Charter Fishing Boats and Party Fishing Boats: Know Before You Go
Hiring passage on fishing charters can be one of the most rewarding experiences you ever have. It can also be one of the most agonizing times of your life. If you go unprepared, not only will you not enjoy the trip – you might also become so ill that you actually turn green and beg the crew to kill you! This actually happened to me…once. After that, I wised up. My next fishing trip was on a bay charter, and it was great!
Types of guided fishing trips
Fishing charters ply both fresh and salt water, but in this article, I’m going to discuss saltwater fishing. This might include several types of fishing:
Inshore fishing – This is when you fish in tidal creeks, saltwater rivers, bays, sounds, flats, and estuaries. Flats fishing and sound fishing especially popular and productive. The water is relatively shallow, so it’s not usually as rough as deeper waters. Fishing trips like a bay charter might be only a couple of hours long, as little time is wasted getting to and from your fishing destinations.
Near shore fishing – Near shore fishing charters take guests out to deeper water, usually within twenty miles of the coast, to fish around jetties, artificial reefs, and live reefs. This type of fishing is not influenced by the tides the way inshore fishing is.
Offshore fishing – With this type of fishing charters, you’ll be carried out to deep water. In many areas of the U.S. side of the Atlantic, this often means out to the Gulf Stream. This might be sixty miles offshore, more or less, depending on your point of departure. If the fishing spots aren’t too far away, you might be able to find a half-day trip. Many of these charters, however, are full-day trips or at least ¾-day trips. Some packages offer overnight trips, too. Keep in mind that much of your time will be spent riding instead of fishing!
Trolling – Trolling from a charter boat can be done in almost any type of saltwater, including in bays, large rivers, sounds, harbors, near shore, and offshore. With this type of angling, the boat is moving most of the time, so there’s actually less chance of getting seasick.
Deep sea party boat fishing – A party boat carries a larger number of fishermen than a charter boat carries, and you’ll be sharing the boat with strangers. The benefits of a party boat often include a lounge, restrooms, a galley, and perhaps even beds. Food and beverages are often served on board. A party boat charges considerably less than a charter boat, per person.
Will I get seasick?
There’s no way to predict whether or not you’ll get seasick while aboard fishing charters. Some people who are prone to getting carsick won’t get seasick, while those who’ve never experienced motion sickness before might get violently ill on a boat. If you're engaging in something like flats fishing, fishing in a bay on a bay charter, or sound fishing, you probably won't get sick. Even if you do, you won't be far from shore.
You’ll be fine as long as the boat is moving forward – it’s when the boat stops to fish that’s the problem. The constant swaying of the boat with the waves can make you terribly nauseous! Your best bet is to start taking non-drowsy Dramamine or meclazine the day before you go out on the charter boat. Continue taking it at regular intervals, even if you don’t feel sick. You might want to try a motion-sickness patch instead of the pills. Ginger ale made with real ginger is another way to avoid motion sickness.
What to take with you
Be sure to bring a cooler and leave it in your vehicle – you’ll need it for all the fish you catch! You’ll also need sunscreen, a hat or visor, and sunglasses. You’ll also want to take your camera so that you’ll have photos of the trip.
It’s best to dress in layers when going out on a boat. The trip out might be cool, especially while the boat is running at full speed. Later in the day, however, it will warm up, and it could get very hot on the water. Your bottom layer of clothing should be a short sleeve or sleeveless cotton shirt.
You’ll need to take some cash with you to pay for having your fish cleaned. Some fishing charters accept credit cards, too.
Ladies, if you have long hair, you’ll probably want to tie it back in a ponytail. If you don’t, count on spending a while removing the tangles from your wind-blown mane.
What about food and drinks?
Before the day of the trip, find out exactly what the captain allows. Some charter boats let you bring your own food and drinks, while others require that you purchase food and drink items from the boat.
If you’re allowed to take your own, pack the items in a cooler with plenty of ice. Take light, non-greasy foods, bottled water, and ginger ale and other soft drinks. You might also want to take along a travel-size package of Handi-wipes so that you can clean your hands before you eat.
Are alcoholic beverages allowed?
Many anglers enjoy sipping a cold brew or two while fishing. Ask ahead of time if alcohol is allowed, and if it is, whether or not you can bring your own. You might have to purchase beer and other alcoholic drinks from the crew. Remember, though – alcohol might very well increase your chances of getting seasick.
Do I take my own gear and bait?
Almost all charter boats and party boats provide their guests with all the fishing equipment they’ll need. Bait is also provided. If you have your own “lucky rod,” ask the captain if you can bring it along, but make sure it’s the right type of rig for the type of fishing you’ll be doing.
What type of license will I need to buy?
Before you go, ask about any fishing licenses or permits you’ll need. Most charter boats include a fishing permit in the price, so that’s usually taken care of for you.
What about restrooms?
Asking about the availability of restrooms is important, especially for women going out on a boat. Larger boats, like party boats, usually have them onboard, but many smaller vessels don’t. If the trip is going to be longer than a few hours, this could present a problem for the ladies!
If you're flats fishing, sound fishing, or doing some other type of inshore angling like fishing a bay, the captain might be willing to take you to a restroom on shore if the need arises.
Can I bring the kids?
Some fishing charters are more than happy to provide a trip for the entire families, while others have a minimum age limit for guests. If you want your fishing excursion to be a family affair, find a boat that specializes in families. This will ensure that your kids will have an enjoyable experience and that they won’t be in the way of die-hard anglers.
Am I guaranteed to catch fish?
No captain or crew can guarantee that you’ll catch fish – there are just too many variables. Your chances of catching fish with a seasoned captain, however, are very good. These guys are professionals, and they’re familiar with the area and know where the fish tend to hang out.
Who cleans the catch?
Most charter boats and some party boats will clean your fish for you for a reasonable charge. These guys are experts and can fillet your catch in no time! Most will even bag the fillets so that they’re all ready to go into your cooler.
What else should I ask before I go?
There are a few other things you need to ask the captain or the booking agent before your scheduled trip:
- What time will the boat leave the dock?
- What time will we return?
- Should I tip the crew? How much?
- What if something comes up and I have to cancel?
- What if you cancel the trip because of bad weather?
If you’ll go through this article and familiarize yourself with the boat’s policies and rules, you should have an enjoyable and memorable experience. One more thing: don’t be late reporting to the dock. Get there early so that you can locate the right boat. Make you fishing charters experiences great!
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