Beginners guide to choosing a trailer boat

Beginners guide to choosing a trailer boat

Bait stations

It is a rare fishing boat that doesn’t have a bait station or at least a bait board. These are usually offered as options on new boats and can range from a simple cutting board at a minimum right up to some quite large and complex structures with other uses, such as a work top for rigging tackle and trolling or pitch-baits, and tackle storage.

The trick is to decide what you really need. If you want to fillet large fish (such as hapuku or kingfish) at sea, you will need a decent-sized board, and these are often fitted out with extra rod holders, knife gutters/slots, overboard drainage, tackle storage drawers and other features. But if you only want to cut up a few hook baits, a smaller, simple unit may suffice.

Bait stations can work as a central island in the cockpit of a larger trailer boat (although getting overboard drainage can be more complicated), where the whole crew can easily access it. The other common position for a bait station is on the transom, but here you need to consider the ‘work flow’ aspects of these units.

By this I mean access to the stern for fishing and being able to easily cross the stern when playing an active fish without being held up by a tall bait station, or one with its holders full of rods, blocking angler movement. Keeping bait station size to a minimum and reasonably low to the transom will help mitigate any problems, but if a lot of filleting is planned, then a decent-sized board at a comfortable working height may be more important than ease of movement.

You can have your cake and eat it too with a unit that can be removed from its mounts. The board at least should be removable for cleaning.


Bait tanks

Live bait tanks are another common option offered in trailer boats. Built-in models are often fitted in the transom wall, frequently as part of the transom step-through. These are usually made to accommodate jack mackerel-sized bait fish.

They often feature a ‘window’ so the health of the baitfish can be checked at a glance. This also helps the baitfish orientate themselves.

A good live bait tank has rounded corners to stop baitfish from piling up and injuring themselves and the plumbing is designed to circulate the water properly (i.e. the inlet and outlet are not close together).

The tank water needs to be regularly refreshed to prevent the temperature from building up, keep the oxygen levels high, and to remove any bodily waste products from the fish.

Other styles of tanks, such as those incorporated into the engine wells of Fish City boats, have an open circulation system to the sea that refreshes the water. The only thing to remember is to put the bung back in before travelling anywhere on the plane or all the water will drain out and the baitfish will die.

Aftermarket live bait tanks are another option, such as those made by Hamilton company Hi Tech Plastics, and they have the advantage of being removable when not required. Often these units are strapped onto the boarding platform, removing the necessity for plumbing overboard drainage. A suitable power outlet for the water pump is all that is required.

Down the tubes

Another type of live bait tank is the ‘tuna tube’. These were developed by game fishers to keep alive larger baitfish with high oxygen demands. Skipjack tuna, for example, are brilliant marlin baits but you can’t always catch one when you need it and they won’t stay alive in a conventional live bait tank Tuna tubes are the answer.

They are vertical tubes which hold the tuna reasonably snugly and use pumps to push a large volume of water straight into the fish’s mouth. To keep skipjack healthy requires a pump capacity of about 1000gph per fish or more. Larger boats with multiple tubes sometimes use spa-pool pumps for the job.

Some boats have the tubes built into the gunwales or transom wall; or else mounted outside the transom wall. Again, Hi Tech Plastics make aftermarket models which can be retro-fitted, usually on the boarding platform.

Berley pots

A common fishing fitting of yesteryear is the berley pot. Hung over the side of a boat or fitted through the boarding platform, these are used to distribute a berley trail from the surface, usually by chopping up fish scraps with some sort of ‘muncher’. With the advent of frozen, pre-minced berley bombs and bottom delivery systems such as the ‘wobble pot’ the boat-mounted berley pot is pretty-much obsolete these days, unless perhaps, you want to run a surface berley trail for sharks.

Davits and their dangers

Davits are swing-out arms fitted with a pulley. Used in conjunction with an electric winch, they are a labour-saving device for lifting cray pots or hauling deep dropper lines. Davits have the added advantage of keeping the pot or line away from the side of the boat, avoiding hull damage.

If you do a lot of these sorts of activities you may be interested in a davit arm, but remember that they can apply a lot of leverage to a boat. This, when added to a cray pot jammed in the bottom and the irresistible pressure of a big swell lifting the hull, has been enough to flip trailer boats in the past, resulting in several deaths.

Gunwale-mounted rollers have less leverage and are less intrusive, space-wise, but hull damage is more likely. Davits are probably best left to the highlystable pontoon or catamaran hulls, and users should always be prepared to slip line if necessary.

Catch stowage options

As public appreciation of kaimoana has increased over the years, so has the wide-spread adoption of proper care of the catch to ensure good quality on the table. No more wet sacks or ‘chuck ‘em in the bilge’.

Although some boats have built-in insulated (and even refrigerated) catch storage, the majority use insulated aftermarket ice bins. These are available in a wide range of sizes and shapes and if you look hard enough there will be something available to suit every boat.

Some manufacturers make spaces under the transom or inside seating units specially to house certain-sized bins, saving cockpit space. Personally, I have used Icey-Tek bins in my boats for some years and found them excellent, but there are a wide range of other brands on the market.


Keep it clean

Finally, keeping it clean is not just for those with sensitive noses. Fish slime and blood on the deck can lead to people falling over and injuring themselves. Keeping your hands clean means your rod is less likely to slip from your hands and the rod grips don’t end up stinking or being chewed up by dogs or rats. In fact, a quick squirt of water when the mess is fresh will greatly reduce the wash down effort when you get home and help to keep the boat in good shape and odour-free.

A simple bucket of fresh sea water and an old towel will do the job on your hands (avoiding spreading slime or blood to your rod or clothes) after you have been handling fish, but some more elaborate craft have built in sinks, and I have seen some with knee-switch activated handwashers that squirt a water jet over the side.

Finally, there is the washdown hose. Some nice units are available these days, but to have sufficient water-pressure to do the job properly, be sure to get a unit with a pressurised pump!

   This article is reproduced with permission of   
New Zealand Fishing News

September 2018 - Sam Mossman
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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