Insurance for Fishing Boats
While any boat can be a fishing boat, fishermen know the difference between boats designed for fishing and those that have been outfitted.
Now, when most of us are planning for the upcoming season on the water we tend to focus on the obvious stuff. We want to consider upgrades, determine what broke over the winter, and see how clean (or not) we left our tackles. The reality is that before you can even launch your boat, the to-do list can feel endless. There are the usuals that we find for all boats; Are all the plugs in place? If the engine is gas have we checked the spark plugs? When was the last time we replaced the fan belt again?, how do we check the oil? With such an extensive list, we it’s no wonder that boat insurance sometimes falls by the wayside. But once you’ve gotten your boat ready for launch, and registered her with the state, it’s probably time to spend a few minutes thinking about your fishing boat insurance.
Inland Lakes and Rivers
Many of us grew up near small lakes, catching perch and rock bass in an aluminum runabout. Small, lightweight, and drawing very little, these beauties allow you to visit almost anywhere inland in a few minutes from launch to departure. The first power boat I knew was a 10-foot aluminum beauty from the 50’s, which once sustained a direct hit from a falling tree. After my dad hammered it back into fighting shape we used to take her out, engine running or not, for some quality river fishing. This, it turns out, is quite the norm with aluminum shallow draft boats, and anchoring or tying to piers and trees are the most common form of staying at the right spot. Any boat can be a fishing boat if you bring the right gear.
So your fishing boat insurance policy should be tailored to your needs. So what do you need?
Your needs here will depend entirely on the type of boat you own. If you use an aluminum runabout, you’ll likely not need a ton of damage coverage. These boats are more resilient than most, and often don’t cost much to begin with. You may lose some gear, but unless you are fishing with $1,000’s of dollars in equipment, it is unlikely that a big policy is worthwhile. In fact, your homeowner’s policy may very well be enough coverage (depending on your policy: Be sure to check!).
If you fish from a pontoon or ski boat, however, you probably want a more substantial policy. You likely paid a lot more for it, so you want to make sure you adequately insure its value. Again, your homeowner’s policy may provide enough hull coverage, but make sure you know the limits and any exceptions before the boat goes in the water. The last thing you want is to be learning about your policy after an accident.
Personal Liability Coverage
If you ever take guests out on the water, you want personal liability coverage at the very least. Runabouts’ shallow drafts and short freeboard make them far more likely to swamp and flip than many others. Anyone outside of your immediate family (your spouse and children) is considered a guest and can sue for damages if they are injured in a capsize. The danger is far greater if you like to fish out of peak season.
Reduced numbers of people on the water mean it can take even longer for help to arrive. Cold weather increases the risks of hypothermia, and in some cases even frost bite. Your own health coverage will cover you, but any guest will have the legal grounds to sue you for their health costs. It doesn’t have to be catastrophic either. Plenty of people just need stitches for hook or knife injuries, but those can be surprisingly expensive. Even if you’re not the one injured, you could still be the one to pay for it. Paying a little more beforehand can make a huge difference if something goes wrong.
Property Damage Liability
If you have a motor on your boat, we also strongly recommend property damage liability coverage. If you row, or just use an electric motor, then you will probably never be moving fast enough to cause real property damage.
Even a small outboard motor, however, can get you moving fast enough to cause expensive damage to another boat, a dock, or a pier. For such small boats, property damage liability coverage is usually quite cheap. As an added bonus, it can save you thousands if you make contact with, say, a ski boat.
Deep Sea Fishing
The increased scale of deep sea fishing is evident in every aspect of it. The boats tend to be bigger, the fish tend to be bigger, and the gear tends to be more expensive. Correspondingly, the dangers and storms tend to be larger too.
As a result, you are likely to see significantly higher premiums than the folks who stick to small lakes and rivers. The question is, how do you make sure you’re adequately protected with that extra cash?
While not everyone has downriggers and full trawling setups on the back of their boats, there are many lucky people who do. This gear, as you probably know, can get quite expensive. When you have expensive equipment on your boat, insuring it is almost always worth it. Gear on your boat is susceptible to theft, damage from use or outright loss (such as when the vessel is lost). Fortunately, the right coverage can help you breathe easy. Make sure to read the fine print. Ensure that each item is specifically covered, and that the policy covers all three aspects of loss. Most basic boat policies will not cover the gear that you install. They may not even cover all the gear that comes standard on the boat. So if you add downriggers or an expensive fish-finder, make sure your policy includes them if you want them covered.
It is worth remembering: fishing gear depreciates quickly. Depending on your policy, you may only receive a fraction of what it would cost to replace it. This holds doubly true if your kit is old. While there are some policies that offer replacement value, they are expensive, sometimes exceptionally so. That said, they can be worth it, especially for some people for whom replacing the gear is prohibitively expensive and is either important to them personally or financially.
Personal Injury and Property Liability
As with all policies we stress the importance of having one that covers your liability as the owner and at least personal injury coverage for your guests. People get hurt deep sea fishing disproportionately to other anglers. The reasons are multitude: from beers, lack of sleep, too much sun, sea sickness, the rocking of the boat or just the excitement of a fish on. Distractions can lead to huge numbers of injuries, though. Fortunately, most of these are minor cuts and bruises. However, as anyone with significant sea-time can you, a matter of inches often separate minor bruises from catastrophes.
Whether you are on a Whaler, Scout, Pursuit or other fine brand, make sure that your vessel and its gear are covered.