Jon Boat Lights Buying Guide


Jon boat lights

If you relish long lazy days on the water that turn to twilight evenings, or if you engage in night fishing, or enjoy some dusk to dawn duck hunting, then you will need some form of effective lighting on your Jon boat. Having sufficient lighting on your boat is essential when navigating dark waters but Jon boat lighting isn’t just about illumination.

Why install lights on your Jon boat?

By law you are required to have navigational lights on your boat during specific times of the day and under specific conditions (more on that later). Also, using sufficient deck lighting, although not a legal requirement, is a safety precaution and a habit that you should definitely develop.

Although lighting is mostly about safety and illumination choosing specific lights for your boat can also be about style. Not only can installing lights on your boat bring out the inner engineer in you but it can also uncover the artist as there are as many different lighting techniques you can use and many different styles of lighting available for every taste.

In this handy guide, we will run through everything you need to know in order to light up your Jon boat for safe, practical and stylish boating.

Safety first: Jon boat navigation lights

Although many Jon boat owners will trick their boat out with cool lighting as an expression of their unique personalities the main point of having boat lights is obviously for safety.

Legal boat light requirements are the same for all boat types. This means all boats require navigation lights for safe boating in reduced visibility conditions. A Jon boat is no different.

Navigation lights are a priority for Jon boats that are regularly used in the dark or in conditions with seriously reduced visibility.

Navigational lights are a cheap way of keeping both you and other water users safe in low light and poor visibility.

Every boater knows that visibility is essential for safe boating.

It may be tempting to idle in the evening on a boat that has no lights, but without them you are invisible to other watercraft and you are also breaking the law.

Key boat light regulations you need to know

The US Coast Guard stipulates that powered pleasure vessels, a category that includes Jon boats, which are under 20 feet in length need to display navigation lights at specific times of the day and under specific conditions.

Your Jon boat must use legally-compliment navigational lights when on the water:

  • Between sunset and sunrise.
  • During periods of diminished visibility, such as during heavy rain, mist or fog.

Why the necessity for navigational lights?

Well, your nav lights not only show other watercraft that you are on the water but they also provides everyone near your boat with important information about the size and movement of your vessel. This combined information allows other water users to take appropriate action when necessary so they can stay clear of your vessel and thus avoid a collision.

As well as knowing which types of navigational lights you need, you should also familiarize yourself with the type and orientation of the lights so they are fitted correctly to allow you to navigate past other watercraft and obstacles safely.

Navigation light requirements & set-up for Jon boats

As a Jon boat owner you are legally responsible for the correct display of your Jon boat nav lights.

Failure to implement the following advice will mean you are breaking the law when out on the water at night.

You will need to securely install and clearly display red and green boat lights in the following manner:

  • Front lighting: green light for starboard (right) and red light for port (left).
  • Back lighting: Raised all-round white light at the stern

The current government guidelines stipulate that these lights should be of such an intensity that they are visible for up to 2 nautical miles on a clear night. Additionally, the stern all-round white light should be elevated above the front lighting by at least 1 meter. Jon boat users usually mount this light on a pole so they conform to this guideline.

Any additional or auxillary lighting should not be able to be mistaken for nav lights or interfere with their correct display. Red and blue flashing lights are for law enforcement only so don’t even think about tricking your boat out with some 😉 .

Don’t worry too much about making a mistake when installing the nav lights as most nav lights come with instructions for installation so it is difficult to get this wrong. For those of you how like a physical demonstration we have included a video for nav light installation below.

Selecting the best navigation lights for your Jon boat

There is a broad selection of good law-compliant navigational lights available with price points that are friendly to every pocket. If you are really budget-conscious then there is an alternative to buying nav lights.

In addition to purchasing nav lights a quick search on YouTube will provide you with innumerable hacks for making your own Jon boat lights. If you do go down this route just be sure that the lights are law-compliment and capable of being seen 2 nautical miles away on a clear night.

The main type of lighting, both store bought and homemade, which boaters are currently using are LED lights. LEDs have superseded the old incandescent bulbs across the market for a number of reasons. They are safer, consume less energy when powered by the boat’s main battery or come with their own long-life batteries.

They are also water-friendly.

LEDs are a quick and easy solution for setting up nav lights, with a range of attachments and settings.

However, it is important to be sure the LED lights you choose perform the job properly and have not been manufactured for a different purpose.

Be aware of the following problems that may arise with LED navigation lights:

  • The colour emitted by the LED light might not be consistent. The colour can change depending on the strength of the current when it reaches the LED. Temperature and weather conditions can also be disruptive factors when it comes to LED light consistency.
  • The distance at which the LED light is visible may not be reliable either and therefore may not meet the legal requirements.
  • Cut-off angles of the light may not be precise and fall below an adequate standard for safety. It is therefore a good idea to invest in sealed lights where the coloured LEDs are sectioned off and designed to give out light, in their specific sector only, without blurring.
  • Depending on the manufacturer, some lights do not perform well with moisture ingress, shocks, impacts and vibration.

Of course there are alternatives to using LED nav lights.

Alternative types of marine navigation lights include:

  • Halogen bulbs – these are cheaper but use much more power and often cover less distance than high spec LEDs. They are also prone to overheating.
  • Metal halide lighting – this is electric lighting that is more common to headlights and is used as street lighting in some countries.
  • Xenon lighting – this is more common in the automotive industry but is sometimes used on boats.

The above alternatives are probably best used for illumination, if you wish to light up the way ahead or view behind the boat, than for nav lights.

Whichever type of navigation lights you decide you want be sure you do your homework and read the reviews of the product before you buy it.

Supplementary lights for your Jon boat

In addition to your nav lights setup, you have a number of other lighting options that will enhance the utility of your Jon boat in poor lighting or after dark, as well as lights that can assist with angling or hunting.

These supplementary lights include (but are not limited to):

  • Searchlights
  • Deck lights
  • Underwater lights.
  • Duck hunting lights

Let’s take a closer look at each of these light types.

Searchlights

Handheld or mounted searchlights are worthwhile gear to have on every evening excursion. They can also act as a critical backup if your nav lights fail.

A good marine-grade rechargeable handheld search light is always a good idea to have onboard. However, if you are a night angler you may prefer a lantern or secured deck light so your hands are free when adding bait to your line, or landing your catch.

Portable search lights are also very useful when you away from prolonged periods which is way we included them as part of the essential equipment you need when boat camping.

Deck lighting for your Jon boat

Deck lighting helps you keep everything to hand, and allows you to safely move about your Jon boat in the dark.

LED lighting has revolutionized what is achievable with this type of lighting. LED strip lights can be bought at length and integrated under seating and around storage areas as well as fish wells.

The reduced power consumption of LEDs means that you can power more lighting on your Jon boat without fearing that your battery will run down. There are also self-powered LEDs that have their own small batteries.

Jon boat underwater Lights

Although these niche lights are more commonly seen on bigger cruise type boats they are becoming popular with a small select group of Jon boat users.

It is true that underwater lights would be a definite upgrade to your Jon boat as far looks and “street cred” go but they also serve a much more practical purpose. Underwater lights can prove useful when anchoring or mooring and can be used to simply improve the visibility of your vessel.

Underwater lighting can also help you see the condition of the water around your boat which helps keep you safe when natural light is low.

Installation is key when it comes to underwater lights and the lights will need to have a suitably waterproof housing to perform effectively. For this reason many boat owners will use LEDs encased in stainless steel which are cheap and long lasting though a cheaper option would be to use the led strip lights mentioned above.

Duck hunting lights for your Jon boat

Sound lighting is critical for the hunter. Hunting lights should be lightweight (to stay within the boat’s weight capacity) but provide that all-round visibility you need to navigate rivers, creeks and ponds without losing focus on the prey.

Powerful duck lights will be your aid even in the darkest conditions and they will show up your targets at a distance too.

The lighting solutions you choose should throw a lot of light into the distance, ideally a few hundred feet ahead, without an excessive draw on your battery.

Choose resilient lighting from reputable suppliers that will hold up to those cold, damp and muddy hunting conditions that you will be navigating.

Suitable lights should be mounted to your Jon boat for hands-free use while you are underway but you should consider deck lights that offer you the option of removing them so they become handheld lights thus letting you focus the light to illuminate specific spots around your hunting area.

Powering your Jon boat lights

You have a range of options for powering your Jon boat lighting.

The 2 main available options are:

  1. Electrical wiring installations that power fixed lighting from your boat’s battery. Onboard circuitry, usually powered by your boat’s single 12 volt battery, can send power to all deck and underwater lights. If you choose this option be sure to plan your circuitry to include all lights, switches and controls. You will need to find a means of suitably concealing the writing to protect it from exposure to water.
  2. Individual, removable battery-powered or rechargeable lights. Removable lights can be set into pre-attached deck mountings on the boat, or even velcroed on, and removed for charging. Battery-powered lights (that use simple small disposable or rechargeable house batteries) can be mounted in the same way, or they can be glued in place for a more permanent solution as long as you leave access to the battery compartment so you can replace spent batteries. Self-adhesive strip lighting can be stuck to key areas on the boat as a deck lighting solution as well.

Obviously the second option is much easier though it can become a bit of a pain after awhile as this option requires much more maintenance. It is all too easy to find yourself out on the water with reduced visibility because you forgot to recharge your deck lights.

In conclusion

For safe night boating and to stay safe on the water in reduced visibility, your Jon boat needs to be carrying, at the very least, a legally required set of bow and stern navigation lights.

With after-dark recreational boating, the more light, the better. So deck lights are a good idea to have also.

Boaters have a range of marine-grade, suitably water-and-corrosion resistant lighting options to hand.

LED lighting technology has enhanced the flexibility and convenience of lighting a boat, so you should have no trouble working out the lighting solution that is right for you and your Jon boat.

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