20 May A Guide to Selecting a Tampa Bay Fishing Charter
Finding a Tampa Bay Fishing Charter can be very easy. With search engines like Google and social media with just a few key words and a click of the mouse the over whelming list of Tampa Bay fishing Charter and guides will pop up. Now comes the task of filtering through these results to find the perfect match for you and your party of eager fishermen. I decided to write this article in hopes that it may make this task a bit easier for those looking for a Tampa Bay Fishing Charter. Taking the time to read this may make the difference in a great experience and one that ends in buyers remorse.
What credentials should my Captain have?
According to the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) all for hire charters are required by law to possess a valid USCG OUPV (6 pack) License at the minimum. This is also called a Captains License. The Captain and mate (if they use one) are also both required to be registered with a random drug testing program. The FWC requires that the Captain has in his possession a valid fishing license to cover all those on board that are fishing.
These documents are required by law to be carried on board while the charter is underway.
I personally am a member of the Florida Guides Association (FGA) and therefore I am required to take in one step further as a member and carry commercial charter insurance.
Any legitimate Charter for hire should not have any problem producing and showing you these documents either before booking the charter or before boarding the vessel. Just ask if there is any hesitation on the captains part walk away.
What kind of boat will I be on and does it have all the proper mandatory safety gear?
Knowing what size and type boat you will be on can make a difference in the comfort and safety of your day on the water. Boats used for charters in Tampa Bay range in size. Do some homework in this area. Nothing worse that showing up to the dock to board a boat not much bigger than a bath tub with a party of 4 people. Ask before you book what kind and size boat you will be on. Ask for pictures if there are none on the website.
There are many Captains that do inshore charters that try to fill there boat to the max. Its about dollars. The more people on the boat translates to more money in the captains pocket. How is this going to effect our day on the water?
First ask the Captain if he has enough TYPE ONE life jackets to accommodate everyone on board. This includes children. If he doesn’t have the proper life jackets (TYPE ONE) walk away. Tampa Bay is huge. Conditions can change in the blink of an eye. There would be nothing worse than for you or your loved ones to not have the proper safety gear at your disposal in case of an emergency.
Most inshore charters in Tampa Bay carry 4 people maximum. Even though we have the credentials to carry 6 paying customers in my opinion the consciences Captains want our customers to have the best experience and know that an over loaded boat not only can be a safety issue but also can eliminate some great fishing opportunities. Do you really want to be crammed elbow to elbow while fishing?
How much should I pay for a Tampa Bay Fishing Charter?
This is a tough question to answer. Charter rates can be all over the map so to speak. From my experience and keeping a close eye on the Tampa Bay Fishing Charter industry rates for a half day charter for 2 anglers range from 400.00 to 500.00 dollars. I have found that these rates are usually charged by the Captains that have years of charter fishing experience and either charter fish as a full time occupation or are part time relying on this to provide additional income. There are some Captains on the higher end of the spectrum charging well over 500.00 for the same type of charter. Usually in my experience they don’t offer anything more other than they have more expenses due to advertising and boat payments ect. On the lower end of the spectrum there is the under 400.00 rate. Also in my experience these Captains either run sub par boats and equipment or have very little experience in the fishing charter industry. If you base your Tampa Bay Fishing Charter solely on rates you could be in for a huge disappointment.
What about Fishing Charter booking agency’s?
Booking agency’s charge the Captains a fee to list their business. Some agency’s give the Captains a hire listing according to how much of a cut they are will to give the agency. Often these agency’s know nothing more about the Captain you are going to hire other than his required documents and the profile the Captain wrote himself for the booking agency site. Often you will never even speak to the Captain until after you have booked the charter through the agency. It has become common practice with many Captains using booking agency’s to stand customers up at the dock. Often because they booked a direct call charter that they don’t have to share rate with the agency. Don’t chance it! Book direct with the Captain. Not only will you avoid a possible no show you will have the chance to speak to the Captain first hand and often know that you are both on the same page as what you expect on the charter.
What about online reviews?
Online reviews are a great way to find out the experience others have had on a Tampa Bay Fishing Charter. Trip Advisor and Google are great places to find unbiased reviews. Social Media outlets such as Face Book can also be a good place to get reviews but I have found in my experience those reviews or referrals can be very biased. Most often they can be reviews or referrals from people who have never even fished with the charter service and solely base there opinion on social media popularity.
Beware of reviews on Booking Agency sites. Often these sites have no other online reviews than what shows on the sites they own. They can filter the reviews allowing only the good. This is something that cant be done on Trip Advisor, Google, Yelp and other online reviews sites.
What questions should I ask before booking?
Here I will list some of the questions you should ask before booking?
What is the rate?
How many hours is the charter?
Can you provide me with a copy of your documents before I book?
Letter of Compliance drug testing Captain and Mate(if applicable)?
Proof of Commercial Charter Insurance?
What size and type of boat do you have?
Do you have proper USCG required safety equipment?
How long have you been a charter captain and is this your full time occupation?
The question you ask about the type of fishing you will be doing is totally up to you. The fishing varies on Tampa Bay Fishing Charter’s according to the season so discuss the options with your captain.
I hope this article will help those looking to book a Tampa Bay Fishing Charter.
Capt. Steve Betz