New Fish Series Adds Versatility for the Active Family
By Capt. Vince Daniello
I’m a saltwater guy. I’ve fished from Massachusetts to Mexico, and beyond. To me, a fish has a long bill and/or bright colors, so when I think “fishing boat” diesel engines, outriggers, and tuna towers come to mind.
I also spend some time inland, where pontoon boats are popular. I see the advantages: Two (or three) narrow hulls are inherently efficient and incredibly stable, and their large, rectangular shape offers lots of seating and plenty of elbow room—like a floating living room surrounded by swimming pool, watersports park, and an infinitely changeable, 360-degree view.
While I prefer billfish, tuna, dorado, and wahoo, I still enjoy other kinds of fishing. In fact, whenever I’m on the water I’m itching to wet a line. But therein lies my problem with pontoon boats—you wouldn’t fish in your living room, would you? Most pontoon boats, with their carpeted and upholstered interior, aren’t exactly suited to bait, blood and scales, particularly if other people aboard aren’t into fishing.
JC Manufacturing has solved this problem with their Fish series. The NepToon 23 Fish I tested is built on a 23-foot hull, but with essentially the same interior as the company’s 21-footer. This creates that floating living room for most of the boat, but leaves about three feet in the back dedicated to fishing, with a vinyl deck that is easy to clean, plus a pair of removable fishing chairs, a live well at the stern and a trolling motor plug in the bow.
This is a new series, and JC Manufacturing hasn’t yet worked a few details. As often happens with prototypes, the company hadn’t yet settled on which rod holders to use, so none were installed. I think a lake-water wash down with a spigot at the stern would also be a great addition, and depending on the type of fish you catch, the optional extended swim platforms might help keep a feisty fish away from the propeller as well as adding a few extra square feet of deck space. There are a few bugs to work out, too. For example, there is a handy storage compartment on the stern, but the door wouldn’t swing open past the fishing seat. And while any extra storage is a good thing, a tackle center locker—the kind with removable tackle trays—would be a welcome addition.
Custom Choices Available
Perhaps the one thing that most impressed me about JC Manufacturing is their ability to tailor a boat’s interior to each purchaser. The boat’s buyer can choose modules that make up the end of each seating section. The list includes extra storage or accessories ranging from a tip-out trashcan to a folding table. On the NepToon 23 Fish I tested, one particularly handy module was the vertical cooler, which is simply an insulated cooler that opens at the top. While it is great for drinks, this could also serve as a fish box, and JC Manufacturing will even plum it as an additional live bait well.
Performance and Ride
One of the features that has become standard in bluewater fishing boats is speed. 60-footers that cruise well over 30 miles-per-hour get us to the fish, and back for tournament weigh-ins quickly. Of course even without tournament winnings on the line, no one wants to miss a hot bite because of a slow boat. JC Manufacturing considers this as well, offering many engine options to suit the lake size and preferences of each individual.
Our test boat was equipped with a 150 horsepower Honda 4-stroke outboard, which pushed us to 32.6 miles-per-hour at 5800 RPM. The boat was easy on fuel too, so those occasionally long runs also save time at the fuel dock. At 4000 RPM we cruised at 22.1 miles-per-hour and traveled 4.86 miles-per-gallon. The boat’s most economical speed was 15.1 miles-per-hour turning 3000 RPM and traveling 6.16 miles-per-gallon, for a maximum range of 265 from the Neptune 23’s 55-gallon fuel tank, with a safety reserve.
Honda is the largest engine manufacturer in the world, and this 150 is built on the same motor that goes into Accord automobiles, so advanced technology developed for Honda cars also benefits Honda outboards. In fact, Honda pioneered 4-stroke outboards over 40 years ago. Perhaps their considerable experience is why the company has also received multiple JD Powers “best in customer satisfaction” awards.
Tube Design and Construction
One thing I really liked about this Neptune 23, and all of JC’s boats I ran, was the rigid feel of the boat while out on the water. This 23 Fish TT (Triple Tube) had three pontoons, which add both buoyancy and stability, but the real secret to the rigidity of JC’s boats is in the U-shaped cross section of their pontoons. Some manufacturers use round tubes, with welded flanges to connect the circular cross-section tubes to the deck, and these flanges are often close to the center of the tube. JC Pontoon’s tube is rounded on the bottom, but carries its sides straight up to the deck, for a wide, flat surface to join the pontoons to the deck.
This extra vertical rise of the U-shaped pontoons also adds what naval architects call “reserve buoyancy.” Think of the sides of a ship, where, as the ship goes deeper into the water, there is more hull volume pushing up—versus the round shape of a submarine that has very little extra hull volume above its waterline to keep it afloat. The U-shaped pontoon might be a bit more expensive to make, but JC feels they are well worth it while out on the water.
While I’m not quite ready to give up some of my favorite fishing off South Florida for protected waters, next time I’m out in a center console waiting for the bite, or cruising to or from the trolling grounds, I’m likely to think, “It would be great to kick my feet up and relax right now.” That’s not something you can do on most fishing boats this size.