Types of Fishing Boats – Recreational and Commercial

The earliest known fishing boats were dugout canoes from the Neolithic Period, around 8,000 years ago. We have come quite a long way since then. In today’s world, there are many different types of fishing boats.

Fishing boats can be classified according to their purpose or function. There are three main categories of fishing boats: recreational, commercial, and artisanal.

Recreational fishing boats are used by individuals for small-scale fishing, as well as fun and leisure. Commercial fishing boats are used by businesses for large-scale fishing.

Artisanal fishing boats are low-tech, small-scale boats of various designs used mostly by coastal and island ethnic groups around the world. In this article, I’ll focus primarily on recreational and commercial fishing boats.

The 13 types of recreational fishing boats are as follows:

  1. Bass Boats
  2. Catamarans
  3. Pontoon Boats
  4. Flybridge Sportfishing Boats
  5. Flat Boats or Skiffs
  6. Convertible Boats
  7. Center Console Boats
  8. Cuddy Cabin Boats
  9. Bay Boats
  10. Kayaks
  11. Inflatable Boats
  12. Pilothouse Boats
  13. Air Boats

The 8 types of commercial fishing boats or vessels are as follows:

  1. Factory Ships
  2. Trawlers
  3. Tuna Clippers
  4. Seiners
  5. Drifters
  6. Longliners
  7. Crabbers
  8. Gillnetters

Read on to learn more about the many types of fishing boats, including recreational and commercial fishing boats.

Types of Fishing Boats – 3 Main Categories

One reason for the manufacturing of different fishing boats is people’s love for angling. In 2014, approximately 87.3 million adults in the United States participated in some form of recreational boating. So, what are the different types of fishing boats?

1. Recreational Fishing Boats

A majority of the boats used for fishing are recreational boats. They’re not exclusively used for fishing, as they’re also built for fun and leisure. The size of these boats ranges in size and can accommodate one or several anglers.

2. Commercial Fishing Vessels

The other two types of boats are somewhat similar because they are used for catching large quantities (and sizes) of fish to be sold to consumers. Commercial fishing vessels are used to catch large quantities of fish that will either be brought directly to the market or processed to be sold later.

Most of these boats are owned and operated by large companies and corporations. Some of these vessels catch fish for the local market, while others export their catch to other countries. Some of them are classified as deep-sea fishing vessels.

3. Artisanal Fishing Boats

Artisanal fishing boats are also commercial fishing vessels, but only smaller. They are called subsistence fishing boats as well. Their catches are intended mainly for the local market. Single individuals own most of these vessels. But they present considerable competition to the typical commercial fishing boats because they encroach on their fishing grounds and compete on the local market.

13 Types of Recreational Fishing Boats

In 2018, the total number of recreational boats registered in the United States was approximately 11.85 million. That is a lot of boats! If you are planning on buying a recreational fishing boat, this list can help you choose the best boat for you.

Here are the 13 most common types of recreational fishing boats, along with their basic features and characteristics.

1. Bass Boats

Bass boats are the very common type of fishing boats that anglers use in inland waters. These boats have lower freeboards, usually V-hulled, and with open bows. Most of them are propelled by an outboard motor with high-tech navigation and comfortable seats.

Such features and amenities make bass boats pretty expensive compared to boats of similar size. Their typical lengths range from 16 to 22 feet and can carry at least two people with a maximum of four passengers. Bass boats can only be safely used inshore, such as in lakes and rivers.

2. Catamarans

Two hulls characterize these types of boats. They are more stable, so they are suitable for offshore fishing. In fact, most anglers use their catamarans for fishing offshore. Even in choppy weather conditions, these boats can hold the fort reasonably. They are also more fuel-efficient compared to other fishing boats of the same size.

Catamarans usually have lengths ranging from 25 to 60 feet. They can comfortably accommodate 6 to 50 people and can be safely used offshore and nearshore fishing.

3. Pontoon Boats

These boats were not originally designed for fishing. A typical pontoon boat offers plenty of space and is very stable on the water, so people eventually became aware of its value as a fishing boat. Pontoon boats usually have big decks and high rails on both sides. Most of them are also equipped with expandable biminis.

Their usual lengths start from 25 feet and up and can accommodate more than six people. These boats are safe for inland and nearshore fishing.

4. Flybridge Sportfishing Boats

When people think about fishing boats out in the open sea, they usually have these flybridge sportfishing boats in mind. That’s precisely how this type of fishing vessel is designed. It is one of the best fishing boats that you can use if you are on an extended fishing trip.

These sea vessels are propelled by the most powerful marine engines ever made. It can quickly get anglers into fishing spots in minutes. Most of these boats also offer good accommodations.

They are usually more than 30 feet long and can carry more than six passengers. Flybridge boats can get you over 40 miles offshore and stay there safely.

5. Flat Boats or Skiffs

In one sense, flat boats are called this way because they were originally the types of fishing boats used in fishing on the flats of South Carolina. Now, you will see them in the shallow parts of the Florida Keys. Their flat bottoms go underwater for just about a couple of inches, making them essential for skinny water fishing instead of wading.

Most flat boats have lengths ranging from 15 to 19 feet. This type of boat can only carry a maximum of three people, including the captain. It can be safely used in flats and backcountry fishing.

6. Convertible Boats

different types of fishing boats

Some people believe that convertible boats are the top-of-the-line boats when it comes to recreational fishing. They offer spacious accommodations and are propelled by powerful engines. This type of boat would be ideal for extended fishing trips.

Convertible boats can also be customized according to the preferences of the owner. So, you can find convertible boats turned into sportfishing vessels and luxury cruise boats.

Usually, these types of fishing boats are more than 30 feet long. They can carry more than six passengers and can be safely used more than 40 miles offshore.

7. Center Console Boats

If you want a user-friendly and versatile fishing boat, you need a center console boat. The helm on these types of boats is located at the center; hence, its name. The design enhances the boat’s mobility on the water. The passengers can move around without disturbing the man at the helm. The captain has excellent all-around visibility in this boat as well.

Most of these fishing boats also have “heads” or onboard toilets, enhancing the comfort of their passengers. Their lengths can range from 18 to 40 feet. Passenger capacity is from 4 to 6 people and the captain. They can be used safely inshore, offshore, and nearshore.

8. Cuddy Cabin Boats

These types of boats are somewhat similar to center console boats. The only difference is that cuddy cabin boats have enclosed cabins, typically located at the bow or the front of the boat. A cabin on a cuddy boat offers a small kitchen plus a sleeping berth.

An accessible bow in a cuddy cabin is called a walk-around. Cuddy boats are usually 18 to 28 feet long and can accommodate 4 to 6 people, including the captain. They are also safely used offshore.

9. Bay Boats

Bay boats are the most popular water vessels for inshore fishing. The low profile of these boats enables them to navigate shallow waters easily. Moreover, they have higher freeboards, allowing them to withstand choppy waters better than flat boats. It is the reason why they are preferred by anglers when fishing in bays and inland waters.

Bay boats range from 18 to 23 feet long and can carry four passengers and the captain. You can use these boats in nearshore, inshore, bays, and backcountry.

10. Kayaks

Some people also use kayaks for fishing in backwaters, flats, and rivers. Sometimes, a group of kayakers will go on a fishing trip and maneuver their boats through very narrow and shallow waters. But some more adventurous kayakers use their kayaks in offshore game fishing.

The length of a typical kayak ranges from 12 to 14 feet. It can only carry one person. You can use it for fishing in the backcountry, flats, nearshore, inshore, and offshore.

11. Inflatable Boats

Inflatable boats are rough and tumble boats that are typically used to traverse freshwater rapids. Although they’re not particularly designed for fishing, you can use them in somewhat benign fishing activities.

Most inflatables are 15 to 25 feet long and can carry up to six people and the captain. They are safe to use in rivers and inland water.

12. Pilothouse Boats

These boats are like cuddy boats because they are equipped with enclosed cabins in the bow or front. However, they don’t offer the same comfortable amenities. Also, pilothouse boats don’t have living areas. But the cabins in these boats have a decent toilet and reasonable storage spaces.

Pilothouse boats usually measure 20 to 35 feet long and can accommodate up to six people and the captain. These boats are safe for fishing trips nearshore and offshore.

13. Air Boats

Air boats are known in the American South as fighting vessels. They are preferred by those who are looking for big and mean fishing trips. These boats look different and aren’t your normal boats. However, they can get you across wet grasslands and shallow waters safely. Although they are not considered fishing boats, they can certainly be used for this activity.

Most air boats are 12 to 18 feet long and can carry up to four passengers and the captain. You can use them in inshore and backwater fishing.

8 Types of Commercial Fishing Boats

Fishing vessels designed to catch and haul significant volumes of fish are classified as commercial fishing boats. They include:

list of fishing boat types

1. Factory Ships

These vessels are called factory ships because they are just like that – a fish manufacturing facility that processes and preserves fish in the middle of the sea.

However, these big ships are not just for catching fish. They can process and preserve their catch at sea, so their products are ready for delivery to consumers when they make their ports of call.

2. Trawlers

These fishing vessels are called trawlers mainly because they use huge nets to trawl or drag on the water as they move forward. The nets are cast at a depth allowed by maritime law to trap and catch fish. These nets are suspended by special equipment attached to the ship.

Trawlers can catch a wide variety of fish and are used in fishing communities around the world. Most trawlers are only for small-scale fishing. However, there are also large trawlers that can conduct deep-sea fishing.

3. Tuna Clippers

These fishing vessels use an automated system of catching tuna. They are equipped with platforms that have lines and poles. The fishing lines have live baits for catching tuna. And when a tuna is caught, an automatic swinging mechanism brings it into the tanks.

4. Seiners

Seiners are fishing vessels that are used to catch pelagic species of fish. These fish are usually caught near the water surface. To catch such fish, they use seine nets, which have traps that can close the net from below once fish enters the net.

There are also seiners equipped with bow thrusters. These thrusters enable them to maneuver in circles once they get to a shoal. The nets appear to be just a floating device, but once fish are trapped in it, its lower bottom will close, effectively trapping fish inside.

This type of fishing boat is equipped with highly advanced tech gadgets to catch huge volumes of fish.

5. Drifters

These fishing vessels use special drift fishing nets to trap and haul fish. The nets are dropped like long curtains on the water and then dragged; thus, trapping fish. They are used primarily to catch herring fish.

6. Longliners

These fishing vessels are called longliners because of their long fishing lines deployed in series to catch fish. Each of these lines has hundreds and even thousands of lures or baits.

The fishing lines or cords are deployed using the ship’s tail-end automated systems. This setup enables the systematic spooling and storage of fish.

7. Crabbers

These commercial fishing boats are solely used for catching crabs. They are also known as “fish trap” boats since they use specific trapping equipment to catch crabs and other crustaceans. Hauling their catch is made possible by automated windlass equipment.

8. Gillnetters

These fishing vessels use the gill net system to catch fish. They can be aided by technology or manually operated. Big fishing companies use a technology-aided system, while small fishing operations do it manually.

Conclusion – Types of Fishing Boats

So, to recap, fishing boats can be classified according to their purpose or function. There are three types of fishing vessels, namely:

  1. Recreational fishing boats
  2. Commercial fishing vessels
  3. Artisan fishing boats

The 13 types of recreational fishing boats are as follows:

  1. Bass Boats
  2. Catamarans
  3. Pontoon Boats
  4. Flybridge Sportfishing Boats
  5. Flat Boats or Skiffs
  6. Convertible Boats
  7. Center Console Boats
  8. Cuddy Cabin Boats
  9. Bay Boats
  10. Kayaks
  11. Inflatable Boats
  12. Pilothouse Boats
  13. Air Boats

The 8 types of commercial fishing boats or vessels are as follows:

  1. Factory Ships
  2. Trawlers
  3. Tuna Clippers
  4. Seiners
  5. Drifters
  6. Longliners
  7. Crabbers
  8. Gillnetters