Russell’s Rugged All-Rounder


Aqualine 590

RUSSELL Kenny operates NT Barra Fishing, a professional guiding operation located in remote Arnhem Land. There are probably few more remote locations in this country, and over the years NT Barra Fishing has had quite a long succession of boats. About eight years ago Russell found that pontoon style aluminium boats offered his remote camp quite a few advantages. The pontoon design gave excellent flotation and stability at rest, yet the hull planed at minimal speed and had the economy and ride of a deeper vee style hull. At rest when casting, the pontoons acted as flotation stabilisers with the hull sitting rock solid in the water – even when all clients moved to one side.

Recently Russell bought an Aqualine 590 after a fair bit of research. I’ve spent a week fishing from this boat, and spent a bit of time with Russell going over the pros and cons of this particular pontoon style hull. While most of the guided fishing takes place in the rivers, this particular boat is Russell’s “own” fishing boat, and when he’s not guiding, he’s generally still fishing! Being an exploratory type, Russell needed a boat with the range to cover big distances and take the pounding and chop from savage dry season south easterlies. He needed a good soft ride, as many of his clients are elderly anglers, as well as plenty of storage, simplicity of design and good access. I’ve known Russell for the best part of 15 years and was very aware of the rough existence this boat would have under his stewardship. When I saw that he’d bought a painted hull I was amazed and I thought he’d gone soft! This bloke will push craft to the limit, smash through timber and bump and crash his way regardless of how hard things are if it means getting to the fish. The boat needed to be of military specifications…  

The Aqualine 590 is a rugged well built hull ideal for remote work. It looks very tidy as well, and the whole vessel is very well thought out and an ideal fishing platform. During my time with Russell we fished four anglers with no problems and by the end of the week had caught roughly 300 plus barra from this boat. We travelled up to 90km each way per day in search of fish, and ran hard through some miserable chop and storms in what was one of the latest ever wet seasons for many years. Despite this, the hull was very dry, the ride soft and the water speed in the conditions was fast. This style of boat has long been recognised as a great rough water performer, and while pontoon boats may look ugly to some, there is little doubt that they are one of the best performing hull designs in heavy chop ever made, and are a very popular hull type in New Zealand and remote parts of Australia as well as the Pacific Islands.

Aqualines are known as Kiwi-Craft in New Zealand but the export models are all under the Aqualine banner. This smallish factory produces roughly 200 boats a year but has found an increasing niche in the pontoon boat market. There is a wide range of models from hard top cabin designs through to open console models. In Russell’s case the boat needed to fish three anglers and a guide, and most of the time anglers are lure trolling or casting to drains and snags. The long pontoon design makes quick manoeuvring of the vessel a bit slow, but hydraulic steering with a small number of revolutions from lock to lock has compensated this for. While every guide would prefer his punters were world class casters, a lot of Russell’s clients  spend a fair amount of time putting lures high up in the trees or stuck to bankside vegetation, so rapid manoeuvring is all part of a normal days work. This will certainly test the vessel’s paint job.

One of the disadvantages of a pontoon design is that it decreases the functional width of the boat and reduces the open deck area. In the Aqualine 590 I found that this wasn’t a major issue as the side storage was quite massive, and we could put all our rods, tackle boxes and cameras out of the way,  leaving the deck open for general fishing. Netting fish over the top of the pontoons is quite easy but there is a tendency for fish being fought to seemingly hide under the boat so it is important to steer the fish into the net rather than let it sit under the pontoon. The fishing area that this boat works in is probably the most productive barra fishery in Australia, and when the area is firing it’s not uncommon for the boat to catch in excess of 100 barras in a day; which makes it easy to adjust to fishing from a pontoon craft if you aren’t used to it.

The Aqualine 590 has a 150 litre underfloor fuel tank and a 150hp Yamaha powers Russell’s boat. Russell has had a great run from these motors and he cranks up thousands of hours per season so he is a good endorsement. If Russell can’t break stuff, then few can. The Yammie trolls beautifully at a low idle and under full load has a top end speed of around 58 kph, depending on sea conditions. The Aqualine 590 rises effortlessly up to the plane and there is no lag phase in the “get-go”.

The boat is fitted with an 80-pound Watersnake electric motor mounted on a fitted bracket from the front of the hull. This is ideal for slow drifting and casting to snags and allows a more stealthy silent approach to drains and snags. The electric is run from a foot pedal operated by Russell behind the console. This is a great system for casting to barra on the many clear shallow sand flats. The electronics consist of a Humminbird 798ci GPS/sounder/side scanner and this is a very good unit. Side imaging can be particularly valuable in the big rivers of Arnhem Land. A day after we left, Russell was getting a lure off a snag when he noticed a stack of big fish on the side-imaging unit just near the boat. This produced six barramundi over a metre for the clients that day.

The Aqualine 590 is a superbly built hull that is incredibly stable and strong. The hull is made from 4mm marine grade aluminium and the pontoons from 3mm marine grade sheet. The boat is unsinkable due to the flotation provided by the massive pontoons. It is the most stable hull at rest that I have ever fished from. The dead rise of the hull is 20 degrees and the boat has an over all length of 5.9 metres with a width of 2300mm and an interior beam of 1650mm. Carrying capacity is 7 adults. 

This is a superb boat for remote guiding work in tough environments and is also a very economical hull to run. It is a very safe and comfortable boat with one of the softest rides in chop that I have ever experienced. While operating in a remote bush camp demands reliability, strength and safety, I definitely think the Aqualine 590 should be seriously considered as an option for any serious angler working areas where they do a lot of running to spots but still need a very stable casting platform that can operate in a wide variety of weather conditions. On viewing the website most of the Aqualine range are fitted with cabins and hard tops to cope with wild weather and provide shelter, and Russell’s open centre console design is a bit different to most Aqualines sold. I’ve fished out of a few pontoon style boats now, and this one is definitely the pick of what I’ve fished from. Apart from the ride and tank like strength, I really like the long open storage shelves that take rods and boxes and keep the deck clear. If I were naming this boat I’d call it “Sherman”. It is as tough as a tank!

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