Those looking for a small, simple boat for fishing or just puttering around on the water could buy any number of boats that are technically classified as skiff boats. A skiff is a great boat for a lot of people and many activities, but that doesn’t make it the right boat for everyone. Check out this guide to learn everything you need to know about skiff boats and what they have to offer. In it, we’ll cover:
- What are skiff boats?
- The highlights of skiffs
- Types of skiffs
- Benefits of skiffs
- Top skiff boat brands
- Skiff boats FAQs
What Are Skiff Boats?
Designed for simplicity, skiffs are characterized as simple, open boats. Skiff boats can be used in freshwater and saltwater. They are ideal for shallower waters, but are commonly found in all sorts of rivers, lakes and bays. Some anglers will take larger skiffs out on the ocean, but that depends on the size and type of boat in question and most skiffs aren’t sized appropriately for ocean use. There are many different varieties of skiffs, ranging from flat-bottom rowboats, to flats skiffs, to skiffs designed specifically for commercial fishing or crabbing. But when you strip away all the variables, just about any small, simple, open boat can be dubbed a skiff.
Skiff Boats: The Highlights
- Average Length: 12 to 25 feet
- Activity/Intended Use: Fresh and saltwater fishing, day cruising, crabbing and clamming, gunkholing, etc.
- Average Price: $10,000 to $50,000
- Propulsion Method: Outboard motor
Types of Skiff Boats
The whole point of this type of boat is simplicity, but a few major designs or use variations to consider. For example, some skiffs inclined towards angling come pre-outfitted with fishing accessories and features like rod racks or live wells. Flats skiffs used for sight fishing the shallows may have accessories like poling platforms, too. But you can also find skiffs without built-in fishing gadgets. You’ll also have the option of purchasing an open boat, or a model that has a soft canopy or in some cases a T-top over the console seating area.
You’ll also run across some skiff types which incorporate unusual hull designs for one purpose or another. Along the Gulf Coast, for example, it’s not uncommon to find skiffs with tunnel hull designs. These are usually intended to let you run through exceptionally shallow back country waterways. And one of the more popular skiffs designed for inshore fishing, the Mako Pro Skiff, has an “inverted V” hull that’s somewhat similar to a power catamaran design.
Benefits of Skiff Boats
There are certainly many advantages to the simplicity that comes with owning a skiff boat. If you’re considering one, here are just a few perks to keep in mind:
Skiffs are lightweight boats, which means they don’t need a huge, powerful motor that drinks a lot of gas. They might not be the fastest boats on the water, but they’ll save a fortune on fuel compared to a lot of other cruising and fishing models.
Shallow Water Access
Many skiffs have flat or mostly flat bottoms, and all are relatively small and light, so draft tends to be minimal. This may result in some slapping and occasional issues with spray in some cases, but that also means that your boat can navigate through very little water – and other boaters will be jealous when you’re making a great catch in areas they can’t even fish.
Add-Ons and Accessories
Skiffs can be purchased with or modified to have a number of add-ons and accessories. You can even find models designed with things like premium sound systems, high-tech fishing gear, and other cool additions. You can purchase boats with more bells and whistles for a premium price or you can buy a more basic model now and build it up as you go with aftermarket accessories and upgrades.
The biggest reason that these boats are so popular is because they offer a lot of utility for a lot of different boaters. Their simple designs and optional upgrades make it easy to create an affordable fishing skiff or a new cruiser for occasional activities like crabbing. There are so many uses for a quality skiff boat that people buy them for plenty of reasons and boating needs.
Top Skiff Boat Brands
Like all boat styles, there are a number of brands that have a skiff model available. It’s going to be up to you to see what’s out there and find what you like best. There are some obvious brand leaders in this market, but then there are also some great boats that are a good buy, regardless of their brand. These are the top manufacturers of skiff-style boats on Boat Trader:
Carolina Skiff, as the name would imply, specializes in center console skiff boats, offering a full selection of everything from economical models to high-end fishing designs. They focus on functional designs with added fishing features like rod racks and fish finders available on select models.
See Carolina Skiff boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Sundance builds a line of high-end fishing skiffs in 20 and 22 foot models. Unlike some skiffs they feature good fit and finish, plenty of seating, and a wide range of available accessories.
See Sundance skiff boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Mako boats builds a wide range of fishing models including their Pro Skiff line. It includes three models, 15, 17, and 19 feet, and is available with numerous Mercury Marine outboards ranging up to 150 horsepower.
See Mako Boats skiff boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Maverick’s line of skiffs includes just three models (17 and 18 footers) which are all specialized flats skiffs. While they aren’t as versatile as many other skiffs on the market, when it comes to fishing on the flats these will be tough to beat.
See Maverick skiff boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Spyder is another builder of specialized flats boats, with 17 and 19 foot models. Poling platforms, pole anchors, and other flats fishing gear is common equipment found aboard them.
See Spyder skiff boats for sale on Boat Trader.
How to Buy a Skiff Boat
When you’re in the market for a skiff boat, you have a lot of options. Now that you know the best brands and styles on the market, it should be easier to get what you want out of your investment in a skiff boat. Take the time to explore all of the options that are out there and choose a boat that suits your needs and interests. Skiffs are economical and reliable, and they offer a variety of uses for fishing and other shallow-water cruising. To begin your search, narrow down a few important elements:
Cost: Skiffs are some of the most affordable boats on the market, but you still need to factor your budget into the equation. If you aren’t sure what you should expect to spend, do a little window shopping and see what these boats are going for before you set a budget in your mind.
Size: Another big factor in your decision is the size of boat that you want. This will affect the cost and other factors. As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of options available.
Style and Features: Here’s where you get to pick and choose what you like and what you don’t like. Take the time to explore all of the different included specs and features on the boat. Remember that skiffs are usually pretty simple designs that don’t have a lot of extra bells and whistles. However, they do have a lot of great additions for fishing and other excursions.
Skiff Boats FAQs
What’s the difference between a skiff boat and a Jon boat?
A Jon boat is characterized by a flat bottom and a flat, square-cut stern, often with a square bow as well. Skiffs are more broadly defined as boats that can be flat-bottomed, but don’t necessarily have to be and can have a pointed or curved bow. Both names are often used interchangeably as a name for small boats, normally used for fishing, and that are capable of traversing extremely shallow waters
What’s the Difference Between a Center Console and a Skiff?
In many cases there isn’t a difference at all – a boat can be both at the same time. In the case of larger, more complex models, however, the boat may outgrow the skiff moniker. To some degree, it’s a judgement call as to whether a larger center console is a skiff, or not.
What Kind of Accessories Can I Find for a Skiff Boat?
Skiff boats have all kinds of accessories for various hobbies and excursions. There are fishing accessories, crabbing accessories, and even items that are just for having a good time on the water, such as stereo systems, Bimini tops, or built-in coolers.
What Is a Micro Skiff Boat?
Micro skiff is a term that’s come about as some builders have begun to make tiny models meant for just one person or sometimes two people. These may be as small as 10 feet in length and are often powered by very small four to 10 horsepower outboards.
Editor’s note: this article was originally posted in September of 2019 and was last updated in June of 2022.