Family-Friendly Fishing Boats

By Rich Armstrong

These seven new multipurpose powerboats offer fun and comfort for the whole family.

2014 270 Dauntless

There was a time when boats were just boats. If you weren't a sailor, you were a powerboater, and if so, you were happy to have one — any one, any size — so you could buzz around the bay, cast a line, waterski, or do whatever you loved to do on the water.

Times change, and powerboats evolved into specialized niche designs — specifically for lake or saltwater fishing, extended cruising, watersports, and more. When times were good, the lucky ones could afford multiple boats — maybe one to go fishing with the guys on Saturday, another to tool around the lake or take a river cruise, then go for a swim with the family on Sunday.

Boat designers and builders have been trying to cram multipurpose utility into boats for years, but they've only recently refined them into truly multipurpose designs. One such trend, for lack of a better term, is the "family fish boat" — a well-equipped fishing boat that has the creature comforts of a cruising day boat.

Sure, the integrated rod holders are there, but the freeboard is at the right height for leaning into with a rod, and those padded coaming bolsters at the transom fold down into a comfortable bench seat. In fact, there is a lot of seating all around, whether it's a center-console or the re-emerging dual-console design — along with a head and swim platform with freshwater wash down.

"We designed the boat from scratch, rather than retrofit one of our fishing boats," says Howard Libin, business development director for Sailfish, of the new Sailfish 236CC. "We call it 'intelligent ergonomics,' with wide passage around the center-console and a stand-up head. From the snap-on cushions to the retractable ski pole to the deep freeboard that's good for leaning but also keeps kids inside the boat — nothing was an afterthought. It was a thought from the start."

Sailfish blazed the trail of a "dual-purpose offshore boat" in 2004, but a stroll through any boat show will reveal that others are onto the idea, and people seem to like them. "They want a versatile boat," adds Libin of his customers. "It's a societal change."

Ranger Boats, nearly 50 years old and the largest maker of bass boats in the country, has cast its line into the family fish-boat market with its new 2350 Bay Ranger. "It's everything a one-boat family needs," explains Ranger's saltwater manager, Larry Jett. "Dad meets his buddy at the ramp at 5 a.m. By noon, Mom and the kids will replace Dad's friends and head to the sandbar. It's missing nothing for both applications and appeals to that one-boat family that still wants the classic lines of a Carolina-style bay boat."

Scout Boats recently added the 215 XSF to its sportfishing line, which offers forward seating in the bow as well as a forward sun lounge/coffin box with a cushion. Other standards include port and starboard swim platforms with an integrated ladder.

"This boat appeals to the family that wants it all: fishing capabilities with ultimate comfort, the ability to picnic and entertain with plenty of room for seating, high sides with bolsters and grab rails for the kids, and a deep-V hull that slices through the water," says Alan Lang, director of sales and marketing.

Whether you're an angler who also likes to cruise or a cruiser who also enjoys casting a line, these new boats may offer the best of both worlds.

Grady-White Fisherman 23

Grady-White Fisherman 23Length: 23'7" | Beam: 8'6" | Weight: 3,900 lbs. (without engine) | Max Persons: 10 | Max HP: 300 | Fuel: 115 gal | MSRP: $96,975 (with F250 Yamaha)

Grady-White's Fisherman 236 is built to the same Grady offshore standards with a composite stringer system and transom, foam flotation, and self-draining cockpit. Toerails, twin 89-quart bow fishboxes (port and starboard), a 160-quart fishbox in the transom, a 62-quart insulated and lighted aft livewell with an 800 gph pump, and eight rod holders and six rod racks make this a true midsize center-console fishing boat. Cushioned bow seating with optional foldaway forward-facing backrests, cushioned forward console seating with backrest, a foldaway transom bench seat, and swim platforms port and starboard with integrated ladder and transom door make for a comfortable daycruiser. A stand-up console head and cushioned lean bar with backrest for the skipper add to the overall comfort. gradywhite.com

Scout 215 XSF

Scout 215 XSFLength: 21'6" | Beam: 8'6" | Weight: 2,776 lbs. | Max Persons: 9 | Max HP: 250 (single) | Fuel: 82 gal. | MSRP: $58,467 (with Yamaha F150XB)

The first thing that stands out with Scout Boats' new 215 XSF center-console is the wraparound bow seating that, with the addition of optional back-rest inserts, makes for a comfortable forward area. A plush forward sun lounge/coffin box cushion with arm rests doubles the forward seating. Other standard features include port and starboard swim platforms with a starboard ladder; a powder-coated aluminum leaning post with backrest and a 72-quart Igloo cooler; a Fusion Bluetooth stereo; a raw-water wash-down livewell; stainless-steel bow rails, and an aerated baitwell with high-speed pick-up. The boat runs on Scout's patented fuel-saving flared-bow NuV3 hull design. Aluminum T-top, folding transom seat, and portable toilet are options. scoutboats.com

2350 Bay Ranger

2350 Bay RangerLength: 23'5" | Beam: 8'6" | Weight: 3,000 lbs. | Max Persons: 10 | Max HP: 300 | Fuel: 81 gal | MSRP: $66,495 (with VF250XA Yamaha)

Ranger Boats, well known for its center-console and bass-fishing boats, steps into the "family boat" niche with its 2350 Bay Ranger, a bay boat center-console with custom-fitted marine upholstery all around. Seating for eight includes port and starboard lounge seats with cushioned forward-facing backrest, cushioned integrated forward-console seating with a backrest, a cushioned contoured transom bench and twin-seat leaning post with backrest and foldaway armrests. A large skid-resistant bow casting deck (with storage beneath) stays true to Ranger's fishing lineage, along with a 120-quart cooler/casting deck step, a recirculating aerated 30-gallon livewell/baitwell/leaning post combination, a custom fish box, power-ventilated storage, 10 rod holders, and a self-bailing cockpit. The 2350 also includes a swim platform with integrated ladder and step-in console head. rangerboats.com

270 Dauntless

Boston Whaler 270 DauntlessLength: 27'4" | Beam: 9' | Weight: 4,800 lbs. (without engine) | Max Persons: 12 | Max HP: 450 | Fuel: 150 gal. | MSRP: $108,690 (with single 300-hp Verado)

Boston Whaler is one of the most famous brands among boatbuilders, and today the 59-year-old company builds a wide variety of high-end powerboats from 11 to 42 feet — all geared toward either fishing or cruising. They hit on a sweet spot with the versatile 270 Dauntless, a center-console built for offshore fishing or family lounging. Wraparound bow seating with forward-facing flip-up backrests port and starboard along with a forward console seat create a comfortable setting for dining or chatting for at least five. The cockpit includes a leaning post with rod holders, a cooler, and optional livewell or three-drawer storage, plus optional integrated hardtop. An aft bench seat adds to the comfort. A key option is a swim platform that folds down to provide easy access from the port side. bostonwhaler.com

24 Resorter

24 ResorterLength: 23'9" | Beam: 8'6" | Weight: 4,800 lbs. (without engine) | Max Persons: 8 | Max HP: 400 | Fuel: 162 gal. | MSRP: $99,889 (with Yamaha F300 outboard)

In the era of wooden recreational boats, Century Boats is well known for its Resorter line of comfortable runabouts. The boatbuilder is reviving the name with a modern, versatile dual-console boat that can handle offshore fishing trips, day cruising excursions, and full-throttle watersports. The dual-console design allows for a large bow seating area with foldable armrests for lounging, an optional removable table, beach-boarding ladder, and a step-in console head. A standard Raymarine eSeries HybridTouch multifunctional display that connects boat functions through digital switching anchors the helm. A pedestal captain's seat spins 180 degrees for rear views. The pedestal port seat also spins and folds out to a lounge seat. Fold-up bench seating is located aft by the aerated baitwell. Rod boxes and holders, a tackle box, and raw-water wash down add to the boat's fishability. Options include a fiberglass hard top with rod holders and a ski tow pole. centuryboats.com

Pursuit DC 265

Pursuit DC 265Length: 25'10" | Beam: 8'9" | Weight: 5,650 lbs. | Max Persons: 8 | Max HP: 400 | Fuel: 139 gal | MSRP: $143,410 (with Yamaha F350)

Pursuit Boats has made a name for itself building both fishing and cruising boats. The company designed its 26-foot dual-console from the ground up to serve both purposes — a marine SUV of sorts. Two lounge seats with padded backrests and a full bolster forward are to port and starboard, and a nonskid step-up and windshield with walk-through center panel provides access to the forward bow. Seating in the cockpit is plentiful with two folding aft seats — a stern seat bench with self-raising backrest bolster that faces forward, and a port-side fold-out seat with padded gunwale backrest. Fishing is done in the spacious open cockpit, which features integrated rod holders and padded coaming bolsters. A starboard transom door includes a telescoping swim ladder and transom grab rails. pursuitboats.com

Sailfish 236CC

Sailfish 236CCLength: 23'6" | Beam: 8'6" | Weight: 4,250 lbs. | Max Persons: 12 | Max HP: 300 (single) | Fuel: 110 gal | MSRP: $90,000 (with 200-hp engine)

The new Sailfish 236CC is a well-appointed, trailerable center-console designed for both inshore and offshore running on the builder's patented variable degree stepped hull (VDS) for efficiency and stability. An expansive hardtop frame integrated into the console leaves more open deck space. An oversize cushioned leaning post folds open for built-in storage or a second livewell, along with two 120-quart bow fishboxes, a 30-gallon built-in transom baitwell, a built-in 27-quart forward-facing console-seat cooler, and large in-floor bow storage. Wraparound bow seating, fold-up aft seating, a deep step-down head, a telescoping ski pole, and a swim platform with integrated ladder add to the family-friendly features. The ergonomic console with fold-up footrest was designed to accommodate today's larger electronics. The Sailfish 236CC is powered by a single 200- to 300-hp Yamaha or Mercury. sailfishboats.com 

— Published: June/July 2017


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