There are plenty of things to look out for when you’re booking a fishing charter, as well as plenty of charters to choose from! Fishing can cost a lot of money, so you’ll want to be sure you’re getting the value for your money. What makes a good charter, how do you choose a company and what should you expect from your trip? Read on for the answer to those questions and find some peace of mind about planning your ultimate fishing vacation.
A Good Fishing Charter
There are plenty of aspects to a fishing charter company that is so different compared to going out in your canoe and casting a line. For one, they’ll need to have better boats than your dad’s old aluminum bathtub. Vessels should be inspected and deemed sea-worthy, as well as be properly maintained. In other words, it should be in ship shape for each and every charter. A clean, functional vessel is an important aspect of a good charter.
Good charters also have happy, experienced guides. Although you will likely be expected to tip on top, a guide that is taken care of by their company and that has a good boat to run will be more enthusiastic about spending eight hours of the day on it with you. Besides happy, an experienced guide is the ticket to catching your fish. You’ll want to be certain they’ve fished in the area you are, too. For example, fishing on the west coast of Vancouver Island is significantly different than fishing the south of the Island. Experience where you are is key.
Do some shopping around and look at the prices of different companies, and what you get for the cost. There is no need for a charter to cost plenty more than another if it runs similar boats, the same length of trips and includes the same things. If they are costlier, ask them what they offer that is unique and makes it so. There are big differences in what some charters might include and others don’t, so be sure to factor those things into, or out of, their pricing to see what is fair. At the same time, if a charter is significantly cheaper than all the others, there may be a reason for that too, and it might not be the best route to take. Charters can be more expensive than you’d think, but the company shouldn’t be way off the board compared to other companies in terms of price.
Read reviews to see what others have said about their time with that charter. While some don’t have much of an online presence and rely on word of mouth, others have great reviews and plenty of comments from guests willing to talk about their experience. Keep in mind that those a little less understanding of the art of fishing (rather than catching), may leave bad feedback just because it was a slow day on the water, even if it had nothing to do with the company or guide. Look at lots of photos on the company website of fish, their boats and whatever else is up there, too. It helps give a better feel of that charter, what they offer and their success.
Safety should come first, so you’ll want to find a charter who makes this a top priority. Considering the fact that a number of areas see most of their fish way offshore during the summer, you’ll want to know about the safety guidelines in place. Are there life jackets on board? What about floater suits and rain gear? Even something like the height of the sides of the boats could be important in rough weather. A good charter should make you feel comfortable on the water to the best of their ability, and that means having all the safety points down pat.
Ask your questions – a good charter should be able to answer them thoroughly for you. In fact, they should even be able to suggest something ideal for you if you aren’t sure. For example, when is the best time to come for halibut? When can you catch Chinook in closer to shore so that you have less of a chance of getting sea sick? If they can’t, or aren’t willing, to answer your questions, they probably aren’t worth spending your money on. If they can’t make suggestions for you to ensure you enjoy your trip as much as possible, they likely don’t consider their guests as much as they do the cash value of the charter.
How to Choose
Once you know what makes a good charter, it’s time to pick from the ones you’ve narrowed down. Here are some of the things you may want to consider in order to do so:
Bathrooms on Board
-What kind of boat is it and is there a head? For some, it’s no big deal to spend the day on the water with no cover, no bathroom and just the great open ocean. For others, this is an impossibility. Figure out your priorities when it comes to vessel-type, and you’re well on your way to ruling out at least a couple charters on your list.
Number of People in Group
-If you want to make sure you have a boat all to yourself, find a place that does private charters. If you’re a single and want to tag along with other single fishermen, make sure they allow to mix and match with others. If you have a group of 6, will all of you fit on the boat? These are key questions to helping you save money as a single fisherman, enjoy your trip with your friends or family, or determine whether or not you’ll even be able to all fish together.
Type of Fish and Fishing
-If you’re planning on fly fishing, don’t book an ocean charter and vice versa. Find out your level of involvement, too. Most charters will be focused on getting you fish, and considering some guides spend their own money on gear, they might be less inclined to have you set everything up yourself and try your hand at hooking the salmon. You’ll also want to know if you’re jigging or trolling, how many rods and downriggers are onboard and whether or not you’ll be able to go halibut fishing, too. Be sure to select a charter that offers the closest to your ideal experience as possible! If you wait until you’re on board to ask all the questions, you might be disappointed with the results.
Trip Lengths and Departure Times
-If sleeping in is important, you will probably want to find a charter that has afternoon departures. On a similar note, if you dread the idea of spending the entire day on a boat in the middle of the ocean, it’s a good plan to pick a charter that will do shorter trips, too. For many, fishing is the top priority and they’re excited about the idea of waking up at the crack of dawn for the morning bite and coming home just before dark. If that’s you, you’ll want to find a charter with the same mentality. If not, don’t go for the company that only offers eight hour trips departing at 5:30am.
-Sometimes, charters need you to bring along your own gear. Don’t have any? Don’t book with that charter. Same goes for things like meals, accommodation, licenses and gratuity. There are numerous different packages and fishing trips offered these days, so you’ll need to find out what your priorities are and rule out the places that don’t offer those things. For some, only a certain length of nights is available. For others, a single day of fishing is just fine. There might be lunch onboard, and dinner at the lodge, or you may need to fend for yourself. If you don’t want to bring your gear and rain gear along, find a place that provides that. Same with vacuum packing, which can be an unexpected extra cost, especially for guests that have come a long way. Knowing what’s included also helps you prepare for what to expect, and gives you insight into what other charters have left out that you’ll need to take care of yourself if you go with a different company.
-Worried about getting seasick? You’ll maybe want to book something that’s in more sheltered waters, and that doesn’t go too far from shore. This may be limited by where the fish are biting in their run, the time of year and the weather, but it’s important to consider. If you want to come when fish are closer, you may need to book a different time of year than expected. Many companies base cost off of distance the boat has to travel (and gas), so coming at a time that when you can fish closer might save both your bank account and stomach.
-There are plenty of different lodges and experiences for fishing trips. If you can’t stand the thought of having a rustic fishing lodge as your only choice of accommodation, you may want to book with somewhere that either lets you do single days of fishing, or that has a variety of accommodation options. On the other end of things, a fly-in remote lodge experience is perfect for those that want that classic fishing experience. A good night’s sleep can make or break an early morning charter, so find a charter that will offer you accommodation you’ll be comfortable with. If that means driving to a quaint fishing village and staying at their single, luxury resort, rather than flying out to a lodge in the middle of nowhere, then book somewhere that lets you do that, or that will book the resort for you themselves.
-Again, reading about others’ experiences are a dead giveaway. If they LOVE a guide, you know you’ll have fun on board and not be stuck for eight hours in awkward silence. If they came back loaded with fish, or described how hard their guide worked, you know the charter has the tools for a successful trip. Customers are what make a company, and one that keeps happy customers is a great sign that you’re on track to picking a charter that will create a fantastic fishing experience for you.
Other Things to Know
Be sure to ask about your fishing limits. If you’re expecting to keep every single fish you catch, you might be in for a wakeup call when you realize you can only keep a certain number per license. Speaking of licenses, you’ll want to know what type to get, and how much it costs. On top of license fees, other costs can include things like a gratuity for your guide. It’s good to know the rules of the boat (eg. If you’re planning on bringing beer along) and what your day will look like. If you want to fish halibut AND salmon, find out if you can do both in the same day, or if that only applies to longer trips. The more you can monitor your expectations, the more your guide and the company can meet them!
When you first start looking, write down some questions you have. If they aren’t answered on the charter’s website, don’t be afraid to ask. When you’re spending money on something you hope will be the trip of a lifetime, you’ll want to be prepared for exactly what to expect and know what you’re getting for your money! Hopefully this list will start you off in the right direction and help you choose a charter that fills your freezer with fish, and mind with good memories. To check out a charter website that does a good job of answering questions and offers tons of options, visit www.salmoneye.net. To explore one of the top fishing destinations in Canada, Ucluelet, visit www.FishingUcluelet.ca.