It looked like an ideal boating day from the window of our lakeside resort. But down on the dock I had little interest in driving the open-cockpit deck boat or sporty bowrider that bobbed in the small waves. The back edge of a cold front had moved in, bringing sunshine, 15 to 20 mph winds and a 40-degree morning. My attention was glued to the Islander 221, tied up at the farthest end of the dock. The boat simply looks linebacker tough, and it's built to back up that outward appearance.
Two physical features stood out as attractions on the blustery morning, three if you count the new businesslike black and gray paint scheme on our test boat. One was the cuddy. Starcraft has mastered the art and function of closing the bow on a deep 22-foot aluminum fishing boat. With the cabin, everyone on board can duck below deck for protection if the elements get really nasty. The cuddy can also be used for sleeping during a weekend.
The other feature that immediately stood out was the two-foot hull extension supporting the outboard motor. (The boat also comes in a stern-drive model.) It turns the Islander 221 into the Islander 221 Bracket. Why did this leave such an impression? Introduced in 2006, the bracket moves the motor well back of the boat, leaving more fishing room in the cockpit. The perimeter is lined with padded coamings, so anglers can lean into casts and brace against waves all day. The bracket also creates a longer hull when the boat's at rest or moving slowly, adding stability. Company officials call the bracket "a home run."
This is, first and foremost, a fishing boat. You see it in the vinyl floor treatment, which means you can be sloppy with live bait and fresh fish, and easily hose down the cockpit at the end of the day. Snap-in carpet is optional.
Anglers can be delightfully fickle, packing up and heading for brighter prospects at another fishing spot or even another port. That's easier and more economical with aluminum. It shines on the highway, too, where you can tow this boat with a smaller vehicle (and fuel bill) than you could a fiberglass competitor. Plus, you don't need a ton of power. The Islander 221 is rated for up to 200 hp. Our test boat had a 150 Mercury OptiMax, and it was plenty to keep us cruising with both the speedo and the thermostat registering in the 40s.
• Slide tracks 72 inches long on each deck come with logo inserts. Remove them, and you can slide in any combination of downriggers, rod holders and planer-board supports.
• A huge, hinged storage locker in the stern floor can be outfitted with an optional fish-box tray — a favorite of salmon anglers.
• The inside depth of 30 inches is reassuring when both the fish and the seas are big.
• There are plenty of bow windows — so the cabin feels more open from natural light.
• Beneath the driver's chair and jump seat is a box more than four feet long. Another, a fish box or livewell, lies beneath the passenger chair and jump seat.
• The open cockpit and vinyl floor are great for rough water on big waterways where conditions change.
At a Glance
The Bracket model opens cockpit space in this popular big-water fishing boat, which comes with overnighting features.
Length Overall: 24'6" (Bracket model)
Dry Weight: 2,023 lb.
People/Weight Capacity: 8/1,200 lb.
Fuel Capacity: 52 gal.
Max HP: 200
NMMA Certified: Yes
MSRP (w/ Mercury OptiMax 150): See local dealer
Test Engine: Mercury OptiMax 150 hp
Test Prop: Mercury Laser II 14 x 19 stainless three-blade
Test Load: People (475 lb.), Fuel (35 gal.)
Top Speed: 45.4 mph @ 5,150 rpm
Time to Plane: 4.0 sec
Time to 30 MPH: 9.2 sec.
Minimum Plane: 18 mph @ 3,100 rpm
Recreational 8 Hard Core
Fresh Water 2 Salt Water
Protected Water 8 Open Water
Value 3 Premium
RPM MPH Sound Level (db)
Idle 3.0 63
1,000 5.4 64
1,500 6.8 69
2,000 8.1 71
2,500 11.1 73
3,000 14.1 76
3,500 22.5 80
4,000 32.3 78
4,500 38.0 80
5,000 42.5 84
5,150 45.4 84
More on this boat: www.starcraftmarine.com