We can all do with a little help!
If you enjoy wetting a line from time to time, even on a very casual basis, the prospect of exploring new fishy locales can be one of the most exciting aspects when packing up the fourby and heading off on a trip.
The problem is, when you’re covering new territory, it’s pretty difficult to know exactly when and where to fish, or the best possible techniques to take advantage of local conditions.
Of course, you can figure out what makes a place tick all on your own, given enough time, but the fast track to success is to employ local knowledge.
If you don’t happen to have a local mate to show you the ropes, it’s well worth hooking into the knowledge and assistance of an experienced local charter operator.
Not only are you buying the use of a skippered and crewed fishing vessel, more importantly you’re buying the skipper’s hard-earned knowledge of his local waters.
There are charters and there are charters, and not all of ‘em will offer what you’re after. There are, however, plenty of operators out there who can guarantee you a good time and a few fish, you’ve just gotta make sure you don’t pick a dud.
Whether you’re an absolute novice after nothing more than a pleasant morning on the water with the possibility of catching a feed, or you’re chasing a marlin line class record on fly, there are guys out there who can help you.
The first step is to be sure of what you want. If you’re looking to bring back a few fish for a feed, make sure you communicate that to the guide so he’s aware of your priorities.
The same goes if you’re a sportfisherman at heart. It’s always worth taking charter recommendations from people you know, checking how long an operator has been in business, and looking for reviews online.
LOOK FOR LONGEVITY
The market talks, when it comes to operating a business. And if you’re doing it wrong, word gets around quick.
In other words, a dodgy charter operator will have plenty of clients who feel as though they’ve been ripped off, word will get around and the guide’s business will suffer.
Bad businesses either get better or go broke, so if a fishing guide has been in operation for a long time, then it’s a pretty good sign that he’s doing something right.
LOOK FOR REVIEWS
Obviously the best reviews come from people you know and trust, but in the absence of those, any reviews will do.
If you’ve got friends who’ve fished with guides in the areas you’re thinking of visiting, make sure you thoroughly grill them on their experience before locking anything in.
You’ll get better info from people you actually know or fish with, rather than strangers whose expectations may be vastly different from your own.
In the absence of face-to-face reviews, it’s worth having a look online to see what past clients have got to say.
Well known charter operators will often appear on fishing TV and online series, alongside the host, as a guide to a specific region. It’s worth taking a look at these to get an idea of what the guide has to offer.
Lastly, it’s worth checking out some of the online fishing forums for tips and recommendations.
GET IN TOUCH
Once you’ve found a charter operator that looks like a good fit, make sure you give them a ring and chat directly to the guide before making a booking.
This is your chance to; discuss exactly what it is that you’re after, find out the techniques that are employed on board, ask what sort of gear is on offer, whether you require a recreational license or not, and the length and types of trips available before paying a deposit and locking down a booking.
Most guides are more than happy to discuss how the fishing has been recently and they’ll answer all your questions, and you can generally tell in a couple of minutes whether their service is what you’re after.
Even after securing a booking with a guide, make sure to keep in touch as your booking approaches as it’s occasionally necessary to change or cancel bookings due to weather or sea conditions.
TYPES OF CHARTERS
Most fishing charters can be broken down into two broad groups: fillet gathering and sportfishing. These two primary aims will often overlap to some degree, but it’s always worth knowing in advance whether a guide’s top priority is filling the icebox or helping clients secure new PBs.
In most states, fishing guides will have a license that allows them to operate either; localised trips in a specific estuary or waterway, near-shore sportfishing trips, offshore bottom bashing, or gamefishing expeditions.
Many guides will also be willing to tailor their trips to individual groups of clients. It’s definitely worth finding out how many clients the boat is licensed to fish, and how many will be fishing on the day you book.
In a small boat, more than three of four clients starts to feel overcrowded, and the big offshore bottom bashing trips with 10 or more clients aboard are cheap but do not offer anything like a sportfishing experience.