Hill’s business Jetski Fishing manufactures fishing kits for PWCs and organises jet-ski fishing events, Ultimate Jetskifishing Adventure stay-aways and competitions that attract keen PWC fishers of all ages from all walks of life. Demand for his trips exceeds supply. For more details, follow the link at the end of the story.

Davis’s popular Jet-ski Fishing Show, a regular segment on Adam Clancey’s Fishy Business on Choice TV, started life a few years ago as a series of video clips meant to share the exceptional fishing he was enjoying from his jet-ski.

“Some of my mates were skeptical about the fish I was catching, so I decided to make a few videos to prove I wasn’t lying!”

Growing popularity

The growing popularity of jet-ski fishing is no surprise. For many, a PWC represents a viable, practical alternative to a trailer boat. For considerably less outlay than a new boat – a suitable PWC can be purchased (and kitted out for fishing) for less than $30,000 – you can buy a vessel that’s fast, compact, economical to run and easy to stow, clean and store. Bigger models can seat three people, tow skiers, wake boarders and water toys, have sufficient range to stay out all day and can cover long distances in comfort.

PWCs are more commonly called jet-skis in New Zealand. ‘Jet Ski’ was the brand name given to the original Kawasaki stand-up PWC from 1972 and is now also used to describe the larger sit-down varieties of PWC that makes up the bulk of the market.

Large, modern PWCs like this Kawasaki Jet Ski are stable at rest and make great fishing platforms.

Modern PWCs are larger and more powerful than they used to be. Manufacturers such as Yamaha (WaveRunner), BRP (Sea-Doo) and Kawasaki (Jet Ski) have successfully pitched their machines at families, but they make ideal fishing craft when family activities are not on the agenda.

Using personal watercraft for fishing isn’t new – if it floats you can fish from it – but buying and equipping a jet-ski specifically for sport fishing is a relatively recent phenomenon. And it’s and growing fast, according to Yamaha Motor NZ’s Pete Dick, with Yamaha WaveRunners used mostly for sport fishing now making up a large proportion of total sales.

The surge of interest in jet-ski fishing has spawned an industry devoted to rigging fishing machines and supplying accessories. Jet-ski fishing pioneer Andrew Hill’s company Jetski Fishing fits fishing kits and supplies accessories for all brands of PWC, from handheld VHF radios and locator beacons, dry bags, specialist clothing and fishing tackle. Jetski Fishing also supplies major PWC dealerships like JFK Powersports in Mount Wellington, Auckland.

Andrew developed his fishing kits over a number of years, building on his own experiences.
“When I first started fishing from my ski I carried my rods tucked under my knee and the bait in the glovebox, which wasn’t ideal,” explains Andrew. “Storing the catch was a challenge and I lost more than one rod and reel over the side in transit,” he laughs.

Andrew put his practical and engineering skills to work customising his ski with a fishing kit he designed. It included rod holders and an icebox/cooler; electronics came later. His fit-outs became increasingly sophisticated over time.

No hassles fishing

Like many people, Kirk, whose building company Palladium Homes operates in New Zealand and USA, stumbled onto jet-ski fishing. He bought his first PWC with family fun in mind, since he already owned a sport fishing boat, but it didn’t take long before he discovered fishing from his PWC. A fishing kit soon followed.

Kirk can, however, lay claim to developing the livebait tank conversion, taking water from the Yamaha’s distinctive high-pressure tell-tale and directing it into the ice box. This system has been widely adopted by other WaveRunner owners.

With so much demand on people’s time these days, the ability to launch a PWC, blast out to your chosen fishing ground, and then return home within a few hours should not be undervalued.

You can squeeze in a lot of fishing and cover a fair bit of water in a relatively short time, says Kirk, which for him is one of the many attractions of fishing from a PWC, but he also loves hitching up the ski and heading away for a day, a weekend or longer.

“It’s easy to tow, I can launch it just about anywhere and unlike the boat, it’s easy to park almost anywhere.”

Cleaning up after a day’s fishing requires nothing more than a hose and a soft brush, flushing the engine is painless, using the hose attachment fitted for the purpose, and the sealed engine compartment requires little attention other than scheduled servicing.

The fishing PWC

Fishers tend to prefer large, naturally aspirated (non-supercharged) four-stroke PWCs, trading horsepower for range and reliability – no one wants to break down or run out of fuel many miles from shore. A fishing ski such as Kirk’s naturally aspirated Yamaha WaveRunner or Andrew’s SeaDoo typically offer 150hp and provide a top speed in excess of 100kph.

Certain PWCs have a reputation for being more comfortable in rough water, so if it’s all seasons fishing or running well offshore you’re interested in, it pays to choose a ski that can handle rough conditions.
Turning a suitable PWC into a serious sport fishing machine requires a few modifications and some add-ons. The most obvious feature is the large ice box on the transom.

The bin is usually part of a strap-on fishing kit that includes a stainless-steel cage or frame to hold the icebox, rod holders and safety lanyards to secure the rods and reels. Its lid may or may not incorporate a bait tray; some ice boxes feature split lids and others have compartments inside the bin. Live bait conversions are popular.

Electronics are an important tool for the serious PWC fisher. Kirk’s set-up is typical: a through-hull transducer mounted close to the boat’s keel and a Lowrance MFD. Really keen fishers sometimes fit 1kW transducers and large bracket-mounted MFDs, but it’s more usual to flush-mount a modest display in the console below the instrument binnacle as Kirk has done. More basic kits make do with a more vulnerable exterior transducer.