The Basics of Fishing Charter Etiquette

Fishing charter boat

There are two types of anglers who hire a fishing charter: beginners and experts. Unfortunately, no matter what your level of experience, it’s not hard to make an etiquette mistake.

Fishing charters are a great way to learn the ropes or to experience a new area. But there are a few basics you’ll need to know before you reserve your trip. Read on to find out about the do’s and don’ts of fishing charter etiquette.

Fishing charter etiquette: Tipping

There are about as many kinds of fishing charters as there are anglers. You can take a half- or a full-day trip. You can even catch an overnight charter. There are spearfishing charters, fly fishing charters and jigging trips. You name it, it’s available.

But there’s one thing that all these charters have in common. The captain and crew of that charter relies on you to make their living. Sure, those trips are expensive. But so is operating a boat.

Charter fishing boat

With that in mind, let’s talk about the most frequently asked question regarding charters. Do you tip?

The answer’s actually pretty straightforward. You wouldn’t go to a restaurant and refuse to tip your server if you got good service, right? Well, it’s also customary to tip the crew of your charter. Typically, this is about 20% of the cost of the trip. But good deckhands usually earn about 25%.

That makes your charter a lot more expensive than you’d thought, right? Remember that many of the crew of your charter rely on your tips as their primary income. So please factor the cost of the tip into your trip before you book it.

The second cost you’ll run into is fish cleaning. Most charters have this service available. You can certainly clean your own catch. But keep in mind that money the crew makes from this service may be important to them. Consider spending the $.30 or so a pound to have it done for you.

Fishing charter etiquette: Let’s talk about you!

Now that we’ve touched on how pricey charters can be, consider this: Imagine you’ve just dropped three grand on a fishing charter. You settle in and get ready to catch your limit. Then, you meet the other guy.

Unless you’ve hired a private charter, there’s going to be another guy. With any luck, he’ll be the friendliest person you’ve ever met. But with a bit of bad luck, he’s hung over, loud, seasick and won’t stop crunching chips.

Please don’t be that guy. There are a few things you should do before you even get on the boat. First of all, take any Dramamine you may need. There’s only one thing worse than having a seasick shipmate: being that seasick shipmate.

Secondly, try not to drink too much the night before. Get a good night’s sleep and come well rested. If you’re sleepy or hung over, you won’t enjoy your trip. And your crew won’t enjoy your presence too much, either.

Third, ask questions before you book. It may sound silly, but you don’t want to show up with a cooler of food, only to find out there’s not food allowed. Ask if you can bring your own equipment, because some charters require that you use theirs. Ask if personal flotation devices (PFDs) are available or if you should bring your own.

Fourth, please be on time! Your captain can’t wait for you. Plan to be at the boat at least 20 minutes prior to your reserved time. Come prepared wearing appropriate clothes, and with all your supplies in hard. Have your camera, your sunscreen, sunglasses and everything you’ll need ready to go.

Finally, remember that the Captain’s the boss. He knows these waters better than you do. If he deems an area unsafe, don’t push. If the captain wanted your advice, he’d have hired you.

Fishing charter etiquette: Love thy neighbor

It goes without saying that fishing charter etiquette is about being the best guest you can be. And in that way, the same rules apply for fishing on a charter as they do when you’re fishing onshore.

First of all, if the captain is fishing, he’s got “rights” to the bow. Or, pretty much anywhere he wants to wet a line. You and the others can fish elsewhere. Secondly, just as is true onshore, you shouldn’t just walk up to someone and fish beside him. Give your neighbor space to cast. If he wants your company, he’ll let you know.

Since you’ve checked the rules ahead of time, you already know if kids are allowed on your charter. If they are, it’s your responsibility to keep them under control. Tell them about the rules ahead of time: no running, no yelling and no horseplay, to name a few.

You’ll also want to know the rules about catch and release before you go on your trip. Or, more specifically, about bag limits. Don’t expect for a half-day charter to earn you any more than a few fish. If you’re looking to stock a cooler, hire a full day or multi-day charter.

A few more tips

As mentioned, there are many different types of fishing charters. All of them have different rules to follow. Be sure you do your research ahead of time. Here are a few things you might want to ask:

  • What is the dress code? Yacht fishing, in particular, may require a certain type of shoes or clothing.
  • Are there electrical outlets available for your use? For how long can you use them? Any limits?
  • Where are the bathrooms located? Find out about the toilets. On a boat, a different “method” may be used to flush. Please ask before you “go.”
  • On multi-day trips, it’s customary for guests to treat the captain (or the whole crew) to a meal one night. It’s not required, but it’s a very nice gesture.
  • It bears repeating: this is the captain’s boat. He makes the rules, and no one else.
  • Do your research. Find out about cancellation policies just in case there’s bad weather or you get sick. Be sure to find this out before you book.

Charter fishing trips are a great way to explore new waters. But they can quickly get ruined by bad fishing etiquette. Be sure to do your research before you go the ensure the best trip for everyone.