Fishing from shore on a rod and reel, or shore diving with a speargun will always be a limiting factor in what you can catch. Getting out in a fishing boat can be a serious game-changer.
Having the right items in your fishing boat will make your excursion more comfortable, make your boat safer, help you get more fish, and keep you and your boat in compliance with local laws and regulations.
At least half of these 19 best fishing boat accessories should be on every boat no matter what, and if you’re going out on the ocean or any large lakes, you’ll want to have nearly all of them.
Note that legal requirements for boats vary greatly depending on where you are, what you’re doing, and what type of boat you’re on. This guide is not intended to cover what you must have on your boat to comply with local laws. Always check with your local authorities to find out what you need to stay compliant.
1. Personal Flotation Devices
Pretty much the most important item to take out on your boat is a life jacket or other PFD. In many places this is more than just a good idea, it’s the law and you can be fined pretty steeply if you ignore it. It’s often a requirement (and a good idea) to also have a throwable PFD such as a ring buoy.
2. First Aid Kit
Safety first, and on this list, safety second as well. Whatever size fishing boat you have, you should carry at least some first aid items. This should include all the basics like disinfectant wipes, burn cream, wound care, bandages and dressings in various sizes, scissors, tweezers, and medical tape.
Make sure to also stock your kit with medicines, including pain and fever relief like Ibuprofen, seasickness medication, and oral and cream antihistamines for any allergic reactions. If you’re in semi-tropical or tropical seas, keep a bottle of vinegar to treat jellyfish stings and wounds from fish spines and sea urchins.
- For a basic water-resistant kit on a budget, you can pick up this one on Amazon.
- For a fully waterproof first aid kit, I highly recommend the company Surviveware. You can pick up their boating kit here on Amazon.
Spearfishing exposes you to a lot of additional risks including shark and fish bites and cuts from rocks and coral. Serious spearos should consider bringing needle and thread for suturing wounds, and a tourniquet. Only use a tourniquet if you have training.
3. Fishing Boat Tool Kit
A toolkit is really important to have on your fishing boat both for fixing the boat itself and repairing your fishing gear. Obviously the size and complexity of your boat with dictate how much you can carry and what you’ll need.
At a bare minimum, I highly recommend carrying a good multitool. I use a Leatherman Wave and take it pretty much everywhere I go, on land and at sea. You can find the Wave here on Amazon, and here from REI. For a budget option, I’d recommend the Gerber Suspension NXT (Here on Amazon or Here from REI.
A few other basics I’d keep on any size fishing boat would be an adjustable wrench (spanner) and any driver bits you need for your engine, plus cable ties, electrical tape, and super glue. You’ll also want a toolbox or some other type of case to keep everything organized and dry.
You can find pre-made kits, but you’re probably better off building your own so you can choose high-quality tools, and have exactly what you need and nothing else.
No matter where you’re boating, you probably need to carry at least some type of licensing or documentation for the boat or to be allowed to fish. If your boat doesn’t have dedicated dry storage for these documents, you should pick up a case that will work.
I use the MTM Survivor Dry Box. It comes in two sizes and you can pick it up for very cheap on Amazon. I highly recommend choosing safety orange for the color.
A cooler is pretty much a must-have for any fishing boat no matter the size. A good Esky, as our friends down-under call it, lets you keep your lunch and your drinks cold, prevents your bait from stinking up the boat, keeps your fish fresh, and rewards you with some ice-cold beers to celebrate your catch (or commiserate your lack thereof).
If you only use your boat for single-day trips, any cheap cooler will do, but avoid the pure styrofoam ones as they fall apart quickly and create nasty litter.
A standard Coleman cooler is affordable and durable, and will work just fine. You can find the classic 48-quart size here on Amazon.
If you go out on multi-day trips, it can be worth getting a higher quality cooler so your stuff doesn’t end up swimming in a watery slurry by day two.
You should get as much cooler space as your boat can fit, and you can afford.
The Coleman Xtreme series offers the best bang for your buck in coolers, and they’re surprisingly affordable for their strong performance. The 120 Quart Xtreme 5 Marine Cooler is a great choice for boats (if you ignore the stupid name). Check it out here on Amazon.
The gold standard for high-quality coolers is the company Yeti, but boy are they expensive. If you have the budget and want to splurge, grab a Yeti Tundra 110 from Amazon and enjoy knowing you have the best of the best.
If you want that Yeti quality at a much cheaper price, check out the RTIC Ice Chest in a 65, 110, or 145-quart size. You can find the 65-quart model here on Amazon.
No matter the size of your fishing boat, you need an anchor. An anchor can keep your boat sheltered in a cove if stormy weather hits, and it can keep you in place when you find the fish but the current is strong.
Having an anchor also takes care of another must-have for boats, which is a good length of rope.
Obviously you need to get the right size anchor for the size of your boat. You also need an anchor line (aka rode) that’s at least three times as long as the water you’ll use it in is deep. Make sure you get a lead chain to attach the rope line to the anchor.
It’s usually easiest to buy a kit that includes the anchor, lead chain, and anchor line. Here’s an 8.5 lb fluke style anchor on Amazon that includes all three and will work well for most smaller boats.
If you’re going out more than a few miles from shore in the ocean or any large lakes, you should carry a VHF radio on your boat. This could save your life.
For larger boats, get a fixed mount radio that will live on your boat. Here’s a good option from Amazon. For smaller boats, carry a handheld radio and make sure to get one that floats. Here’s a popular handheld VHF on Amazon.
For full VHF American radio protocol, check out this document from the US Coast Guard.
GPS & Fishfinder
Few things can up your fishing or spearfishing game like adding a GPS and fishfinder combo to your fishing boat. knowing your depth, accessing charts to find better spots, and being able to see bottom structure, fish, and schools of baitfish under your boat are game-changers.
Being able to mark your honey holes to come back and fish another day is an incredibly powerful thing too. After a few dozen trips out in your fishing boat, you will have a nice selection of favorite spots marked out.
A GPS also makes boating much safer. You can use charts to avoid treacherous areas, and if you’re ever in any danger you can call for help and give your exact coordinates. That peace of mind alone makes this worth it.
You can easily spend well north of $1,000 on a GPS and fish finder combo for your fishing boat, but there are plenty of options available at lower budgets. For my small rib, I use the compact Garmin Striker 4 (see it here on Amazon). If you want a bigger screen but want to stay on a small budget, check out the Hummingbird Helix 5 (see it on Amazon).
It’s almost always a good idea to bring along a fire extinguisher or other firefighting device on your fishing boat, and it’s often a legal requirement. This is highly dependent on where you are and what type of boat you have, so check the regulations thoroughly. Even if it’s not required though, it’s a pretty good idea.
Like firefighting gear, this is something that’s important to have and is often a legal requirement. There are a number of options including lights, smoke signals, and flare guns, as well as things like air horns and whistles. Note that flares have an expiration date and need to be replaced somewhat regularly. You should also look into getting a radar reflector if you’re in an area with heavy ship traffic. This may also be a legal requirement.
At a bare minimum you should have a whistle on the boat, and if you’re spearfishing, keep another one on your buoy or on yourself.
Flashlight & Headlamp
You should always keep a light on the boat, as well as spare batteries. Even if you never plan to stay out after dark, you never know what could happen and when you’ll need a light.
If you have a larger craft, you should carry a big, powerful light as well as a headlamp for reading charts, rigging fishing gear, making repairs, etc.
I recommend getting a pistol-grip style spotlight that is waterproof, will float, comes in a bright color, and has at least 550 lumens, and 1000 or more if you really want to see a long way. The Streamlight Waypoint on Amazon is a good quality option that won’t break the bank, and can be bought battery-powered or rechargeable.
On a smaller boat, a headlamp alone should be enough. I personally use a Black Diamond Storm 400 whether on the water or on land and I love that headlamp. You can definitely find bigger and brighter options if you spend more though. You can pick up the Storm 400 here from REI, or over here from Amazon.
If your boat is small enough to paddle, you should carry oars or paddles. These should come with the boat, but if it doesn’t’ have them you can find a cheap set anywhere. If you really want them to stay out of the way until you need them in an emergency, pick up a pair of these telescoping ones from Amazon. One costs less than the beer on an average fishing trip.
For when technology fails, a manual, handheld compass could save your life. Keep one on your boat if you go out to sea or in larger lakes. This may also be a legal requirement in some areas.
Actually, before you worry about extra fuel, start with enough fuel. Running out of gas is the number one reason boats have to be towed in, so best to always check to save yourself that embarrassment.
Once you have enough fuel, think about getting an extra container to carry spare fuel. It lets you take longer trips which usually means getting bigger and better fish.
If your boat doesn’t have a cabin or other dry storage area, you should pick up a couple of dry bags to keep things like camping gear, phones and cameras, and extra clothes from getting wet. I travel a lot and love super thin dry bags, but on a fishing boat, I find they end up getting thrown around and poked too much.
I recommend going for a standard vinyl roll-top dry bag. You can get good-quality ones for very cheap these days. I recommend grabbing a few in bright colors from Marchway on Amazon. They’re available in 5, 10, 20, 30, and 40-liter sizes.
I believe you should pretty much always have a knife or at least some sort of cutting tool. If you’re a spearfisherman, you’ll already have one, and most anglers will as well. It could be on your multitool, or it could be your filet knife, but you need to have something. Also, if your boat is inflatable your knife needs to fold or have a sheath.
A bucket costs a few bucks, and there are so many reasons to keep one on your fishing boat. Unless there is no space on your fishing boat, you should have one.
A note to spearfishermen: If you’re in water with sharks around, bleed out your catch into a bucket of water on the boat and only pour it overboard once all divers are back in the boat.
Ruler & Measurement Gauges
It’s up to you to know the local fish and game laws for your area, and these often require you to have a ruler or tape measure for measuring fish lengths, as well as standard gauges for sizing things like crabs and shellfish. If you need any of these, keep them on the fishing boat.
A power bank or external battery is great to have to recharge things like phones and GoPros. If you’re relying on your phone for GPS as well, then it becomes a must-have.
I personally swear by this power bank on Amazon because it has the three standard charging cables built in so you can leave your other cables at home. Depending on your fishing boat size though, you may want to look for something more splash-proof.
Extra Water & Snacks
Last but not least, always bring extra food and water out with you. In an emergency, it could save your life, but more likely it will just let you stay out longer on those days when the fishing is too good to go home.