How to Charter a Fishing Boat
Over 500 species of fish swim in the waters of the southern Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Nearly every island boasts one or a number of ways to charter a fishing boat for sports fishing. Charter operations are ready to take both first-time and experienced anglers out for a day of sport. How do you choose the trip that’s right for you and charter a fishing boat? Four veteran captains offer their recommendations on how to Charter a Fishing Boat:
Things to Consider When you Charter a Fishing Boat
The first points to consider are boat experience, general physical condition and ages of the anglers, says Capt. Jonathan Gatcliffe, who operates two 35ft vessels and a 40ft Dorado under his DoubleHeader Sportfishing business based in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. “A five-year-old, for example, probably will not do well on a ten-hour marlin trip. Search the web. Ask how many years they have been in operation. Find out about tournament wins. And, ask what type of fishing they offer – flats, live baiting, trolling, inshore or offshore.”
“Someone who has never fished before should first decide whether it’s the amount of action or degree of excitement that’s most important,” notes Capt. Gary Clifford, who runs the 31ft Innovator, Yes Aye, out of his True Blue Sportfishing Charters in St. George’s, Grenada. “Inshore fishing for smaller fish usually provides the most action whereas an epic battle with a monster fish is more common offshore.”
Charter a Fishing Boat for Half Day or Full Day
First-timers may want to start with a half-day inshore trip, suggests DoubleHeader’s Gatcliffe. “This means fishing the reefs close in for snapper, tarpon, barracuda, kingfish and jacks. Then, if you like it, you can go offshore on a three-fourths or full-day trip to the less protected waters of the drop-off for pelagics such as wahoo, tuna, mahi-mahi and marlin.”
A half-day can go very quickly, says True Blue’s Clifford. “If the fishing grounds are close to shore then you will have three hours of actual fishing time. A half-day will only allow you to fish one area whereas a full day may allow the skipper to visit several different areas. The longer you have baits in the water the greater your chances of catching.”
Charter a Fishing Boat for Inshore vs. Offshore
The type of fishing will vary when angling inshore versus offshore.
Offshore fishing will often involve trolling moving baits behind the boat, True Blue’s Clifford explains. “Inshore fishing may also be trolling but often can involve static fishing with baits on or close to the bottom. Bottom fishing involves the angler holding the rod all the time whereas with trolling the rod is in the holder until the fish strikes. Some people don’t feel that they are fishing unless they are holding the rod.”
Don’t know how to fish? No problem
Captain Gerald ‘Frothy’ De Silva, who runs a 41ft custom and two 31-footers under his Hard Play Fishing Charters, in Tobago, says, “We always do an introduction to first time anglers. Firstly, we explain the safety equipment and safety procedures on board. We then talk about the game plan and what type of fish we would be targeting that day and where we will be fishing. Then we explain the tackle, rods and reels, line strength, how to use the chair or rod belt, how to use the drag on the reels and fighting techniques. During the battle with a fish we also talk with first time anglers to ensure that they are following the guidelines that we have explained prior to the trip. For more seasoned anglers we are always happy to share tips on rigging, setting a spread, boat handling, releasing and landing big fish.”
Kids are welcome on most when you Charter a Fishing Boat
Captain Michael Hall, who fishes off his Antigua-based 32ft Carrera center console, Scally Wag, says, “For taking kids I would do a mix of an inshore snorkeling trip with about two hours of offshore fishing to vary it a bit, since kids get quickly bored if the action is slow.”
If kids are experienced, adds True Blue’s Clifford “then an offshore trip could be considered. Quite young children can reel in a sailfish (eight years in my experience) and they will probably remember that forever.”
Prepare for a day of fishing, says Hard Play’s De Silva. “If you are not used to being on a boat at sea you should consider taking some sort of motion sickness medication. Most motion sickness medications should be taken well before you board the boat. You should also have the following: sunblock, hat, polarized sunglasses, towel, change of clothes, deck shoes and cover yourself well from the sun. Most boats provide soft drinks and water; however, not all provide beer and lunches. Find out before-hand what is included in the cost to charter a fishing boat.”
How Much Does it Cost to Charter a Fishing Boat?
Expect a day of sport fishing to cost $500 for a half-day and $800 to $900 for a full-day, and $1800 or more for a full-day marlin-only trip.
“Different islands have widely varying fuel prices, which is a big cost factor, so expect some variations in fishing prices across the region,” says True Blue’s Clifford.
Finally, catching a big fish is at the top of the Caribbean sport fishing experience, says Hard Play’s De Silva. “However, just being on the sea can be a wonderful experience. We often see dolphins, whales, turtles and a variety of seabirds. These are things that you can only see out there and being within touching distance of these amazing sea animals is truly a fun thing.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.