If you’re in search of the fishing adventure of a lifetime, chartering a fishing boat is usually the best way to find it. Depending on the type of fishing and the species of fish you’re targeting, boats for charter can range from inexpensive center consoles to big-water offshore yachts. The charter’s cost will range just as widely, depending on location, time of year, the boat’s size, and how far you have to run to get to the fish.
If your search is for tarpon, snook, or redfish in flats and shoals like those of the Florida Keys, you may be looking for a flats or bay boat. These are usually under 24’ long, are crewed by the captain only, can accommodate three or four anglers, and cost a few hundred dollars per trip.
Inshore and bay charters for fish like striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay, bluefish in Long Island Sound, or weakfish along the coasts, will commonly take place on larger boats up to 40’ or so which can take up to six anglers and have a mate to help bait your hooks and un-tangle lines. These charters usually cost twice as much, but also have the convenience of a cabin and more LOA for when the going gets rough.
If big game like billfish, tuna, mahi-mahi, and wahoo are what you are looking for, charter a canyon runner in the 40’ to 70’range. These boats also have one mate and occasionally a second, and commonly carry a maximum of six anglers. But due to fuel costs, running to the edge of the Continental Shelf in search of those blue-water beasts can cost as much as $3,000 for a single voyage offshore.
Remember that these boats are all about fishing, and some can be rather spartan compared to other forms of charters. Fishing styles also vary widely, so check out a boat’s specialty ahead of time; light tackle aficionados will be plenty disappointed if they show up to discover a selection of heavy trolling gear, and vice-versa.
Lastly, never choose a fishing charter according to price or availability—cheapest is almost certainly not best. After finding out the going rate, you should expect to pay at the higher end of the scale for an experienced, top-notch captain and boat.
Tip: top charters are usually booked well in advance – if a boat is available on lots of Saturdays and Sundays in the near future, you should be suspicious.
For more, read Lenny Rudow's 10 Tips for Choosing the Best Fishing Charter