RENTAL BOAT FISHING
I’ve been able to hit the saltwater much more this year because of the awesome Santa Cruz and Capitola rental boats. These little wooden skiff boats are perfect for me because I don’t own a kayak or ocean boat and the charters are a bit too pricey for me to enjoy regularly. I’ve taken advantage of the great deal in front of me and have been rental boat fishing with great success.
Keep in mind that you can target anything you want whether it be rockfish, halibut, sea bass, salmon, you name it. You get to fish at your own pace and go where you want to to unlike the charters.
SANTA CRUZ RENTAL BOAT FEATURES
These wooden rental boats are about 14 feet long with an 8hp outboard motor that get you around pretty easily. They can fit four people comfortably and still boast enough room for tackle, coolers and other necessities.
I definitely recommend bringing friends to split cost since it makes the trip much cheaper for all of you, and it’s always more fun slamming an extra rockfish limit anyways. Here is a little rundown of how the skiff operates and what their rates are.
- Opens at 6:00AM, you have to return by 3:00PM (Hours may vary, call to check!)
- Rates are $30 per hour or $125 for the day. (I personally like the day fee)
- You have to be at least 21 years old to rent the boat
- On the weekends it’s a good idea to call them early and book a reservation since it might get busy.
- You can reach them at 831-462-2208 for Capitola and 831-423-1739 for Santa Cruz
- They give a 5-10 minute demo of engine operation and safety measures but you can easily skip this by taking the Skiff Rental University course online.
- They provide you with everything you need aside from rods, reels and tackle:
- Outboard Motor with fuel
- Life vests
PREPARING FOR YOUR RENTAL SKIFF BOAT TRIP
ALWAYS. CHECK. WEATHER. Nothing is more dangerous than being out on the ocean in a small vessel, especially when it’s packed with your friends or loved ones. I will always check the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) website for the most accurate weather, wind and swell conditions.
- You can look for Santa Cruz conditions at http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=36.97&lon=-122.03#.V5jwlbgrLIU. Make sure you go to the map, zoom in and click an area just outside the pier. This will give you the accurate weather and swell readings for the ocean and not land.
- Do the same for the Capitola conditions here: http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?CityName=Capitola&state=CA&site=MTR&textField1=36.9753&textField2=-121.952&e=0
THINGS TO BRING ON YOUR RENTAL SKIFF BOAT
The skiffs will come with almost everything you need as mentioned before, but there are definitely other important items you should bring to make your trip operate smoothly.
- Fish Finder Graph – I can’t emphasize how important a fish finder is for these rental boats. To be aware of how deep you are and where structure, sand and bait is will make or break your success. If you haven’t invested in one find a way to borrow or buy one! Worth worth worth it.
- Cooler – Sometimes they provide buckets but if you can fit a cooler on board it will make life much easier. I like to use the buckets for keeping live bait instead.
- Battery-Powered Aerator – These will help a bunch if you’ve caught live bait fish. The extra oxygen will keep bait alive much longer. Always remember to do a water change every once in awhile whether you have an aerator or not.
- Fish Gripper – A gaff is provided but a gripper will help you handle a big lingcod or other toothy fish more safely. Last thing you want is for them to thrash around and spine you. Ouch!
- Waterproof Boots – These boats get messy. Before you know it your feet and pants will be soaked from the ocean and slimed from your catch. Avoid sneakers and sandals!
WHERE SHOULD I GO?
Whether or not you have a fish finder graph, you can ask for a map from the front desk. These maps are very simple to use and they even provide exact coordinates so you can navigate with your phone if needed.
I always like to find deeper water. The quality of both fish and bottom structure is much better in 70+ feet of water. Deep water is fairly easy to find in Santa Cruz, just head to the right towards Natural Bridges State Beach (look for the big rock, can’t miss it) and explore some spots around there.
Capitola tends to be much shallower especially closer to the wharf so head out as far as you can (within rental boat limits) for the best results. Take one of the maps offered at the front desk and fish around the buoys and common reefs for the best chance at finding rock structure. There will be large expanses of sand all around you so stay away from those areas if you’re targeting rockfish. For halibut anglers, the sandy bottom is perfect for drifting frozen or live bait for long distances.
PERSONAL TIPS FOR FISHING OFF THE RENTAL BOATS
- Study up before your trip! My team and I have written a complete rock cod and lingcod fishing guide as well as halibut drifting tips and tricks. Definitely worth the read before you embark on your journey.
- Your little rental boat will drift all over the place, taking you off a desired spot in a matter of seconds. To give yourself more time fishing a certain spot, find out which direction you’re drifting and drive past your spot for a decent amount of time. This will allow you to drift up and over the set location, helping you stay in the strike zone much longer.
- This may be rare but keep an eye out for sharks! There have been multiple Great White shark sightings around both the Capitola and Santa Cruz locations and a skiff boat even got attacked! Always be aware of your surroundings and head in if you don’t feel comfortable. Better safe than sorry.
- It helps to keep a trash bag or bucket on the boat. You’ll always end up with plastic wrappers of all sorts as well as loose tackle and it’s best to keep it all organized since you’ll need as much room as possible. Last thing you want is to have slimy bait and sharp objects laying all around the deck. The rental crew will definitely appreciate the effort as well!
I hope this has helped you get a better sense of what the Santa Cruz and Capitola rental boats have to offer. Now it’s time to round up your buddies and load up on fish!
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns in the comments below, I’d absolutely love to help you guys out. Thanks for the support as always and tight lines!