Like with anything else, if you are going to spend your hard-earned money on a fishing trip, you need to exercise a little “due diligence.” Unfortunately, many people offering charters, are not doing so legally. They don’t have the required permits, or license. Their vessels are not properly registered, and they are not adhering to proper drug policies. Here is some information to help educate yourself, so you can ask the right questions, and make an informed decision. Any Charter Boat Operation should be more than willing to produce the proper documentation.
First, any charter boat captain, who is in the business of taking paying customers fishing, must be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard. They must hold either an OUPV license (Operator of an Un-inspected Passenger Vessel) or a Master’s license. They must also be part of a drug consortium and subject to random drug testing.
Unless specifically licensed for “inland waters”, the OUPV license allows the captain to carry six or less passengers on an un-inspected vessel within 100 miles off shore.
Unless specifically licensed for “inland waters”, a Master license, which is the higher level of the two licenses, affords the captain the same legal capability as the OUPV license. In addition, the captain may also carry more than 6 passengers on an inspected vessel, and, may take passengers up to 200 miles off shore.
So, the captain has a U.S. Coast Guard license now what? This license is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to licensing. The charter business must be registered with the State of Florida. Depending on the city/county, the business may need a “business tax receipt”, which is like a business license. The vessel itself, must to be registered with the State of Florida as a commercial vessel, or, have U.S. Coast Guard documentation with a commercial designation. This requirement also calls for more rigorous safety equipment to be onboard.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission requires, for the purpose of charter/head boat fishing, either the captain, or the vessel to be licensed. If the captain is licensed the license follows him on any vessel he operates. This license allows passengers to fish without obtaining a recreational saltwater fishing license. (This requirement does not apply to fresh water fishing.)
Now, we get into the National Marine Fisheries Service, which requires, depending on the type of fish being sought, the following permits; Snapper Grouper Permit, Migratory Pelagic Permit (for King/Spanish Mackerel), Dolphin/Wahoo Permit, (if the vessel has a Dolphin/Wahoo Permit the captain must have a Vessel Operator Permit Card) and lastly, a Highly Migratory Species Permit (for tunas including; Bluefin, Yellowfin, Bigeye, Skipjack and Albacore as well as Sharks, Swordfish, White/Blue Marlin, Sailfish and Spearfish). Most of these permits are required when fishing more than 3 miles off shore in the Atlantic and more than 9 miles off shore in the Gulf of Mexico. (Federal Waters). The Highly Migratory Species Permit is required even in State Waters.
Assuming the business is properly registered, the vessel is properly registered, all the Coast Guard, local, state and federal license requirements have been met, what else is there to look for?
Here are some additional things to consider; it is said, “10% of the fishermen catch 90% of the fish”. There is a reason for this. The 10%, that are catching them, are the ones who pay attention to the smallest details. The really good captains are the ones who keep track of air/water temperature, wind speed/direction, barometer, moon phase, current, and lighting conditions. They subscribe to on-line resources such as “Hilton’s Realtime-Navigator”, “Rip Charts” or “ROFFS”. They have learned from experience, how all these factors work in increasing catch ratios. They know their prey’s habitat, distribution, feeding habits and feeding behavior. They know everything about the bait fish or food source their prey feed upon.
They are familiar with the local area reefs, wrecks and migration routes. They make it a point to continually learn and stay abreast of the latest fishing techniques. They are experts at finding, handling and rigging bait. When fishing, everything has to mimic what happens naturally in the ocean. Some fish are pickier then others so, special techniques are used to out-smart the fish.
Charter boat captains rely on repeat customers. They make it their business to find and help their customers catch fish. Just as important as catching fish is having a pleasurable experience. The professional charter boat captain must provide a high level of customer service. They must be friendly and cater to the customer, making them feel welcome. Helping the less knowledgeable angler become a better one, by teaching and explaining the various aspects of the trip is another plus. One can catch fish all day long, but if they are treated poorly, they would be less likely to book another trip.
Professional charter boat captains are totally committed to the sport fishing industry. They have a true desire to help preserve the marine environment, protect all species of gamefish, while at the same time protecting the rights of the sport fishing public. Most belong to various organizations where they take an active part in keeping the industry alive and work towards maintaining an environment so their customers will have the thrill of catching “the big one” for many years to come.
In summary, do your homework first. Make sure the charter boat and the captain are both properly licensed with the city, county, state and federal organizations, have all the required Federal Permits and ensure they are a member of a drug consortium. Seek references or ask locally, “who are the best captains?” Make sure they provide people with friendly service. Check out their web site, if they have one. Look at their boat, their fishing and navigational equipment. See how well cared for they are. A captain or vessel doesn’t have to have the most expensive gear on-board, but what they do have, should be well maintained. Make sure they are insured.
There are never any guarantees you will have a successful day of fishing. That is why they call it “fishing” not “catching”. If you do your “due diligence”, you will have a much better chance for success and more importantly a safe and pleasant trip.
We at Treasure Coast Fishing Adventures adhere to everything as mentioned above. Feel free to discuss this information with Captain Ken anytime.
Charter Boat Captain Facts
Call us: 772-266-3327
Vero Beach • Port St. Lucie • Stuart • Palm City *
Hobe Sound Off Shore Charter Fishing Service