How Much Does it Cost to Fish Offshore?

Photo from Chris Hackshaw/St. Lucia

Over 500 species of fish swim in the seas surrounding the Caribbean islands. As such, nearly every island boasts anywhere from a handful to a fleet of talented captains running sports fishing charter boats. 

There’s no one answer to the question ‘how much does it cost to fish offshore in the Caribbean.’ Instead, the answer is broad based on many variables. The upside to this is that it’s possible to find the perfect fishing trip.  

“Before answering the question of cost, I like to get an idea of what kind of budget the prospective client has and how experienced they are,” explains Rick Alvarez, owner of the Miami, FL-based International Billfish Tournaments (IBT), who also organizes fishing packages to the Dominican Republic. “There are three types of clients who travel to fish. First, those who love to fish and save up for a once in a lifetime super trip. Secondly, those who travel to fish once a year to one of the popular fishing destinations. Third, those who can afford and have the time to travel to fish 3 or 4 times a year.

Rates Vary by Time of Year.

Some operator’s rates vary by high season and low season in terms of when the most tourists visit. Others offer the same prices all year long. Time of year most affects what fish are in season.

“April through October is marlin season, September to April is wahoo and mahi-mahi, and November to March is yellowfin tuna,” says Krys Vialva, marketing and sales coordinator at Ocean Surfari, with charter locations in St. Thomas, USVI and Tortola, BVI. 

Photo from Chris Hackshaw/St. Lucia

Trip Length affects Charter Rates

“With fuel being our biggest expense, the price of the full day (8-hour) trip is considerably more than the half day (4-hour),” explains Chris Hackshaw, manager at Hackshaw’s Boat Charters Ltd. in St. Lucia. “However, it is not double the rate, so the hourly rate is actually better on a full day trip.”

This is a principal that plays out on other islands as well.

“A 4-hour charter is US $550, a 6-hour charter is US $750, an all-day 8-hour charter is US $900 and a 12-hour Marlin Charter is US $1,100,” says Amy Roberts, who handles bookings for her husband, Captain Denfield ‘Leroy’ Roberts, who operates Mystic Amara III, a Bertram 31, out of Jolly Harbour, Antigua. “The 4- and 6-hour charter prices are for bottom or deep-sea fishing and the 8-hour and 12-hour are deep sea and marlin charters.”

Inshore Versus Offshore Charters

“For inshore or backcountry, we use a smaller boat with no mate, so less expenses. Inshore is best known as reef fishing. We fish for snapper, grouper, jacks and mackerel. Backcountry we fish for tarpon and snook,” says Luis Lagrandier, captain and owner of Puerto Rico Sportfishing Charters in Dorado, PR. 

“Offshore or deep-sea fishing means a bigger boat, a mate, more tackle and a lot more preparation and work, so its more expensive. Deep-sea we fish for billfish (blue and white marlin and sailfish), mahi, wahoo and tuna.”

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Gamefish Versus Marlin.

“When trolling for big game, the cost is the same whether we target mahi or dorado, wahoo or marlin. That’s because we tend to fish in the same area,” says Hackshaw Charter’s Hackshaw. 

“The charter price increases when it’s a marlin-only trip,” says Humberto Quintana, captain and owner of Island Marine Punta Cana Fishing Charters, at Marina Cap Cana, in the Dominican Republic. “For us, that’s a 10-hour trip to fish the FADs off Macao and is $2350.”

Marlin-only trips, adds Gary Clifford, captain and owner of True Blue Sportfishing at the Port Louis Marina, in Grenada, “also cost a bit more due to fuel burn from higher speed lure trolling.”

Photo from Amy Roberts/Antigua

Type of Boat.

Size matters. For example, “we offer two sizes of boats: a 31’ Bertram and 47’ Buddy Davis. Because of her extra size and the costs associated with operating her, the Buddy Davis is the more expensive of the two,” explains Hackshaw Charter’s Hackshaw. 

Similarly, a full day charter in the Dominican Republic can cost from $800 per day to $3,500 per day, says IBT’s Alvarez. “The lower end are the boats in the local charter fleet than range from 31- to 53-feet, while the higher end are usually visiting boats that come for the season and have clients booked way in advance. These are as big as 70-plus feet.”

Photo from Capt. Luis/Puerto Rico

Number of Fishermen Onboard.

“We only do private trips (i.e. the charterer pays for the entire boat no matter how many anglers are aboard) so split charters (i.e. where the cost of the boat is split among anglers) are not an option. On splits, you have people that don’t know each other and if someone gets sick, for example, it can ruin everyone’s trip. That’s the main reason we only do privates,” says Puerto Rico Sportfishing’s Lagrandier.

Antigua’s Mystic Amara III will try to accommodate splits and it works this way: “If people request a split trip, they go on a waiting list and if I’m able to pair couples together then they split the charter cost between the number of guests on board,” explains Roberts.

Beyond this, Hackshaw Charters offers group rates. “Fishermen pay a per head rate. We work with several reps to make up the numbers. Therefore, the per head rate remains the same whether you book one spot or six,” says Hackshaw.

Cost to Fish Offshore: What’s Included & Excluded.

“We include fishing permits, light snacks, drinks and all the fishing gear and bait,” says Ocean Surfari’s Vialva.

A common exclusion is lunch.

“We encourage guests to bring whatever they’d like to eat on board with them, especially for the 6-, 8- and 12- hour trips,” says Mystic Amara III’s Roberts.

Final Advice.

“To plan the ‘perfect’ trip, first decide ahead of time if you want to fish for quality (size) or quantity (smaller fish, but a lot more). People think that they will catch, or in our case catch-and-release, more than one marlin on a half day trip. They get disappointed when in that timeframe there’s only one bite and they miss the fish,” explains Puerto Rico Sportfishing Charter’s Lagrandier.

Finally, says Pete Manuel, who is based in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina and operates Delta Dawn Sportfishing charters in the Dominican Republic, “If someone can afford it, book multiple days because in reality you might not catch something every day.”

Photo from Pete Manuel
Carol_Bareuther
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.