The long rainy days of the Pacific Northwest make it easy to start day dreaming of deep sea fishing under warm, blues skies on even bluer water. But reality set in when I started looking at the cost of deep sea charters.
I began to wonder, is deep sea fishing worth the money? After talking to several charter services and doing some online research, here is what I learned.
With an experienced guide, in the right place, deep sea fishing is an exhilarating adventure that is well worth the money. The action is sometimes nonstop and the variety of beautiful destinations and fish caters to the dreams of any angler.
Do your homework when selecting a charter to get the biggest bang for your buck. The more time you put into researching a location for the type of fishing you want, the better your chances of having a positive experience.
Keep reading to find out everything you should consider before booking your first deep sea fishing trip.
How much do fishing charters cost
There really is some truth to the old saying, “you get what you pay for.” You know your budget better than anyone, but when hiring a deep sea fishing guide, you are paying for more than a few fish fillets. It is critical that you select a reputable charter service with well-maintained equipment and highly experienced guides.
A half day (4 hours) of fishing with a good quality deep sea guide service costs around $800 for a 1 to 6 person group plus 15-20% for gratuities. The larger your group is, the more you can split the costs and save money.
Of course rates seem to vary depending on the destination and time of year. When shopping around for a good deal, don’t go cheap. I found that the majority of reputable charters have similar pricing. Any company that undercuts the going rate by too much could be cutting a few corners.
The bulk of your money goes to paying for the boat, gas and captain. The further out to sea you venture, the more it will cost in gas. Boats with bathrooms also seem to add a bit to the price tag. Most importantly, you are paying for someone who can show you where and how to catch world class fish.
Don’t be afraid to call a few companies and ask what perks they offer over their competition. Put together a list of questions and concerns. The company that gives you the best answers is one to consider. The next step is to find unbiased reviews to see what others say about the value of their trip.
What do I need to bring
A good guide service will provide you with everything you need to catch fish. This usually includes all the fishing gear, tackle, life jackets, licenses and the processing of fish. However, there are some essentials that you should bring along for your own comfort.
Dressing right is a must and having multiple layers will keep you comfortable from start to finish. Even in tropical destinations, sudden drops in temperature are possible far from shore.
Here is my list of clothing essentials:
- Light weight pants and shirt. Protect yourself from the bugs and sun.
- Windbreaker. Sea spray when cruising from shore can make for a cold start on those chilly mornings.
- Hat. Always wear a hat to keep the intense sun off your face. Full brimmed hats are a good option as well. Just make sure it has a strap so you don’t lose it in the wind.
- Comfortable shoes with good traction. You will be scrambling around the boat all day and slipping on a wet boat deck covered in fish slime is no joke.
- Waterproof rain jacket and pants. Nasty storm clouds can appear out of nowhere and the fishing doesn’t stop for a bit of rain.
- Leave a change of clothes in the car for when you return. You will appreciate being able to remove slime covered clothes, so will your vehicle’s seats.
Personal items and food
A day on the water under a blazing sun, while fighting fish that are bigger than a grown man, is harder than you think. Protect and re-energize yourself by packing right. Better to pack unnecessary gear than regret not having what you need to be comfortable.
- Polarized sunglasses. Not only is it fun to see fish deep in the water, but sun glare can burn your eyes.
- Lip balm.
- Sunscreen. Sunburns are possible even on cloudy days. Wear long sleeves if possible and apply sunscreen regularly.
- At least 1 quart of water. It is easy to get dehydrated when fishing, even in wet weather. Drink water between catches to stay hydrated.
- Lunch and snacks. Charters don’t usually offer lunch on most trips. Even if they do, pack your own just in case.
- Medications. Avoid sea sickness and take whatever remedies are most effective for you. I take Dramamine before heading out.
Other essential gear
- Cooler with ice. A good day of fishing will end with a lot of meat. Have a cooler ready back on shore so you can get your catch home for dinner.
- Water tight bag. Keep you gear dry by keeping it all packed away in a water tight bag when not in use.
- Camera. This will be an experience to remember. Snap lots of pictures and get good action shots. Just don’t lose it overboard.
- Sanitizing hand wipes. It is always nice to be able to remove fish slime from your hands before eating.
- Personal first aid kit. Hooks, sharp fins and line peeling fights all make for the potential to get minor cuts or abrasions. Most boats will have first aid but it is often easier to treat it yourself.
Do charter boats have bathrooms
Often, larger charter boats have bathrooms, but most small vessels do not. It is always a good idea to check with the guide service before booking if your group has issues with fishing on a boat without a bathroom. Don’t be embarrassed to ask the question. We all answer to nature’s call and boat captains can help you figure out what fishing service will best suit your needs.
If your trip is eight hours or longer, eventually you will need to pee. Men and women may have differing expectations for privacy and comfort, so discuss the issue before the trip. Guys have it a little easier. We can simply go over the side without too much problem. For women, a small bucket could suffice. Remember, a charter boat is not designed to be a five star hotel.
What about going number two? That is a bit trickier. If you suspect this could be a problem for you, I recommend booking a boat with a bathroom. Just be sure to talk with the people at the charter service to learn what their toilet rules are. Plumbing to a sewer does not exist out at sea and knowing how to use the boat toilet before you go can spare you some awful embarrassment.
Either way, this is not a new thing for experienced boat captains. A good charter will help make your trip as comfortable as possible.
Is deep sea fishing dangerous
Any time I come home after a fishing trip without getting hurt is a good day. Most fishing adventures have inherent risks and deep sea fishing is no different. Luckily, deep sea fishing is not any more dangerous than other types of fishing when the right precautions are taken.
The primary danger when going out on large open water is unpredictable weather. An experienced deep sea charter captain should know when to call off a trip because of dangerous weather conditions. High winds and sudden storms can easily capsize a small boat. If you want to avoid rough seas, check with the charter company to learn when good weather is more predictable. If the charter provides life jackets, wear it. You never know when you might go for an unexpected swim.
Sharp hooks, a crowded boat and powerful fish can make for precarious situations that could result in injuries. Even with the best safety plans in place, accidents happen. Most often it is because of inexperienced clients. The best way to stay safe is to always listen to the guides and captain. They spend months each season dealing with these situations and they know how to keep you safe.
Sea sickness is probably going to be your biggest concern. While it may not be particularly dangerous, it can still ruin a trip. If you think you might get sea sick, talk to your doctor to find out what medication can help. Some over the counter remedies are available as well.
Best deep sea fishing destinations
If you’re like me, you have already decided that a deep sea fishing trip is worth the money. But now what? Where do you go and what fish should you target? Here is my personal hit list of top destinations for exotic fish and an unforgettable fishing adventure.
The Keys tops my list for a couple simple reasons; lots of big fish and plenty of warm, tropical sunshine. Florida is a top destination for anglers from around the world. The variety of fishing opportunities makes it easy to tailor a trip for any skill level.
Whether reef fishing in crystal clear waters for giant groupers, or setting out to bag a wahoo or marlin far off the coast, Florida has you covered.
Spring, summer and fall each provide a different type of fishery. Call local guides well in advance to learn what time of year is best for each species you want to catch. Spring is the most popular time and reservations are recommended.
San Diego, California
For tuna fishing, look no further than San Diego. A deep sea fishing odyssey here will put you in range of bountiful bluefin and yellowfin tuna. Pound for pound, tuna are some of the hardest fighting fish in the sea. Landing one of these fish is truly an accomplishment.
While it may not be as warm as tropical locations, sunshine is still plentiful and ocean waters are packed with a diverse array of sport fish. Depending on the season, you can catch halibut, rockfish, mahi mahi and even barracuda.
Tuna fishing peaks in spring, summer and fall, but San Diego offers year round opportunities for other species.
For a cooler, northern deep sea excursion, Alaska is hard to beat. Salmon and halibut are the mainstay of most charter services. I am particularly interested in catching the “barn door” of the see, giant halibut. Some fish surpass 400 pounds and their flat bodies test even the most physically fit anglers. They are also delicious.
Homer is the most isolated destination on my list but fishing among glacier caped mountains and incredible sea life makes the journey worthwhile. Whale watching is a bonus when en route to prime halibut grounds.
Halibut are catchable May through September and provide ample time to plan a trip. If you want to target salmon at the same time, then schedule a summer or fall trip.
Summing it up
There are so many unique and amazing fisheries in the world. Getting to experience the acrobatics of a giant sailfish or the drag squealing run of a yellowfin tuna should be on every fisherman’s bucket list.
Most anglers will end up fishing only a few local waters during their lifetime. It is hard to find time and money for fishing adventures around the world. So, when the vacation time gets approved and the bank coffers are a little flush, a deep sea fishing trip just might be worth it.