Some fishermen target specific species. For others, it’s all about the destination. They might look in their own back yards to catch a boxful of fish for the grill, or reel in the catch of a lifetime while on vacation. The southeastern United States offers all of these opportunities and professional fishing charter operators stand ready to take everyone from beginners to old hands on a trip to remember.
What’s Biting Where and When?
Striped bass, also called rockfish, is the top recreational catch in the Chesapeake Bay, says Capt. Rich Schott, who operates his Chesapeake Bay Sportfishing out of the Queen Anne Marina on Kent Island in Stevensville, Md., from April to December. “There’s trophy size rockfish averaging 20 to 40 pounds at the start of the season,” explains Schott, whose fleet is comprised of two 52-foot vessels and a 40-foot custom built Chesapeake Bay boat which can carry 6 to 10 anglers. “Throughout the season we’ll also catch bluefish, Spanish mackerel, black drum, croaker, spot, flounder and perch.”
Schott bases his operation out of Virginia Beach’s Rudee Inlet and the Inlet Station Marina from December to March. The rockfish there at that time are whoppers, averaging 20 to 50 pounds.
Further south, Capt. Jeff Ross, owner/operator of the Carolina-style 55-foot custom sportfisher Obsession, charters out of Pirate’s Cove Marina in the Manteo/Nags Head area of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. “I fish the Gulf Stream, which is only 35 miles offshore, and the outer continental shelf off Oregon Inlet. From January through December you can catch yellowfin, blackfin, bigeye and bluefin tuna virtually any month. From April through November, we also catch plenty of white and blue marlin, sailfish, spearfish and dolphin and wahoo, with the best of this from May to September/October.”
There’s great fishing 12 months a year out of South Florida where Capt. Ray Rosher runs his Miss Britt Charters. “Blue water fishing is as close as 5 miles offshore,” says Rosher, whose operation out of Bayshore Landing Marina in Miami includes custom-built 34-foot and 43-foot boats. “The Bahamas to the east act like a breakwater to prevent huge ground swells. We can fish from Palm Beach to Miami to Key West for everything from grouper, snapper, cobia, amberjack, kingfish, mahi and wahoo to sailfish. We released 100 sailfish last week (second week in April). We also offer specific trips for swordfish, combination swordfish/sailfish and night charters for tarpon.”
Choose Your Fishing Charter
It’s always good to find someone who has fished in a particular area and can recommend a boat/crew, says Obsession’s Ross. “I would also recommend to search on the Internet for boats, compare vessels in that area, call the captain and ask some questions and feel him out.”
Ross adds, “Pay attention to an operation’s fishing reports. You want a boat that fishes regularly, 5, 6, 7 days a week and has a lot of good catches. This is much better than a boat that only reports a catch every weekend or so. Good boats have good businesses, fish weekdays and weekends, and that is who you want to fish with, not part-timers. This goes for experienced and inexperienced anglers. A good charter boat should be able to satisfy folks that have fished a lot as well as assist and teach and show novices a good time.”
“We appreciate novice anglers,” says Miss Britt’s Rosher. “They are the ones that are less demanding of great fishing on early trips and more focused on education and kind treatment and patience by the crew and having a great experience. As they progress in their fishing career, then advanced techniques and great fishing are the focus. The first hurdle though, is to be sure someone is comfortable, relaxed and happy. That’s the basis for a long-term fishing relationship.”
Know Before You Go
Sports fishing charters can cost from $100 per person or $600 to $1000 by the boat for 6 to 10 anglers for an 8-hour trip on the Chesapeake Bay to $1300 to $1900 per day for 4 to 6 anglers on an 8- to 9-hour trip offshore North Carolina or Florida.
There usually is no need to bring your own gear.
Chesapeake Bay Sportfishing’s Schott says, “Our charters are all-inclusive, meaning we provide rods and reels, tackle, licensing and training. All our charter guests need to bring is what they’d like to eat or drink.”
Finally, ask ahead of time if you’d like to keep some of your catch to eat.
“Our crew will clean your catch at no additional charge beyond the amount that you tip them,” says Miss Britt’s Rosher. “Plus, Monty’s Restaurant here at the marina will cook your catch for $4 a plate; you just order your sides additionally. There’s nothing like eating fresh fish the same day you caught it!”