How to Ensure You Take the Best Offshore Fishing Trip of Your Life


As I looked to the back of the boat, my son John’s arm muscles flexed into tight knots. “He’s a good one, Dad,” John told me excitedly, grinning as he strained against the rod. “If I can just bring him up off the bottom, I can get him in to the boat.” I watched all day as my friends and family caught several hundred pounds of fish in a 10-hour trip while fishing out of Orange Beach, Alabama.

After we arrived back at the dock, the deckhand cleaned the fish and put them in our cooler. I simply wrote one check and paid for the entire day’s fishing trip, including tipping the deckhand and the captain and paying for the drinks and food. I didn’t have any added charges or surprise fees, and I had no hassles.

In many sections of the country, when a captain quotes you a price for a day of offshore charter fishing, he may forget to mention:

  • the tip for the deckhand and the captain;
  • the cost of extra bait;
  • the cost to have the fish cleaned and put in Ziploc bags;
  • the cost of ice for your cooler to carry your fish home;
  • the cost of food and drinks for lunch; and
  • an added fuel cost to go further offshore than you’ve originally planned to find bigger fish.

To avoid getting caught in any awkward (and finance-intensive) situations in the future, follow these guidelines for your next offshore fishing trip.

Determine the type of trip you want

When selecting a captain and a boat, consider your preferences. Do you and the other anglers want to catch numbers of fish? Do you prefer to catch only big fish? Do you want to enjoy a luxurious ride rather than taking fish? Sometimes, you can get all the above with one captain, but not always. The look of the boat doesn’t always equate as to how successful you’ll be.

When you consider offshore fishing in a chartered boat, study the captain and look at his boat. By comparison shopping, you may discover a trip that fits your pocketbook better than another. Don’t forget that anglers can catch many varieties of fish offshore year-round.

Use this saltwater fishing trip planner checklist

This form will help you get the most fishing for your bucks and insure you pay no hidden charges. You can use or send this form to a captain or a booking agent when you inquire about chartering a boat for fishing. Then you’ll know exactly what a trip will cost, what you can expect to catch, and what you will pay.

  • 1) I want to fish _________________ (date) and will have ___________ people in my party.
  • 2) I want to fish:
              • (a) 4 hours ________
        • (b) 6 hours ________
        • (c) 8 hours ________
        • (d) 10 hours ________
        • (e) 12 hours ________
        • (f) 15 hours ________
        • (g) Overnight ________
        • (h) A weekend for a tournament ________
  • 3) I’ll have non-fishermen in my party.
    • Yes ______   No ______ Cost for Non-fishermen _______________
  • 4) I want to:
    • (a) bottom fish _____ (snapper, grouper, amberjack, triggerfish, etc.)
    • (b) troll ________ (king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, etc.)
    • (c) cobia fish only ________
    • (d) cobia and bottom fish combination ________
    • (e) offshore bluewater fish ________ (marlin, sailfish, dolphin, tuna, wahoo, etc.)
    • (f) inshore fish ________ (speckled trout, redfish, pompano, etc.)
  • 5) I want my fish cleaned and bagged.
    • Yes ________   No ________   Cost ______________
  • 6) I prefer to have a package trip that includes the cost of:
    • (a) chartering the boat;
    • (b) filleting the fish and putting them in plastic bags;
    • (c) tipping the deckhand(s) (usually 10 to 15 percent of the total cost of the trip);
    • (d) tipping the captain, if he expects a tip.
      • Yes ________   No ________ Cost _____________
  • 7) I want box lunches and drinks for the trip.
    • Yes ________   No ________ Cost _____________
  • 8) I prefer a private charter for six or more people.
    • Yes ________  No ________
  • 9) I prefer a multi-passenger boat for 10 to 40 anglers.
    • Yes ________   No ________
  • 10) I prefer to fish on an air-conditioned boat.
    • Yes ________   No ________
  • 11) I need shower facilities.
    • Yes ________   No ________
  • 12) I want you to help us find accommodations.
    • Yes ________   No ________   Preferences ________________________________
  • 13) I’ll have physically, mentally, medically, and/or emotionally handicapped angler(s) fishing with me who may need special attention and have enclosed a brief description.
    • Yes ________   No ________
  • 14) I need airport pickup and return.
    • Yes ________   No _________  Cost ________
  • 15) What amount of deposit do I need to send?  ________________
  • 16) When are the final fees due, and to whom do I make out the check?
  • 17) Will I need special baits not covered in the overall price of the trip?
    • Yes ________  No ________  Cost ________
  • 18) Do you have references I can call?

To learn more information about fishing offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, go to John’s Amazon author page to see his available eBooks.

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