To some anglers, there’s no greater dream than taking a fishing boat out into the ocean and enjoying their passion somewhere different. A charter fishing boat is a perfect vessel to do just that and if you’ve always wondered what’s involved with these hired expeditions, we’re here to help.
Should you charter a fishing boat?
There are many types of charter fishing boats to suit styles of fishing, group size, and location, whether you want to go privately or with strangers on a pre-booked vessel. There are lots of benefits to these trips if you plan carefully, but also a lot of variables that can impact the success and value of one.
A charter fishing boat is something on the bucket list of most fishermen, and we agree it should be experienced at least once in life if fishing is your passion. Before you can jump in and book your next adventure though, check out this guide to charters and what you can expect when you join one.
What Happens on a Charter Fishing Boat?
Chartering a fishing boat can be a completely unique experience every time, and there are so many different ways to do it. Generally, though, a charter fishing boat is a planned trip that’s run by a captain and crew, taking guests out on a private vessel to go fishing in a certain location.
There are so many options for what type of charter you can take, whether you want something private for just you and your friends, or on a larger charter where there are other guests aboard. You’ll be able to choose something that suits your fishing style, the type of fish you want to catch, and your experience level, so it pays to do your research.
On a larger charter boat, you’ll get on board and be shown around by the deck crew, as well as given any safety or operational instructions, and leased equipment if you wish to. Once you’ve arrived at the fishing spot, you’ll be told when to drop a line in, and whatever you catch you store in a bag. After spending a few hours out at sea and arriving back on land, the deck crew may help you cut your fish and send you on your way.
The Cost of Chartering a Boat
There are a few variables that can impact the price of a charter, so it’s hard to give a single figure that covers them all. Most importantly, you’ll need to consider what type of fishing you’re doing and where you’ll need to go to do this, as this is the biggest factor in determining price.
Also, you have to factor in the size of the boat and the other occupants. If you can afford to, you might be able to hire a smaller private boat for yourself and a few others, or you can cut costs and purchase a ticket for a larger charter boat that other guests have purchased a spot on as well.
A smaller private boat that fits six adults can cost at least $250 per hour for the first guest, and extra for each one thereafter, and this is a basic vessel. Larger and more luxurious boats can be thousands of dollars for one hour of hire, and a full day on the ocean can be costly.
To rent a spot on a party boat or similarly sized vessel with up to 60 other guests, you might only have to pay between $200 – $500. Again, the condition and size of the vessel will factor into the equation, but it’s the cheaper option if you’re hoping to save money. With both options, there is the expectation that a tip will be paid, which is usually up to 20% for the captain and crew.
Licenses and Permits Required
All states in the US require citizens and visitors to have a license to fish on public land, and this includes anywhere that a private fishing charter might take you. It’s your responsibility before getting on board to organize a license with the US Fish and Wildlife Service which can be done easily online at any time or day of the week.
If you plan on operating a charter yourself, there are further licenses and permits required. The US Coast Guard requires that any fishing boat chartering more than seven passengers be licensed and registered with them, and you must have a captain’s license if you’re operating a charter of any size.
State-wise, there are other requirements for having a fishing charter license, and you’ll need to be aware of what your state needs. Additionally, there might be local laws and regulations to follow, including business and fishing licenses, which can make it complicated to navigate through.
Where Do You Charter a Boat?
Finding a reputable charter provider isn’t that hard to do these days, and thanks to the internet and a never-ending supply of reviews and recommendations, there’s plenty to choose from. You’ll first need to think about what it is you hope to get out of a charter, be it a place like the deep sea, or a specific fish you’ve been wanting to land.
The destination of the charter will depend on the purpose of it, and these outings are usually advertised as going somewhere specific, or with the intent of catching a certain type of fish. Some people might choose to charter a boat in their local area of while on vacation somewhere else, just to try something different. Whatever you decide, you’ll get to experience a location you’ve never fished before, so it’s hard to be disappointed.
The Best Types of Boats for Fishing
If you’re not able to afford a brand new fishing vessel for yourself, the next best thing is hiring one. There are some popular types of boats used for fishing charters that will serve you well, so think about which one meets your fishing style best.
- Center console boats: The helm of these boats is located right in the middle so there’s lots of room to move around. A center console boat is a good choice for smaller charter groups and it has no issues navigating all types of water.
- Flats boats: As the name suggests, these boats get into the flats without an issue thanks to their thin hull. A flats boat only fits a few people comfortably though, so it’s not ideal for large groups.
- Bay boats: Bay boats are designed for cruising the in-between, so they don’t go anywhere too shallow or too deep. These angler favorites are great for charters and offer some of the most versatile locations to fish from.
- Catamarans: The catamaran is designed with two hulls and they’re perfect for all kinds of weather conditions and deep sea fishing. They can fit up to 50 people and have all of the amenities you could want, but they’re slower than most.
- Sportfishing boats: A flybridge sport fisher is the ultimate boat people think of when they plan on chartering a vessel, but they’re usually the most expensive. This is the choice for serious anglers wanting to get out into the deep sea with a professional touch.
Tips for a Successful Charter
If you’re feeling nervous about your first fishing charter, there’s no need to. We’ve got some tips from industry experts that will make your first time as enjoyable as possible, so check them out:
- Communicate to the captain and crew what it is you’re hoping to get out of a fishing trip and do this before and after you depart.
- Treat the boat and ocean with respect and listen to what the crew is telling you while out on a charter.
- Plan your day with the expectation that you’ll be enjoying fishing and not necessarily catching anything. It’s all about the experience and not what you’re able to haul home.
- All boats have different rules so don’t expect that one vessel will operate the same as the next one.
- Prepare yourself with everything you need including comfortable clothing, fishing gear, and the knowledge to use it.
- Don’t book a charter that’s beyond your skill and experience level. This isn’t the time to learn new things, but rather apply the skills you already have towards having an enjoyable experience.
Charter Your Way to Fishing Greatness
A charter fishing boat used to be something reserved for only the richest or more experienced anglers, but the charters of today have made it accessible to so many others. There’s nothing like the unique experience that chartering a boat offers and if you can afford it, it’ll be a day you’ll never forget.
There are so many different ways to enjoy fishing, whether you’re standing alone on a creek bed or renting a private fishing vessel out on the high seas. To find out more about what charters entail to see if it’s the right fit for you, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions that can help.
Should You Tip on a Charter?
A charter boat’s crew and captain usually rely on gratuities from passengers to make up a large portion of their salary, and it’s recommended to tip them once the charter is done. The standard amount is between 15 and 20 percent but this can vary depending on the experience and service received.
Do You Keep the Fish You Catch on a Charter?
There are rules surrounding what happens to the catches earned on a charter boat that will differ from boat to boat. Usually, you’ll be able to keep everything you catch but sometimes it may be split 50/50 with the crew, and it’s worth finding this out before you book one so you’re not caught off guard.
How Long Do Fishing Charters Run?
The length of a fishing charter will vary from each provider and experience, but most of them will take place over one day and account for how much time it takes to travel to the location. Options include full-day charters that run for eight hours, a half-day tour for four hours, or a three quarter day tour for six hours.