Questions To Ask The Captain.
What is the full cost of the trip?
Is there a deposit?
Is it refundable or applicable to another trip should an unforeseen
circumstance warrant cancellation?
How far in advance do you need to call to change a reserved date without
forfeiting your deposit?
What is included in the cost: bait, ice, tackle, fish cleaning?
If you reserve a room at a hotel, cabin, or condo, ask if their deposit
is refundable if you should need to cancel the trip for whatever reason,
including bad weather.
When does the charter begin and end?
When should you be at the boat ready to go?
When do you return?
Most charters are run on a "dock-to-dock" basis. If the trip is eight
hours, dock to dock, don't expect eight hours of fishing. Most captains
will spend a little extra time fishing if you are close to catching your
limit or you haven't been successful. Be sure to determine before you go
whether there will be a charge if extra time is provided by the captain.
Also ask how much extra time will cost if you request it. To avoid any
surprises, ask if the captain runs more than one trip a day. Let's say
your charter is 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., dock-to-dock. Fishing is slow, but
starts to pick up around noon. When you ask the captain the cost of a
few more hours, he states that he has another trip in the afternoon and
needs to leave in ten minutes. This isn't what you want to hear, now
that the walleye have started to bite.
Do not make arrangements to contact the captain before the trip to check
on forecasted weather conditions, as weather conditions are
unpredictable near large bodies of water. Instead ask for the city and
state where you will be departing from so that you can check the weather
Do contact the captain to confirm the time you are to be at the dock and
the required fishing licenses.
Be courteous to your charter captain, if you have a delay or need to
cancel at the last minute, call immediately. Do not leave them sitting
at the dock all day waiting for you. A minimum deposit will not cover
the cost of a lost charter. By calling if you need to cancel the captain
is free to pick up a walk-on trip or spend the day another way.
Is the contracted charter based on hours on the boat or catching a limit
of fish? Look closely at the trip duration clause, such as "eight hours,
dock-to-dock, or limit." If you intend to spend eight hours on the
water, you may be disappointed when, after catching your limit of fish
in four hours, the captain heads back to the dock. To avoid any
disappointment, before hiring a captain, make sure your intentions are
clear that you want to be on the water for eight hours, be sure to state
that request when booking your charter. Regardless of what you're
fishing for, there are always other species of fish to catch if you
'limit out' early. Remember this is your trip so do not be afraid to
discuss it with the captain before reserving the charter date.
Make sure the charter fits your mode of angling. If you book a charter
and expect to be bottom fishing, you may be in for a surprise to find
the captain geared up to troll during a July charter. The point is, all
methods of angling can be productive during the right time and place,
but it may not be the type of angling your party expects. Discuss your
preferences with the captain and determine if the charter captain's
method or fishing time of year fit your needs and desires.
If your party does limit out, and the captain and mate offer their fish
to you, refer to your fishing regulations. It is illegal to possess more
than your daily limit, except at your motel, condo, or hotel.
Charter captains will provide you with every possible opportunity to
catch fish. Even though they would like your business in the future,
they cannot make fish bite. Is it too much to ask for a guaranteed limit
catch? The number of fish caught will depend on a variety of factors,
including the desire of the fish to bite, weather conditions,
concentration and location of fish, availability of natural food, water
temperature, and your degree of ability with rod and reel, so it is
unfair to the Charter Captain and crew for someone to expect a
guaranteed limit catch, it is referred to fishing not catching.
If you feel you need to catch the limit to justify the cost of a
charter, just check out the price of fish fillets at the local fish
market. Your share of a six-person charter costs much more than if you
were to buy your fish at the fish market and stay home.
What should you bring? Ask what is provided with the base cost of the
charter. Generally, on six-person charters, bait, rods and reels, lures,
and ice are provided. Always specifically ask if there is an additional
cost for these items. On occasion, anglers arrive at the dock to find
that "provided" really means "available for an additional fee."
If you are expected to provide your own tackle, such as on a head boat
charter, and are unsure of the appropriate items to bring, ask. As the
seasons change, so do the fishing techniques. What you may use on one
charter will be dramatically different from what lures would be
productive during another time of year.
Always bring more bait than you think you'll need. Bait is generally
provided on six-passenger charters, and is not used on trolling
charters. A head boat trip may require you to have your own bait. Again,
ask if you are unsure of the appropriate bait to purchase or if you need
to do so.
Ask if a separate cooler, besides the fish cooler, will be available for
storage of beverages and lunches. If not, consolidate all of the party's
food and beverages in one small cooler. Don't forget to bring another
cooler that you will leave in your car to ice your fish down for the
Ask about the crew and boat. With the increase in chartering, there are
individuals who run charters without the required licenses. Many of
these individuals are not qualified to operate a charter vessel, their
boats may not be equipped with mandatory safety gear, and they may know
very little about fishing. Ask to see the captain's valid U.S. Coast
Guard and/or guide's licenses if in doubt. They are for your protection
against unqualified individuals.
When you arrive at the boat, the responsible captain will show you where
life jackets are stored; one Coast Guard-approved life jacket is
required for each individual. If you have young children, make sure
children's life jackets, approved for weights of less than 90 pounds,
are on board. You should also be instructed in the general operation of
the boat and/or marine radio in the event something happens to the
captain (unless a first mate is present).
Be sure the boat has a working marine toilet that you are permitted to