With the summer fast approaching it’s not going to be long before you get your pontoon out of storage and start planning lazy days on the water. Fishing, partying, and just some good old fashioned down-time is certainly in order.

Pontoon boats are the ideal design and layout for entertaining, with a large open deck space ideal for eating. But what about cooking on a pontoon boat?

The simple answer is that, yes, you can grill and cook on board and it is legal.

But, if you put water, fire, and people in party spirits together then that’s one heck of a mix, that can lead to potential problems.

In this very quick guide I am going to answer some of the more commonly asked questions that beginner pontooners ask when the first get their boat and want to start cooking on board. You might also be interested in some grilling ideas and recipes that are simple to cook and won’t leave a lot of mess.

Can You Grill on a Pontoon Boat?

Yes, and it’s not against the law. In fact, you can buy specialist pontoon boat grills that are designed and built to clip onto your boat rails or sit on your pontoon anchor mount.

Handy Hint: If you want to cook on your pontoon, then here is my top list of pontoon grill recommendations.

The biggest factor you should take into consideration is safety.

That means making sure that the grill or barbeque is properly secured. The recommendations I make in the link above all come with or can use bracket sets that let you secure the grill to your boat.

But even with those safety measures, you still want to be 100% certain that the grill won’t tip. If it tips inwards, you’ve got a nasty situation on your hands which at the very least could cause a horrific mess on deck, and in worst case scenarios injure someone, or cause a boat fire.

Is it Illegal to Have a BBQ on a Pontoon Boat?

Thankfully not.

However, the US Coast Guard and authorities will not look kindly on any form of dangerous behavior. So please be mindful of the environment around you, and I don’t just mean the water and nature.

It’s also important to respect any other users of the lake or river.

BBQ food

Cooking BBQ food on your pontoon… it just tastes better!

If you are annoying them with lots of smoke, noise, and anti-social behavior, they are well within their rights to call it in.

There are also some marinas that will not permit boat owners to have open flames or grills in use for their own safety reasons.

If you are planning on grilling when docked up at a marina, check their rules and regulations to see what they say. 

Precautions When Cooking on a Pontoon Boat

Safety is the number one concern when cooking on a pontoon.

Always ensure that the grill is installed in a safe place, far aware from machinery and electronics, and also your passengers.

It needs to be set-up in an open space, which is why the rail mounts are so popular.

They let you grill over the side of the boat, in a relative safe position which reduces the chances of propane reaching the bilge, inboard engine, or an enclosed space such as a Bimini.

What Equipment Will I Need for Grilling and Cooking?

As well as your pontoon grill (click here to read reviews of the best), there are some other accessories that could radically enhance the cooking experience.

These include aspects such as:

  • Wireless grill thermometer
  • Tongs and spatulas
  • Barbeque Grill light for when it gets dark
  • Grill basket
  • Portable fridge
  • Cooler boxes
  • Grill bristle brushes
  • Grill smoker box

Handy Hint: You can see what grill accessories I recommend with this master list.

Do You Have Other Food Ideas Aside from Grilling?

Indeed I have.

My wife loves cooking, but not so much grilling on the pontoon, so I asked her to come up with a list of fantastic foods ideas for pontooners.

Food plate

Cooking on a pontoon boat doesn’t just have to involve grilling.

If you want some inspiration on what you can prepare beforehand at home, and then bring on board as different food alternatives that aren’t meat or fish based, then look at these pontoon food ideas.

Additional Pontoon Cooking & Grilling Safety Tips

Hopefully by now you should understand that you can grill on a pontoon boat with no concerns over legal or law issues. But, as you will be responsible for the safety of everyone on board, as well as the welfare of your boat.

Here are just a few more tips that I have picked up along the way during my BBQ cooking and grilling escapades on the water.

  1. Never grill whilst the boat is moving.
  2. Never leave a grill flame unattended.
  3. Never use gasoline or any other non-approved accelerant to light a grill.
  4. Always make sure you have read the grill instructions from back to front.
  5. Don’t let any embers or naked flames touch or fall onto the boat.
  6. Some marinas do not let you have open flames or grills, so check with them.
  7. Check that gas connections are tight and secure with no leaks.
  8. Extinguish the grill as soon as you have finished.
  9. Let the BBQ grill cool before you even consider storing it away on board.
  10. Detach the grill from your railings or mount before you start moving.
  11. Make sure that the grill is downwind of your Bimini to guard against open flames.

And Finally… There Might Be a Law Around Grilling Fish

There are some little-known laws about cooking fish on a vessel depending on the state you live in. I didn’t realize this until I did my research into this guide last week, but apparently, it’s ok to catch and cook fish on a boat, but they have to be under 1.5 pounds of filets per person.

In addition to that, the fish also have to be in season, and of a legal size. It’s just the same law that applies to fishermen bringing fish home that they have caught.

The rules and regulations regarding fish consumption aboard a vessel can also very specific to the fish species.

For example, in Florida, the Fish and Wildlife Commission laws allow for the consumption of snook, redfish, snapper, grouper, amberjack, red porgy, gray triggerfish, and sea bass aboard a vessel.

The exact rule states the following with about these species of fish:

“Preparation of fish for immediate consumption on board the vessel from which the fish were caught is not prohibited”.

If you are still unsure and want to be completely sure you aren’t breaking any laws in your local state for pontoon cooking and grilling of fish, then I advise you contact your own local government agency for the correct advice.

How enforceable these rules and laws would be regarding people on a pontoon boat simply grilling up some fish I am not so sure, but you should certainly check if you want peace of mind.