Charter Menu

Choosing a Charter Boat
Adding or Claiming a Listing
Link Partners Directory

Login Form

User name


Forgotten your password?
No account yet? Create one

Who's Online

How to choose the best charter boat | Print |  E-mail
Whether you are looking to rent a charter boat for sport fishing, scuba, snorkeling, tours, or sight seeing, there are a few things to look for to ensure you have a great time when spending your hard earned money.  We'll try to address the major topics here to help ensure that you make an informed decision when going through the selection process.  If you don't take the time to research your potential charter you may end up not having a very good time.  There are plenty of instances where people have had less than ideal conditions yet had a wonderful time on their charters and of course horror stories from people who had a "productive" trip but didn't have a great time or felt out of place due to other factors.

 We'll try to inform you of the best ways to ensure that you and your charter boat crews have a successful outing but more importantly, the most fun possible.

Always Ask Questions about the Charter Boat and Crew!

This point cannot be stressed enough!  If you don't ask, you'll never know until you are on the water and by then it may be way too late.   There are a lot of things that most people don't know about charters and how they work and for first time customers, this may be the one area where a little bit of research can make or break the entire trip!

How much experience does the crew have?
While a crew doesn't have to have the most experienced to be successful, it's always a good idea to get on with a staff that is experienced in what they do.  This is pretty much common sense but should be mentioned.  Look on the charter's website (if they have one) for details about the captain and his experience and also look for notes from customers about their experience with the captain and his services.  It's not hard to locate the captains that have the experience and the support of their clients.  Finding captains that have repeat customers is also a plus.  If this information isn't available online, be sure to ask.

What happens to payments or deposits if a trip gets cancelled?
Obviously nothing in life is guaranteed and many factors can lead to a cancellation of a trip.  You should always be sure about what happens to deposits if the charter cancels the trip due to weather, safety, equipment, etc.  You should also find out about the refund policy in the event you need to reschedule or cancel your trip.

When is the best time to go?
If you're targeting a certain kind of fish or looking for the optimal weather and conditions for a dive, this could be one of the main factors that decides when and where to go.  Always let the crews know what it is you're looking for and determine if the natural conditions are favorable for the timeframe you are considering.  There is no point in getting your hopes up for catching Tarpon if it is the wrong time of year or if they aren't as abundant due to geographical location.

What are the boat's capabilities and features?
This can be a subjective matter in many ways.  Some folks don't mind standing in the heat all day on a smaller vessel or one that is more crowded.  Others prefer to have air conditioning and smaller amounts of people.  The main thing here is to not have a perception one way about what the boat offers and then get surprised when it's not what was expected.   Always find out what the size of the party will be, whether the boat has the features you want, and if it suits your style.  Also ensure that the boat has the size and range needed to get to what you're looking for.  Also, it's a good idea to ask how long it takes to get to the desired locations.  If it takes an hour to get to the spot and you rent a 4 hour trip, that's only 2 hours on location.   Keep this in mind when planning your charter.

USCG Certified?
Check whether the boat and Captain have all their respective licenses and that they are in good standing.

What is included and what do I need to bring?

What is included in the price of the charter?  Do I need to bring my own equipment like tackle, bait, rods, tanks, and BCDs?.  Can these items be rented if they aren't included in the price?  What happens if I damage or lose equipment that belongs to the charter company?  Do I need my own cooler or are coolers and ice provided?

What should I bring with me on the trip?  Are food and drink included?  
Is alcohol allowed?   

Most charters will allow beer but not many allow liquor or bottles (of any kind).  This is pretty common but many may not consider it common sense.  This can be a huge area of concern for a charter crew (and other guests on the boat).  Captains always want you to have a good time and don't usually frown upon drinking but if you or your group get out of line by drinking too much, it's safe to say that you may be making a quick return to the dock!  
The suggestion here, if alcohol is allowed, is to treat your hosts with respect and not overstep your bounds in this department.  There isn't a captain around that will sacrifice your safety or their's because someone wants to consume too much or get out of control.

It's also not advised to bring a "plugger" or GPS device along on a trip.  There is no need for a guest to have a GPS device unless they are looking for the "hot spots".  This is greatly frowned upon.  If you want or need to get the coordinates for future trips, just ask.  You may be pleasantly surprised at how people react to genuine requests for assistance (if the reason is valid).

In this same department are choices of clothes, shoes, and accessories.  Most captains love their boats and don't want them to get damaged by poor choices in attire.  As a general rule, you shouldn't wear anything with sharp edges or studs, like jeans, belts with metal buckles, etc.  These can really do a number on a boat's finish when you're leaning against a rail.   It's also a good rule to consider what kinds of shoes you plan to wear.  Remember the signs in the gym in high school? "No Street Shoes"?  Street shoes (hard soles, dark colors) can also do damage and most boats don't allow them and suggest boat shoes, sneakers, etc as a safe replacement.  In this regard you should think about what you would want others to wear if they were on your boat for the day.

Sunglasses, medicine, cameras:  This is an area where you usually won't find many objections from the crew.  They want you to be safe and have a good time.  If you get motion sickness, make sure you have your medicines ready and that you take them before going out.  Some folks still have problems with motion sickness even while taking medicine.  If this is you, you should consider if it's worth paying all that money to lean over the edge and chum for x amount of hours.   If you react positively to motion sickness medicine, just be sure to keep them handy and take them as needed to enjoy your day.  

Sun protection is a huge concern, not so much for the crew but for you.  In many places, it gets hot on the boat and some boats don't have cabins to escape the heat.  Do yourself a favor and take plenty of sunscreen along and use it as needed.  Sunglasses and hats should also be worn as much as possible.  You don't want to be blinded by the reflecting rays nor have your head baked by the sun all day.  Wear clothing that fits the environment.  Be ready if you get wet or dirty.  Bring a change of clothes and don't assume that just because the charter is in Florida, that it will be warm all day.  Bring a jacket or windbreaker and some warmer clothes.  Most charters leave early, sometimes before the sun is up, and you don't want to be freezing for the trip out.  If the location is in a cooler climate, you may already be dressed for a cold day but if those clothes get wet and you don't have a spare set, you may just be miserable from the start.  You’re your trip according to the weather and the boat’s capabilities when selecting your outfit.

Coolers are another place where you may want to check whether you need to bring one.  Most larger boats have coolers and ice available.  If that is the case, you can usually leave yours in the car and use it to take home whatever you catch.  Of course, deck space is a premium and while some may want you to bring a cooler, many charters have plenty of coolers and ice to handle the situation.  Check with your charter crew to be sure.

Tackle, Licenses, Dive Gear, etc:
If you prefer to use or take your own gear, check with the crew to ensure that it's alright.  Most will not object as long as the gear is within reason.  Many charters handle everything in regards to gear but won't object to someone bringing their own equipment.  Of course for dive charters this is a little backward.  Most may expect folks to use their own equipment or make arrangements to rent anything that is needed.   If you do take your own gear for fishing, ensure that it fits in with what the crew is doing and make sure that it doesn't get in the way.  I know I like to take my own spinning rod when I go on charters rigged the way I want it, just in case the right situation presents itself.  It's nothing against the crew or their gear.  I just want immediate access to a rod that I'm familiar with, rigged and ready to go, when the run starts!  I have never had any issues when doing this but keep it within reason and ask to ensure its OK.

If you're doing something specialized like fly fishing or spear fishing, it's pretty common for folks to want to bring their own gear.  There are differences with the kinds of charters and one should be sure to check if there are concerns before leaving.

Licenses (fishing) can almost always be obtained when going out on a charter.  Many are included in the cost of the charter but this is something that you need to look into as it is ultimately your responsibility to be legal for the season and targeted species.

Diving gear should always be confirmed prior to a trip.  If you're taking a trip as a seasoned diver and have your own gear, this is probably a non-factor really unless you're traveling and don't want to bring it all along.  However, if you need to rent any gear, you should be sure of prices and availability prior to going out.  Either way, it's best to ask (I feel like I've said that before).

Keeping what you catch?
Some charters prefer catch and release when it comes to fishing.  If that is the case, it's best to have a camera to remember your catch.  In some cases, you can get a certificate for your catch with the species, size, weight, etc.  This is not only a great record for your catch but ensures that someone else will be able to share your experience down the road while not taking away from the population.   Even if you're allowed to keep your catch, think about whether you want that fish gaffed and killed.  Conservation is a great way to ensure that our sports don't die off and many charters are not only fishing and diving charters but also conservationists.  Then again, if it's a nice Mahi or a hand grabbed lobster.....   mmmm  lemon please!

If you catch a trophy and want to mount it, many charter captains know of taxidermy services that may suit your needs.  
If you want to keep what you catch, just make sure to ask if it's OK before hand.   Some charters keep some fish and sell them to local markets to help keep the cost of the charter down.  You should check to make sure that if you want to keep what you catch, that it's not against the charter's policy of catch and release.  If you ever have more than you can eat or keep, many charters will gladly accept whatever is left over if you're willing to share.  

If you're diving and out to get some bugs (lobster), just ensure that it's OK to keep them.  Also, if you're spear fishing, make sure that you're not harvesting out of season and that you do not take more than you're allowed.  

Gratuity for Captain and Crew
It is customary in the US to tip the crew (and if you like, the Captain) for a job well done.  This is a standard practice in many cases and for some crews it is the majority of their income.  Please be sure to check with the charter to verify the policy on tipping and gratuity.   In most cases, this follows the standard tip of 15% - 20% of the cost of the charter.  This can easily be divided amongst all the customers to lighten the load.  Of course this is based off the service provided by the crew.  If they didn't perform to satisfaction, the tip should reflect that but if they performed above and beyond and made the trip extremely pleasurable, the tip should also reflect the excellent service.  

Keep this in mind when setting your budget as you do not want to be short on cash for a job well done.

These folks usually do an exceptional job and really make or break an outing.  If they do well, they should be rewarded for a job well done.  If you are using a charter outside the US, be sure to check local customs for tipping.  In countries like Japan for instance, tipping is not common and the wages for the staff are almost always included in the total price for the service.
Many charter crews will clean your catch for you after the outing along with their standard duties such as cleaning the boat, restocking, caring for the equipment and *ahem* cleaning out the "head".  Not the prettiest of tasks to say the least!  Keep this hard work in mind when tipping.  They do a lot more than what you see when on the boat.

Are children or less experienced anglers and divers likely to have a good time?
Obviously some charters are geared toward experienced anglers or scuba divers.  This should be asked if you plan to have several children or less experienced anglers or divers.  If the trip you're planning is more casual than professional, gear your charter to a crew that welcomes newcomers and to charters that pride themselves on teaching or introducing the activity to newcomers.  

Suggestions or Feedback for this guide:
If you have a suggestion for this article, please feel free to post it on our forums.  If you believe that we need to include more information of if you think there is a topic we should address, we are all ears!   We plan on making an easy to use email form where you will be able to generate an email with all questions needed to the charter service of your choice.  This will be for any email you like, not just the ones listed on this site so bookmark the page and we'll try our best to get you the answers you need by making an easy to use template for inquiries to the charters you want more information about.

The CharterBoatFish.Com Staff.
  Next >
[ Back ]

CharterBoatFish Poll

What is your favorite Charter type?

Joomla Template by Joomlashack
Joomla Templates by JoomlaShack Joomla Templates