Each year Fish Alaska’s Editors seek to test some of the best new plus tried-and-true watercraft and accessories for Alaska fishing. From pulling your anchor more efficiently to more conservation-minded fishing nets, check out these recommended watercraft and accessories for Alaska fishing to make your time on the water…better. Innovation and technology has brought boating to a whole new level.
Fish Fighter Products Kwik-Pull Anchor Retriever
New on the Northwest fishing scene, Fish Fighter products is making a big splash and is fast developing a reputation for building better mousetraps. The Kwik-Pull Anchor Retriever is a prime example. It’s essentially a removable anchor puller. You can attach it to or remove it from your anchor line quickly and easily. The device is made of marine-grade aluminum and is anodized for use in fresh- or saltwater. It is a compact, tough unit that screams quality, simplicity and durability. You can use anchor line from ¼-inch up to ½-inch with the Kwik-Pull.
Onyx Impulse A-24 In-Sight Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket
The Impulse A-24 is a functional, comfortable USCG type III automatic inflatable life jacket. It uses a CO₂ cartridge to automatically inflate when immersed in water. It can also be inflated manually by blowing into the inflation tube, which is housed in the left side panel. It is adjustable to chest sizes as big as 65 inches. It fits well, and like a seatbelt, once you develop the good habit of wearing it you forget it’s even on. We think that every person who is on the water in Alaska should wear a PFD; this one is a good choice.
Promar Aluminum Fish Billy Club
This fish bonker is light, portable and effective. Plus every time you bonk a salmon, it sounds like you hit a home run. We subscribe to the whack, bleed and ice theory when it comes to the fish we intend to harvest and this tool was a good addition to the processing kit.
Fish Fighter Products Floating Anchor Rope Bag
There are many anchor line bags on the market these days. The Fish Fighter bag’s claim to fame is that it floats due to the closed-cell foam insert in the bottom of the bag, so no buoy is needed; it has a unique tie-off cleat that is faster and easier to use than any our tester has tried to date, and it tends to stay upright and open, making it easier to stuff your anchor line into it. It will hold up to 330 feet of ½-inch diameter rope, or 500 feet of ⅜-inch rope. An external D-ring allows you to attach an extra buoy if desired.
ProMar ProFloat Nets
We love that these nets are light, have big hoops, are easy on fish and they float. This is now the go-to net for some of our float-tube enthusiasts.
Danielson Crab Trap Float Kit with Lead Core Rope
This kit contains 50 feet of 5/16-inch lead core rope, a red and white ABS float and premium crab trap harness—basically everything you need to deploy your crab traps except the trap itself. Our tester commented that this kit was easy to rig and worked well—a great buy for the price.
Fish Fighter Products Relentless Series Sinker Tray 4- x 16 inches
Relentless Series Sinker Trays are made of marine-grade ½-inch-thick plastic with stainless-steel bottoms and stainless-steel dividers. They come with 16 dividers with built-in sinker gauges from ½-ounce all the way up to 24 ounces. The tray can use up to five of the dividers and you can use whichever dividers you choose to use. These make it easy to keep your cannonballs sorted, and the gauges in the dividers help determine what size weight you’re looking at—even if the numbers have been worn off of the weight. Our tester uses two of them—one for weights up to eight ounces, and one for weights from 10- to 20 ounces. These things are tough and functional. The Relentless Series Sinker Trays also come in a 6- x 16-inch size.
Clackacraft 18-foot ClackaMax
We love this boat. It’s large, stable, is versatile, has removable modular seating and is sweet to row. It will seat six people and there’s room for three or four anglers (including the rower) to side-drift, back-troll, back-bounce, boon-dog, bobber-dog, etc. The boat measures 18 feet, 3 inches, at the center line with an 85-inch beam and 60-inch bottom, which produces a stable platform. The recent redesign of this model included making it wider and raising the transom, both of which increase performance in rough water. There’s ample rod storage and significant storage under the seats. We chose to add a 9.8 hp 4-stroke outboard to the boat and use it both on rivers and lakes. We’ve been rowing Clacks for about 14 years with four boats and this is our favorite model so far.
Super Fat Cat LCS Float Tube
This tube is very comfortable and offers excellent storage capacity for stillwater anglers. The 13-inch tubes get an angler sitting high-up in the water, which makes it easier to cast a fly rod. The mesh table provides a good spot to rig rods, measure fish and pile line when stripping back Buggers.
Sea Eagle FishSUP 126
We found this stand-up paddleboard to be stable and versatile. It can be paddled while sitting or standing and has a motor-mount that accepts up to a 55-pound-thrust electric trolling motor. It’s quick and easy to set-up, has three removable rear skegs and many D-rings and shock cords to secure gear. It weighs 48 pounds including the motor mount, with a max load capacity of 350 pounds, and measures 12 feet, 6 inches, by 3 feet, 4 inches. When deflated, it rolls up into a compact 45- x 15- x 10 inches, so it can fit in the trunk of many vehicles. We paddled it with the stand-up paddle, as well as with the sit-down kayak paddle and found that the boat tracks well and is stable in small chop.
Mercury ELHPT 9.9 Pro Kicker
This four-stroke kicker motor is designed for trolling and back-trolling applications. It has both electric and manual start, power tilt and trim, and a large, high-thrust, four-bladed prop. The lower unit has been beefed up with a low gear ratio, an oversized anti-cavitation plate and heavy-duty skeg. The power tilt can raise or lower the motor in five seconds, and the kicker-centering straps pull the motor straight when fully raised. Our tester used the exclusive Mercury multifunction tiller that has controls for not only throttle, steering, tilting and stopping the motor, but also shifting by simply twisting the throttle. This throttle/shifter allows for the absolute most control for hover-fishing applications, where shifting in and out of gear to adjust the drift is an all-day, never-ending operation. The Pro Kicker is a reliable, easy-to-use and feature-rich kicker motor.
TEMPRESS Products ProBax Limited Edition Boat Seat
TEMPRESS Products ProBax Limited edition is a fantastic seat for new boat builds or as a replacement seat for an existing boat. TEMPRESS teamed up with leading U.S. spinal surgeons and ergonomics experts to design a seat that has been proven to provide optimal long-term back- and upper-body support. The seat is made with UV- and abrasion-resistant materials to stand up to long-term exposure to the elements. It mounts to any 5 ¼-inch mounting system, swivel or pedestal. This seat has just the right amount of recline and is comfortable for even the longest day of back-trolling on the Kenai. The ProBax series is available in many colors to match a wide variety of boats. Our tester used the Limited Edition seats with TEMPRESS’s new Deluxe Powder Coated Black Armrest Bracket with Black Pads. This is a very comfortable, durable combination.
TEMPRESS Products Deluxe Powder Coated Black Armrest Bracket
These are easy-to-install, functional armrests that are compatible with TEMPRESS ProBax, NaviStyle, All-Weather and Profile Guide Series seats. Our tester used them in conjunction with the TEMPRESS ProBax Limited Edition Boat seats. Since they’re compatible with most TEMPRESS seats, you can easily add them to your existing boat. They’re well-made and worth every penny!
Minn Kota Riptide Ulterra with iPilot
Imagine back-trolling on the Kenai at The Pastures on an incoming tide without having to touch your kicker motor tiller handle. Or to troll along a contour at Deep Creek for miles without having to touch your tiller. The Minn Kota Riptide Ulterra with iPilot is the most advanced, feature-rich saltwater trolling motor on the market. The newly-designed remote control uses AA batteries instead of the coin-style batteries in the older remotes. Our tester used the 80-pound-thrust version (24 volts) with a 60-inch shaft on an 18-foot Fish-Rite sled. Testing included forward trolling in saltwater and freshwater, using the Spot-Lock feature (think of it as a virtual anchor) to ‘hover’ over rockfish structure, and in river back-trolling situations. The Riptide Ulterra features automatic stow and deploy by simply pressing a button on the remote control. The motor has a built-in GPS and two auto-pilot modes are available. The motor also has power trim. Our tester commented that for almost every trolling and back-trolling situation, the bow-mounted Riptide Ulterra makes his life much easier. When the Riptide Ulterra is used in auto-pilot with a standard kicker motor, precision trolling and back-trolling direction and speeds are easily attainable and are pretty much a hands-free experience.
Fish Fighter Products Sportsman 20 Cooler
The Fish Fighter Products Sportsman 20 Cooler is a 20-quart, roto-molded cooler with a three-point stainless-steel handle, anti-skid feet to keep it from sliding around boat decks and a large, tethered drain plug. This cooler is IGBC-certified bear-resistant. As with most roto-molded coolers, this one keeps its contents very cold for long periods of time. Our tester used this cooler to keep herring and anchovies cold on a Columbia River salmon trip during which the mercury climbed into the mid-80s. He used a single, Extra Large Arctic Ice Tundra cooler pack, plus crushed ice, and the bait remained in pristine condition until he quit fishing in the late afternoon.
Danielson FTCAK Alaska Crab Trap
The Alaska FTC crab trap is a collapsible, affordable, light-in-weight crab trap that works great for red rock and Dungeness crabs. It is larger than Danielson’s standard crab trap, measuring 24 inches by 24 inches by 13 inches high. It meets Alaska’s crab-trap requirements. Our tester used it for Dungeness crabs and claims the light weight of this trap makes it much easier to pull than more expensive, commercial-style traps. He added that since this trap is light in weight, it is wise to add additional weight to it if fishing in areas with lots of current. He used two pieces of rebar zip-tied to the bottom of the trap and suggests weighting the doors by wrapping six inches of 3/16-inch pencil lead around the lower part of the doors to help keep the doors shut in current.
Lowrance Elite-5 Ti Med/High/Downscan Fishfinder
The Lowrance Elite-5 Ti combines CHIRP sonar, DownScan Imaging and a built-in GPS, so locating fish and fish-holding structure is a breeze. The SolarMAX 5-inch touchscreen display is easy to view in sunlight and TrackBack allows you to scroll through your sonar, SideScan or DownScan history to review structure or fish targets and to mark the location with a waypoint. Our testers love the touchscreen feature.
Fish Fighter Products Downrigger Weight Variable (1- to 10 pounds)
In keeping with the theme of building a better mouse trap, Fish Fighter Products Downrigger Weight Variable gives you choices. It is adjustable from 1- to 10 pounds. It has a shiny side-plate for flash that you can remove if you don’t want to use it. You can attach your downrigger release to one of three locations on the rudder. Plus, it comes with two rudders: one is straight, which results in the downrigger weight traveling in line with the downrigger cable; the other is angled 10 degrees to cause your downrigger weight to track out to the side of the boat’s path a little bit, which can be important for fish that tend to move away from the boat, such as kokanee. It contains no lead; it’s made of steel. An adjustable downrigger weight—who’d a thunk it?
This device is a 406 MHz personal-locator beacon. It’s lightweight, buoyant and easy to use. Register the beacon with NOAA before heading into the field.
Promar ProMesh Series Net
We tested Model LM-652, which has a 22-inch x 24-inch frame and a 48-inch telescoping handle. It is sturdy, with a deep, rubber-mesh basket that is hook-resistant and friendly on fish. We’d recommend it for coho, sockeye and big trout.
IMMI Boat Buckle
The Boat Buckle is a transom or bow tie-down system that eliminates the inconvenience of ratcheting straps. Our tester claims these are one of the best devices for speeding up your launch in the morning and tying down your boat after you put it on the trailer. Boat buckles are bolted to the trailer. Simply pull the vinyl-coated hook up to your transom eyes, lift the ratchet a couple times and you’re tied down. To untie, simply press the release button on the Boat Buckle and lift the hook out of the transom eye, then let it retract down into the Boat Buckle. It’s simple, clean and efficient.
Deeper Smart Sonar Pro+
The Deeper Pro+ is no toy. It’s a serious, wireless sonar that shows depth, structure, fish and temperature as well as traditional sonars costing much more than the Deeper Pro+. It’s a Wi-Fi fish-finder that is slightly larger than a golf ball but much smaller than a baseball, and it can be used in a variety of fishing situations. It can be cast from the bank, mounted to virtually any kind of floating craft with Deeper accessories and can be used for ice fishing. It is capable of GPS mapping contours, as well as adjustments for color and the ability to view fish symbols or raw data. Run time for the Deeper Pro+ is about six hours. It uses a smartphone app and your smartphone as the display, so you need to have a secure mounting system for your phone. Our tester recommends the RAM Mounts X-Grip Universal Holder for securing your smartphone. The limiting factor with the Deeper Pro+ is the battery life of your smartphone. Our tester typically runs out of battery power in his Samsung Galaxy 7 in 4- to 4½ hours of continuous use. It is wise to connect your phone to a portable power pack for fishing longer days. It is also helpful to take it out of the water when not in use as this will turn it off, saving battery power.
Force Fin Float Tube Fins
There are many fin choices for anglers fishing from a kick boat or float tube. Stillwater guru George Krumm says if he had to pick his favorite, it would be Force Fin Float Tube Fins. Force Fins aren’t cheap; for the casual float tuber they may not be the best choice. But for the hardcore stillwater float tuber, Force Fins offer the highest quality, the best material (polyurethane is tough, abrasion-, chemical- and UV-resistant), and the best features available in a float tube fin. The adjustability of Force Fin Float Tube fins allows you to wear your wading boots or not. Since the blades are slightly upturned, it’s possible to walk on land with them (with care).