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Sport Fishing on a charter boat - 5 things to remember

Updated on August 20, 2013

Learn through my mistakes when I went sport fishing on a charter boat

First, off, "charter boat" implies that I chartered, well, a boat but, what I really did was reserve a space on a sport fishing head boat out of Key West. The difference between sport fishing on a charter boat and sport fishing on a head boat is that a charter boat is much more private, generally carrying up to 6 paying (high paying) guests. Sport fishing on a head boat is much more affordable but your hook will be dangling among about 50 others so your chances of pulling up Moby Dick are greatly reduced.

A chartered boat is also freer to move around, having more time generally on the water. You can charter your own boat for a half-day or full-day fishing trip but have some deep pockets to do that. Here in Key West, chartering your own sport fishing boat will cost you around $450 for half a day our upwards to $800 for 8 hours on the water.

Whichever way you choose to dangle your hook, there's some things to know, which I forgot prior to my trip. I will, though, relate them to you so you might have a different experience than I did. Don't get me wrong though, I had a total blast! That fish in the picture is one of two yellowtail snappers that I caught. This fella was too small to keep but since I hooked him so thoroughly, he was going to die anyway and one of the boat mates snuck him on my hook as bait. Sadly, he lost his life in vain.

Please come read my accompanying article Using the Instant Fisherman Fishing Pole - Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy.....

My own personal collapsible fishing pole!

John surprised me by giving me this wonderful collapsible fishing pole - the thing expands to a full 50" and is just a great present for a fisherwoman.

Instant Fisherman Portable Fishing Kit (Black)
Instant Fisherman Portable Fishing Kit (Black)

I highly recommend this telescoping portable fishing pole. It's so very easy to expand out and it's no fault of the fishing pole that it has yet to hook a fish...

sport fishing charter boat
sport fishing charter boat

Sport Fishing on a Charter Boat

Lesson #1: Bring along a good hand towel

You'll probably be baiting your own hook although, if you plead, you can probably get one of the boat mates to do it for you. But, put on your big girl pants (or big boy pants as the case may be) and hook your own squid, mackerel or whatever the charter boat provides. Actually, if you're on a charter boat, you probably won't have to bait your own line (you've sort of paid high dollar for the privilege) but, if you're on a head boat, you're more on your own.

This is where the wet towel comes in. Dampen a towel and carry it in a ziplock bag. When you get to the boat and select your fishing spot (more on that later), Anyway, once you get to your fishing boat, tie the towel right on the railing so that it's handy for wiping your hands. Bringing along a second towel isn't a bad idea either. Use it after you wipe your hands on the first towel. Don't though, use antiseptic hand wash as it will transfer to the bait and the fish won't bite.

Here's a few nice hand towels to get you started - I particularly like the micro fiber towels as they're very light and easy to handle:

Manduka eQua Hand Towel

Lime Green Tri-Fold Golf, Hand Towel w/Grommet & Hook

NEW RatTowels! Super-soft, super-absorbent, fast-drying 100% Microfiber Sport Towels

Fish? I saw fish...they were on everyone else's line


Sadly, that's the biggest fish I caught - bait sized.

Sadly, that's the biggest fish I caught - bait sized.
Sadly, that's the biggest fish I caught - bait sized.

Sport Fishing on a Charter Boat - Lesson #2: Pick your fishing spot carefully

Sure wish I'd known this trip before I got stuck fishing off the side of the head boat. Always, always reserve a spot on the stern (the back) of the boat. This sure made sense to me once I saw the folks on the back reel in fish after fish. When fishing, the hooks from those fishing on the stern get cast out farther and are behind the boat where all the lost bait from other hooks ends up. Therefore, fish are more attracted to the back of the fishing boat than the sides. Bummer on my part but doesn't have to be on yours.

If you can't reserve a spot, line up early for the head boat and go directly to the back - do not pass go! You'll be much happier fishing from the stern.

Sport fishing on a charter boat

Lesson #3: Bring sunscreen, hats, and other sun protectants

You're about to head out on open water so the sun's rays will be intensified. Even if you're prone to tanning instead of burning, make sure to protect you skin with plenty of suntan lotion. It's not a bad idea to bring along a lightweight long sleeve shirt in case the sun is really beating down. I donned my hat immediately to keep my hair from fading (no, this red on top of my head is not exactly "natural" although I was a natural redhead growing up - and have the temper to prove it).

Select a hat that has a larger brim and a lining in the brim for the best sun protection. I also put sunscreen on my hair (no, it wasn't greasy) and it seems to have worked fine.

Here's a few items that will help thwart the sun's hot and potentially painful rays:

Dr. Shade Sun Safari Hat with Shade

Extreme Condition Sun Hat

Columbia Men's Super Bonehead Classic Long Sleeve Fishing Shirt

Make your clothing sun protectant!

I think this product is just brilliant! You spray it on any item of clothing and that clothing becomes sun protectant! How cool is that? I have a few shirts that I love to take fishing; they're very light weight but I've managed to burn right through them. No with this sun protectant spray. I'm cool and my skin is untouched and protected against burning after a quick sprit of this spray.

Sport fishing on a charter boat - Lesson #4: Always prepare for seasickness

On the fishing head boat I was on, quite a few children and even more adults got seasick. Now, in sort of like a move of self-preservation (I'm a sympathetic vomiter...), I brought along crackers, knowing full well that crackers can be the best friend of a motion sick person. And, good thing I did as, although I didn't need them, I left the boat with nary a cracker to be seen.

Even if you've never gotten seasick, it's best if you're prepared for the one time you do. After all, the water off shore may have a totally different wave pattern than that in the harbor (and will!).

The best thing you can do though, to prevent seasickness, is, before you even see a boat, apply a transdermal motion sickness patch that you have to get by prescription from a doctor. Put it behind your ear for at least an hour before boarding the boat and you should be fine.

I was sick as a dog on a cruise recently (we took my 95 year old Mom aboard and she was only one of two in our seven person party who wasn't sick). Read more about my demise here: Taking a cruise with the elderly. I tried seasickness bands, emetrol, ginger gum - some of it seemed to at least quell the queasiness so they might be worth a try. Here's some items for your consideration when you go deep sea fishing on a chartered head boat:

Sea-Band Wristband, Adult, Colors May Vary, 1 Pair, Anti-Nausea Acupressure Motion or Morning Sickness
Sea-Band Wristband, Adult, Colors May Vary, 1 Pair, Anti-Nausea Acupressure Motion or Morning Sickness

These work on the theory of accupressure. You wear them on your wrists and, supposedly, they keep you from getting seasick.

Ginger Gum Anti-Nausea,24 pieces 1.35 gr each
Ginger Gum Anti-Nausea,24 pieces 1.35 gr each

Ginger has long been a suggested remedy against seasickness.


Sport fishing on a charter boat

Lesson #5: Wear closed toed shoes

I personally didn't take my own advice, preferring to be barefoot but I was very cognizant of where everyone's hooks were. I strongly suggest wearing tennis shoes (light soled, please) or closed sandals instead of thongs. I'm always barefoot on our boat though so am used to looking around. Regardless, you won't slip in the proper soled shoes, a few of which are below (they're called "boating shoes.") My boyfriend and I both have a good set of Sperry's like those shown below. They have rubber soles so they won't slip.

The top 3 are women's boating shoes while the bottom are men's.

Sperry Angelfish Casual Boat Shoe Womens


Sperry Top Sider Women'S Authentic Original Boat Shoe

Gold Metallic

Sperry Top-Sider Bahama 2-Eye

I've always loved fishing, having been partially raised on the water. Deep sea fishing, although fun, is not as entertaining for me as throwing an unassuming jig over the sea wall on the Overseas Hwy into Key West.

I'd love to hear any comments you may have about this article. Let em fly! P.S. Everyone can comment - not just Squidoo members.

Got fish?

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    • mariacarbonara profile image


      5 years ago

      Love the sea but never tried fishing. Yet

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We went fishing in the Maldives and enjoyed it immensely.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm a fisherman and this is a very nice lens.)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm a fisherman and this is a very nice lens.)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Here at Hillsboro Inlet fishing center we've been having good success also. This year has been good so far for your fishing charters. We had some good mahi fishing. South Florida fishing is all fun in the sun!

      Hillsboro Inlet Fishing Center

    • TheAverageOutdo profile image


      6 years ago

      Great tips.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I'm not into fishing, but I love the open sea. Sounds like others will definitely benefit from your experiences.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I'm not into fishing, but I love the open sea. Sounds like others will definitely benefit from your experiences.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I enjoy boats but am not a fisherman. You're a true die hard Squidooer - writing lenses even on your vacation. Glad you are having fun though.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      I don't have the patience to be a good fisher-person. My mom has a master angler certificate that she's very proud of and will show you old polaroid photos of all the fish they caught over the years. She wrote the weight and length on each photo.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm not a fisher but this is a very nice lens.


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