10 ways to get the most from your fishing charter

The big day is finally here, and you and your group are ready for the trip of a lifetime. A fishing charter can be one of life’s great experiences if you take the time to do a little planning before you book. Follow these tips and you can rest easy that your trip will be one you remember for a long time.

1. Pick the right location: Decide what you want to accomplish on your charter. Is it to catch a trophy fish, catch a lot of fish, learn a new technique, learn a new body of water etc.? Match the location to your charter goals. A little homework at winter sport/fishing shows is a great way to gather information and make a good decision. When booking ask about cancellation policies and the captain’s thoughts on fishing in bad weather or rough water conditions.

2. Pick the right crew: Be sure to book your trip with other anglers who want to accomplish the same thing on the trip. It’s a tough day when 2 guys want to fish strictly for a trophy and the other anglers want to fill the freezer. Be realistic about your goals and pick the best anglers to share the day with. Ask your captain about bringing kids, especially those under about 10 years old. Most captains have life jackets for our younger guests, but if they have their own it is always best to bring it.

3. Dress properly: Nothing ruins a trip faster than not being comfortable. Bring the right clothes and enough of them. In April and May dress as you would for an ice fishing trip. It’s amazing how cold it gets going 50 mph on 40 degree water in 50-degree air!! You can always take off a layer. Footwear and outer wear are where I see the most mistakes. Quality waterproof boots with good insulated socks are a must in spring and fall. Good raingear is invaluable in a boat, even on days it isn’t raining….it helps cut the wind, insulate the wearer and keep the angler warm. Avoid blue jeans, denim or leather jackets and tennis shoes!! Also bring a hat and gloves. In the summer have a lightweight outer layer with sleeves and pant legs for the ride out in the morning…it can be chilly even in the heart of summer. Bring a wide brimmed hat and suntan lotion. Sunglasses are a must on EVERY trip.

4. Set your expectations to the time/place you are fishing: Don’t expect to catch a 10lb walleye on a July Saginaw Bay trip or expect to handle 40 legal fish in November on Lake Erie. Does it happen? Sure, but not very often. Be honest and realistic about the trips expectations and you will have a great time on any charter. Talk to your Captain about what to expect at certain times on certain bodies of water.

5. Communicate with your Captain: When you sign up for your trip let your Captain know what you want from your trip so he can be ready for your crew and have a plan to meet your trips goals. Most Captains are more than happy to teach and explain what they are doing so you become a better fisherman; some just want to catch fish. Pick the right one for your trip. Verify the time of the start and ending of the trip. Do you quit fishing when you get a limit, or do you try other locations, techniques or presentations? Does the Captain fish? During the day, listen to what the Captain is saying and trying to teach you. Set lines, change lures etc. as the Captain recommends, but be sure to ask why he is doing what he is doing so you can take some great knowledge to your boat next time out.

6. Have the proper licenses: If fishing where you may be on the waters of multiple states/countries be sure to ask the Captain which licenses you will need. For example, dirty water can make fishing the American side of the Detroit River unproductive, while just across the border in Canada clean water is giving up loads of fish. Also, do not expect to buy a license the morning of the trip. Most licenses can be purchased online and most places offer 1-day licenses, so buy them before the date of your trip. Be ready to FISH when you hit the dock!

7. Don’t over pack! Most Captains have some extra storage space for lunch, extra clothes etc. but ask how much you can bring. Remember we are only out for 5-6 hours. Bring a few drink and a sandwich, no need for a 5-course meal on the boat. Be sure that ALL bags have a zipper closure so they can be placed in storage areas without stuff falling out and coolers should have a lid that can be secured so it won’t fly off. Drinks with replaceable tops are always preferred over cans, since they can be sealed and not spill. Items that leave a “mess” in the boat like chips, popcorn etc. should be left at home or in the truck. Be sure to ask your captain what his policy on alcohol on the boat is and honor his policies.

8. Be prepared for your trip: Do a little research on the techniques and locations you will be fishing so you can ask the right questions and get the most learning from your trip. If you are learning a new area, bring a good lake map. Ask the Captain if you can bring a GPS to mark spots. Make a list of questions you want to ask. Use your day to not just catch fish, but to become a better angler.

9. Bring the right accessories: Things I like my clients to bring in addition to proper clothing and food: sunglasses/notepad/lake map/cooler for fish (leave it in the vehicle)/gallon baggies for fillets/suntan lotion/any medication/personal identification (citizenship proof if going to Canada)/Emergency contact information/camera/good attitude.

Leave the following at home or in the car: large coolers/drinks in cans/alcohol/coffee that is not in a cup with a spill proof lid/illicit drugs. If you must use tobacco products, please be conscious of where the ashes fall and be considerate of your fishing buddies.

10. Be on time and have fun! Remember your trip begins at the stated start time if you are there or not!! Most Captains do multiple trips daily or have other obligations, so do not expect them to add time to the end of your trip if you are late without deciding prior to your trip Most of all enjoy your day! Fishing with a guide should be a great learning experience regardless of the number of fish caught! Remember you are on a boat with some good friends…what’s not to like!

If you are looking for a unique on the water learning experience, book an Educational Fishing Charter with Lance, visit his charter website at www.lancevalentine.com

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