How to Choose The Best Florida Fishing Guides
Finding the Best Fishing Guide
There is more to hiring a professional fishing guide than finding a fishing partner. The purpose of the guide is to provide the knowledge and local expertise, and sometimes equipment, needed to fish in a new area or for a specific species. For many anglers, this is a rare bucket list moment. It is an investment, both in terms of money and time, as well. Anglers often have high expectations. Captains & guides have expectations as well. Unfortunately, the two don’t always sync and the result can be an unfavorable outcome.
How do you know if your trip is headed down the wrong path?
If you have ever had an unfulfilling charter you probably already know the answer to this question, but just in case you are wondering, here are some of the warning signs:
- You didn’t get the experience you were looking for. This can happen for several reasons but often it is a result of miscommunication or a guide who did what they wanted, not what you asked for.
- The guide did not demonstrate an interest in the trip or your individual goals. You felt like you were along for the ride while he/she fished.
- The captain or crew didn’t do everything they could to put fish in the boat. Sometimes the bite turns off but other times it is a matter of the right knowledge and attention to detail that gets you that bite
- Even if the trip was successful, you left feeling that the guide did not put in 100% effort.
The list goes on, but you get the picture. In each scenario, the customer was in search of a memorable experience and did not get what they paid for. Luckily, the chances that this will happen on your next charter can be reduced through a combination of education, research and questions. This is where we come in.
Here at AquaCulture Outfitters, it is our goal to provide every client with the best trip possible. It is our objective to place you with the right captain or guide based on what you desire and deserve as a guest to our area. Obviously, we believe AquaCulture Outfitters is best suited to meet all your guide and charter needs. However, if all you get from the following information is the knowledge needed to book the perfect fishing guide or charter near you, then we have done our job.
Hiring the right fishing guide for YOU
Most professional guides and captains are experts at what they do and pride themselves on providing a quality, enjoyable outing for every customer. Those that feel otherwise, simply do not stay in business very long. The key is figuring out whether your next guide is one of these professionals or someone looking to make their hobby into a business without the experience to do so.
Determining what you want from your fishing trip
Before you can find a guide or captain capable of providing “the perfect trip”, you need to decide what your perfect trip will be. After all, if you do not fully understand what you want from you guide or captain how can they going to fulfill your dreams?
Here is a checklist we like our potential customers to use to do just that:
- What kind of trip are you looking for? Do you want to chance trophy tarpon, try your hand at chasing mahi-mahi offshore, grouper from a wreck or stay inshore for trout or reds? South Florida offers almost every opportunity an angler can ask for, but you need to decide what you are going to ask for. Not sure what to target? You can never go wrong asking the captain, “What’s biting?”
- What is your budget? Most trips average $120-$250 per hour, with offshore being more expensive than inshore due to added operation costs. Targeting specific species, such as tarpon, can add to the cost too–due to the specialty tackle and baits needed.
- Did you remember the tip? Tipping the mate is not only polite, it is how he/she makes a living. Most mates are not paid for their work and rely almost solely on tips as payment. 20% is considered customary and is usually a small price to pay for all the work a good mate will do setting up gear, baiting hooks, removing fish and cleaning your catch.
- How many people will be in your group? Inshore trips generally range from 1-4 anglers and offshore can be between 1-6 anglers. If you want to take more than 6 anglers it will probably require 2 boats, not because the captain wants more money but because it is the law. The U.S. Coast Guard demands commercial charters and boats carrying more than 6 passengers require additional licensing and inspection.
- Will non-anglers be accompanying you? Sometimes an angler will want to bring friends or family to share the experience even if some of those accompanying will not be fishing. While most captains have no problem with this, you do need to remember that there may be a fee involved and it could reduce the number of anglers allowed on the boat.
- What type of experience are you looking for? Do you envision racing across the wide-open water in search of your own personal Moby Dick or a lazy afternoon casting for dinner while the family enjoys a sunny Florida day? Both are available, along with almost everything in-between, but you need to know what you want before you can find the right captain to make it happen.
- Do you want to keep your catch? Some outfitters or charters only practice catch & release. Likewise, some species have specific seasons, size and creel limits. Knowing this up front will help avoid disappointment later. It will also help ensure you are prepared to transport your catch home.
- What is your level of experience? Most guides are more than willing to teach the novices or watch the experts do their thing. What is important is that you recognize your individual level of experience and communicate this to would be captains to help ensure a good match.
- Do you, or members of your party, have any special needs? Special needs range from younger anglers to those with medical conditions or someone who gets sea sick easily. Sharing this information with the guide will help ensure they are properly prepared and can plan the trip accordingly.
- Finally, where will you be staying? While some guides may offer lodging, the question about where you will be staying is more a matter of logistics than offering additional services. Your location will also determine where the guide will meet you, whether there will be additional travel needed and potentially additional costs. Many guides have agreements with multiple marinas or resorts and can offer options when it comes to pick up/drop off locations to make it easier for both of you.
Time to interview the fishing charter guides
Now that we have discussed you and your expectations, it is time to focus on potential captains/guides and what they can offer you. Interviewing guides is like interviewing a new employee. After all, they will be working for you at least for the duration of the trip. Just like a new employee, you should not hire the first guide or captain you meet, nor should you hire one who does not meet your expectations or shows an inability to turn your dream trip into reality. This sounds like a difficult task, and it can be, but we have compiled some questions we think will make it easier. Keep in mind the questions may be simple, but it is the answers you need to pay attention to.
- Where are you from? The ideal answer is “right here” as it indicates your guide is either an area native, or at least a long time local. Local guides increase the level of local knowledge and experience needed to successfully navigate, literally and figuratively, the area waters. You want to avoid new arrivals who are still getting a feel for the local resources, or out-of-towners in for the season.
- How long have you been in the fishing charter business? The longer the better! Everyone needs to start the guide career somewhere, just not necessarily with your once in a lifetime trip.
- What did you do before you were a fishing captain/guide? Again, the best answer is “Nothing, I was born to do this.” Realistically, no guide starts as a guide but rather works their way up from helper or mate. Barring the impossible, you are looking for someone who has spent as much time as possible on the water and working in the fishing industry.
- If I do not book with you who do you recommend? This can be tricky. Most professional guides work closely, but they are still in competition. The key is determining if you are referred to another competent professional or sub-par want to be.
- Ask where and how they prefer to fish. There are many styles and methods of fishing, each of which has its own advantages. With this question you are trying to determine if the captain’s style is compatible with your own.
- How far out are your charters booked ? The best guides are often booked well in advance, especially with repeat customers. If the appointment book shows too much blank space you need to ask “Am I early, lucky or the only one looking.
- Will you be running the boat trip? Some captains will book the trips and run the business but leave the actual guiding to other, less experienced staff. This is not always a negative but you should know who will be leading you so you can ask them these questions directly.
- Check out social media . Almost every outfitter/guide or charter has a social media presence. Check their Facebook, Twitter & Instagram pages, compare the information to what they told you and see how often they post updates. is it every day, every week or only when they have a good trip? Do not forget to see what the comments say. Disappointed customers are quick to post poor reviews and comments.
We hope this information has been educational and will help you plan the perfect trip. We hope that when it comes time to book that trip you’ll consider doing so via AquaCulture Outfitters. We believe we are best suited to make your dream trip a successful trip. Fishing is our specialty and we pride ourselves on matching people with the best charters and guides fit for them.