- Black sea bass have dangerously sharp spines on their dorsal fin that can puncture human skin.
- The all-tackle world record for black sea bass is 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
- When hooked in deep water and brought quickly to the surface, a black sea bass will often regurgitate its stomach contents.
Every fisherman wants a boat. No; make that needs a boat. It’s a matter of necessity, not mere lust. How else can you get to the snapper banks or the flats where the redfish feed? But boat ownership isn’t for everybody—in spite of what the bankers and boat dealers tell you. The sticker price is just the beginning.
Assuming you can convince your loan officer and your real-life first mate that a sea-worthy vessel is a prudent purchase, you still have to consider all the add-ons:a GPS system, up-graded electronics, a t-top to keep you from broiling before you cook the fish, insurance, and no telling what else! You will also need a trailer to tow it and/or a place to store or dock it. Then come oil and gasoline galore. Solar powered fishing boats are still just a nautical dream. Shortly after christening will come repairs. As the old saying goes, “A boat is a hole in the bay you pour money into.” And all this assumes you can back a trailer and pilot a boat out of a marina without making the six o’clock news, then later find your way back to the dock.
But there is an alternative: hire a charter. It’s cheaper, more expedient, and oftentimes more successful as far as catch rates go. When it’s over, you’ll probably walk away with fish, pictures and memories. The boat will be somebody else’s problem at that point.
An impressive catch like this can be enjoyed several times each year for less than a year of boat payments.
There is an available charter for practically every species of fish in the ocean, inlets, bays and sounds, and one of almost any duration and price. For instance, an overnight trip out of San Diego aboard the 65” x 20” Pacific Voyager takes up to 18 anglers to fish for yellowfin tuna, dorado and other species for $185 per person. For that, you get a bunk, bait, refrigerated fish storage, and a guarantee of plenty of space along the rail to fish. And an overnight, two-day trip aboard a boat named the Seahorse out of Dana Point, Calif., fishes Catalina and San Clemente islands for sea bass and tuna. Other boats operating off the California coast catch cod and shark.
On Long Island Sound, a boat called the Molly Roze will take fishermen on a night-fishing cruise for striped bass and bluefish, boating stripers up to 25 pounds. The names of the boats and charter companies give you a choice, too. Hook, Line and Sinker Guide Service operates out of Richmond, Virginia; Daytripping out of Suffolk. A Florida charter is named True Lies.
Along the Texas Gulf Coast, Third Coast Adventures offers bay trips for trout and redfish out of Rockport in crafts ranging from kayaks and 23-foot outboards to 53-foot cruisers.
There have always been charters, especially the big party boats that take large groups, but the number of small charters seems to have increased considerably over the past 10 years. The smaller charters are more flexible and are usually easier to fish from due to the fact that there are fewer people on board. Larger charter boats are somewhat less affected by rough water, and can go further out from shore to good, deepwater fishing.
We went 45 miles off the Texas Coast this summer on the Wharf Cat, out of Port Aransas, fishing for red snapper and amberjack in 200 feet of water. The large catamaran comfortably handled the morning’s moderate seas. About half way out, though, we heard a report of a 26-foot boat that capsized in the same vicinity. The Coast Guard was under way to fish them out.
Charter skippers can usually be counted on to know the fish, the water and the weather. They live and die by their reputations. They want you to have a good time, tell your friends about it, and come back. They also know that a great trip usually means a good tip. All this works to the customer’s advantage. Every single one I have fished with has worked hard to put us on fish, have the right bait and give us tips on how to fish it. Some people can figure that out for themselves; going with a professional, though, can sure save a lot of your weekend for fishing instead of riding around in a boat looking for fish in all the wrong places. Most charters, large and small, furnish tackle and bait for their customers but allow you to use your own gear, if you desire.
In addition to helping with baiting and tackle needs, captains and crews are usually good judges of weather conditions.
Weather along the coasts can be an adventure in itself, and this is perhaps one of the most important advantages of a charter. Most skippers love to fish, but know when to stay in port and drink coffee. I met a guide for breakfast one morning at the Duck Inn in Rockport, Texas. As I walked across the parking lot, my hat blew off. While our order was being prepared, he called me outside, looked at the weather and admitted that it would be very rough, that the current would be such that fishing would be “iffy” at best, but that it was my call. We talked fishing and drank a lot of coffee that morning.
Another time, the skipper of a large party boat told me the seas were simply too rough for us to go out at all—even on his boat (skippers are understandably proud of their craft). I had seen the movie “A Perfect Storm,” and respected his judgment.
Planning And Preparing
Disadvantages to a charter are that some can seem a little pricey. They do not approach the cost of owning a boat, yourself, however. On the larger party boats, it can also get a little crowded along the rail, and a lot of line tangling takes place. Larger boats often have their own snack bar, but the menu is restricted and priced higher than a marlin can jump. Most of those operations also prohibit customers bringing their own coolers aboard.
To find a good charter in your area, start by asking a friend who fishes for a recommendation. You might also call the person who writes outdoor material for your local newspaper. One of the best sources is the chamber of commerce or convention and visitors bureau in the town nearest where you want to fish. Some areas have guides associations. A web search can also tell you a lot. Search “saltwater fishing.”
Party boats specialize in providing steady action.
Before booking a trip, ask for references. Also ask a guide what he furnishes in the way of bait, tackle and refreshments. Clarify whether you can bring your own cooler aboard. In spite of all that water around you, the sun and wind can dry you out in a hurry; so make sure you have enough water or sports beverage to drink. A wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen are mandatory.
And, if you are going offshore, seasickness must be considered. That begins with what you do the nightbefore, and extends through how greasy your breakfast is. There’s nothing worse than merely rentingyour breakfast! There are various pills and patches on the market, but a new product called “ReliefBand” has worked well for me. It straps on like a wristwatch and emits a low voltage impulse to your nervous system that eliminates nausea. It isn’t cheap, but worth a grouper’s weight in gold if you’re hanging over the rail chummingwhile everyone else is catching fish!