Boat Transom

12 foot jon boat with 16 in sides and 16 in transom. I want to fish it in small bays. is it safe safe?

It floats really high. its flat bottom and with 500 pounds gear it still has 12 in. free board. Still is it safe if the weather permits?

It's safe as long as it's calm and at worst 2-feet chop. Your Jon boat will go over the waves rather than cutting through like a V-hull.
Basic life vest will do fine as you will stay in the bay. Marine Patrol or Coast Guard will require a vest per person and whatever gear is required in your area. Take along a hand held vhf radio that you can communicate with any emergency personal Coast Guard etc.

I would look into the rating of motor on your Jon Boat if it was a V-hull a 20hp might be okay but at what weight. Surely if you can get a short shaft 20hp @50lbs go for it. Not all Jon boats are made equal.

I had a Sears 12 footer Jon Boat and it wasn't even rated for anything over 8hp. I had an old 12hp evinrude which worked really well when choppy and when that broke I got a 15hp evinrude but in a chop, water would creep in rather quickly. I take it the 500 lb gear is with motor sounds like a limit, see what the limit is on your Jon boat.

As long as you got a motor and good boat oars for emergencies I see no problem with heading 2-2.5 miles out as long as it's calm. I seen worst out there with no motor.

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