The term 'fishing charter' is such a broad description for paying for the services of a professional guide/operation. There really is a kaleidoscope of options out there that can come under this title. It could be a couple of hour trip chasing mud crabs in the harbour, to a seven-day live-aboard trip in some far-flung destination, and you could loosely call it all charter fishing, despite the extreme differences in cost and levels of expectation.
Here's a ‘top five’ look at some of the factors that can add to the enjoyment of your much anticipated day or more on the water on charter, and help you avoid the common associated pitfalls.
Not all fishing charters are equal in the level of service they provide and how hard they'll work to find you fish. Also they can have vastly different aims when they set off for the day.
Some are sportfishing orientated and will try and release most fish caught and focus on lure fishing methods, while others are concerned with filling fish bins and targeting ‘table fish’.
It's important you have a clear goal in mind of what you want to achieve on your trip and then find the best suited operation to avoid disappointment.
Ask around, read magazine articles, put the word out on social media to get a second opinion on the operation you have in mind. Most of the quality operators are well-known. Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions of the operation itself, by talking to them and discussing the fishing, best times to book (including tides and weather) and any other pertinent details. It can be a case of if you don't ask you don't get. While there's no guarantees as to how good your trip will be on a fish catching level, a bit of legwork before you make the booking can really pay off.
A decent level of comfort is to be expected on your charter. After all much of the reason you book a charter is so you don't have to concern yourself with the hassle of looking after boats, gear, and even preparing food, and you should be able to focus on the fishing and getting the blood pressure down.
Again be sure to homework exactly what is provided in the way of food, drinks and even bedding on your trip, to ensure it doesn't turn into a nightmare. Bring the appropriate clothing and sun care as well, and basically assume nothing is supplied unless you’ve confirmed it prior to the trip.
Choose who you fish with. While on most charters you couldn't fault the blokes and gals on board, and you'll likely make great new friends from the trip, it’s a fact of life these trips can be treated like ‘booze cruises’ by some folk. And without risk of offending, angling experience will vary greatly as well. It’s highly recommend putting a bunch of your mates or family on the boat to boost the enjoyment factor up, but thankfully most people on charter are likeminded and you'll likely click with them instantly, but exceptions do happen.
If you're seriously results driven on your trip and have the extra cash to do so, consider booking the boat yourself and limiting the number of other anglers on board to maximise your chances. Marlin, swordfish, bluefin tuna, barra and even large snapper are a few fish that spring to mind where you may want to consider this. More lines in the water and more anglers does mean less opportunity. Of course this is a luxury and you'll need to pay the extra dollars to compensate. Certain charters are like cattle trucks and they'll look to load them up with people, while others will limit numbers to sensible amounts. Again it harks back to initial research and what you want from your time on the water.
The weather is everything, even on charter. If you're not the best sea traveller then take seasick tablets with you, as there's nothing worse than shelling out your hard-earned only to be hunched over the rails hurling chunks all day. It happens so often! Moreover, don't treat your day on the water as a massive 'piss up' as again this usually results in green faces and a mixed experience (putting it politely).
Charter skippers are also the best at making the call on the weather. With smartphones providing temptation to make predictions yourself, the skipper generally knows best. If you think it’s out of your comfort zone however there’s nothing wrong with speaking up, it’s your money at the end of the day!
If possible take some of your own gear with you to make the fishing more rewarding. There's no one else to blame then if something does stuff up then! Plus, let’s be honest, it’s always good to see your favourite Shimano outfit or lure get a workout isn’t it?! This said, most charters do cater for the fisho that doesn't own any gear and it's best to listen closely to any recommendations they may have. You usually have plenty of wiggle room however to use your own lures and rigs as well if you wish and they’re of reasonable standard.
Finally book in advance to avoid disappointment. This will enable you to secure prime tides and times during the season. As mentioned really think it through, and you'll get maximum bang for your charter fishing buck, and hopefully take away lifelong fishing memories and some big, shiny slabs for the photo album!