estimates for maintenance and fuel costs, as well as the cost of storage and the cost of fishing accessories.
Weight limit. Because jet skis used for fishing will require rigs and other additional equipment, you should carefully consider the weight limit of each model that you are interested in. The weight limit will dictate what type of fishing accessories, and how many, you will be able to use with your new jet ski.
Performance. The performance of a jet ski can be evaluated by several different factors including, but not necessarily limited to fuel efficiency, ease of maneuverability, power, speed, reliability and durability. The exact performance needs from each jet ski or PWC will vary depending on the wants and needs of the owner.
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