Pontoon Boats

Any thoughts or recommendations on one person pontoon boats (approximately 8-9 ft.)? I think I am interested in bladderless pontoons such as the River Otter, Black Bear, or Skookum boats. Its primary use will be rivers with 1-3 class riffles/rapids, but would like the versatility to occasionally kick around a lake as well. Features that are important to me include durability, warranty, minimum maintenance tubes, 300+ lb capacity, and enough cargo area to carry overnight gear or a dog. All thoughts or recommendations are appreciated. Thanks much.
You're on the right track. Most of the pontoon boats from majors like Buck's & Outcast are fine, but boats with regular raft material pontoons are far superior. I'm prejudiced because I've been using Otters for over ten years, and I regularly fish with about 20 guys, both Westsiders and locals that all have either River or Water Otters. A couple of these used Bucks for awhile but changed over due to the lighter weight. No one in this group has ever had a pontoon failure. Black Bear and Skookum use the same type pontoon.
I bought a pontoon boat made by the creek company on the internet. I am mostly very impressed with the boat, especially when you consider what I paid for it. I am a little suspicious of the slip pin configuration for holding the oar frame together. The slip pins fit through holes drilled in the aluminum where the frame members mate. The frame definately has a little bit of slop. Great for a lake or tame rivers, but what happens when these joints are stressed, ie. in heavy water? Does anyone have any experience with this? I'm considering taking it to a welder and making the joints a little more substantial (and permanent).
what do i know, im just a stupid kid

i second old mans idea. creek company has some sweet rigs right now. check em out at jerrys for sure. you could probably find them much cheaper on the internet but the people at jerrys are so nice. good luck with your purchase!

what do i know, im just a stupid kid

i am in the welding/metal fabrication program at sno-isle skills center in everett. if i couldnt do it, someone there could do it. i doubt we would be required to charge for it. for a fellow flyfisherman id do it for free. just a thought.

Xstream flyfishing gear in tukwila,he has a link under the boats section at this website.I own 3 of these atm and am gettting 2 more for business venture this year.For a picture of one of my boats go to the evening hatches website and the boat he has for rent is one of mine

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
I've been using these things for quite awhile. It sounds like to me you want to step up to the better boats. I have used quite a few of the mid/low level (south fork/outcast) and they're good boats. But it sounds to me you need carrying capacity. Most of those boats have barely a 250# limit (some as high as 300 max). The Steelheader is around 500#'s. I loved the Steelheader when I had mine. Just a 9' was borderline too small for me. I am going to step up to a 12', so I can make it a 1-2 man boat. I do still have a 16' 3-4 man cataraft.

If you need any help, I can give you some insights. The major bonus with a Steelheader style boat is the ability to safely stand up and fish, even on the drift. You won't do that in most of the other boats. If you decided to go custom, I could help you design a frame as well. Have designed hundreds of frames (whitewater and fishing frames) over the years. Would help, no cost at all.

Where do you get the material to design and buile your own pontoon boats?


"Everyday that you wake up and decide not to go fishing...is one less day you'll go fishing." Forrest Maxwell
I'll throw in a plug for Watermaster. I had a low-end pontoon boat for a year, then upgraded a watermaster and love it. 500lb capacity, no weight, great on lakes and low gradient rivers, travels/stores in its own backpack. www.kickboat.com


Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Matt, actually when I say "build" I mean get the pieces and put them together. I start with a design for a frame. Usually depending on situation I'm using the boat for dictates how it's designed. Then from there I add the pontoons (I don't build the pontoons, I buy from a tube manufacturer). I then take my plans for frame to my welder and oversee the welding process and help fine tune any welds/retrofits. I've designed and help build 100's of boats (mostly whitewater) but have help quite a few people in last few years design fishing frames. Benefit of myself designing them for people is a few key things. 1. I'm not affiliated with a maker, so I let the person get the tubes they want. 2. I don't charge for my work, I simply put the frame on paper for person to have built or have my friend (who builds frames) do the work. I of course try to sell them on my friend who does really good work, but I in no way make them go to him. It's their choice who builds the frame.

So, when I say build the boat, it's like buying all the pieces to a chevy corvette and putting it together into something workable.


Active Member
I purchased a "Waterskeeter" (company is in Oregon) from Cabelas, the frame is painted metal - 1-1/4" o.d (not aluminum), all joints are full fillet welds. Overall I am impressed with this boat, it is heavier than some models, but I don't think I have to worry about frame stress. Definitely worth checking out.
You've got me intrigued on these River Otters and I must admit that I don't know much about the differences. What are the different materials and why are these better? The weight of the River Otter is half that of the typical Outcast according to the specs I saw; what's driving that? Is it just thinner / cheaper metal? Or something else? Also, do you know anything about the warranty on the otter?