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10 things to make your fishing charter a success

You are in the Florida Keys and you have decided you want to go on a fishing charter. There are some very important questions you need to ask yourself before searching for a charter boat. For those of you who are first timers or have kids, it is especially important to get with the right saltwater fishing charter in Key West, so you have a memorable experience. Doing a little research beforehand, will make for a memorable Key West charter fishing experience. I will give you some tips and questions you need to consider before deciding which fishing charter is best for you and your group.

Tip #1: Decide how many people in your group want to go fishing.

The number of people you have in your group will help determine what type of fishing you want to do, how long you want to fish, how much money you spend and the fish you will be able to fish for and hopefully catch.

Tip #2: Determine your fishing budget. How much do you have to spend on a fishing charter?

In Key West, the price you pay for a fishing charter depends on the number of people wanting to go, the length of the charter, the size of the boat and type of fishing you want to do. How much do you want to spend on a fishing charter? Fishing charters can run as little as $65 per person for a party boat trip, to around $600 per boat for an offshore private trip. Since private charters is what most of us offer, I will speak mostly about them. I will explain what the other options are for those who have more than 6 people or do not want to spend hundreds to to fishing.

Paying Deposits When Booking - Most charter boats require a $100 or a percentage deposit to be paid when booking your trip. When planning a fishing trip, you have to give them money up front to book your date. The boats that are listed on this website vary in how they collect deposits. They can simply take a credit card number to hold your trip, or require an actual transaction to hold the trip.

Tip #3: Do you want good service and a memorable fishing charter?

In the charter fishing business, you have two types of charters. You have those who sell service and those who sell price. Price does not reflect the level of service you will receive. Some low priced charters offer good service and some high priced charters have horrible customer service. Value is in the eye of the beholder. If you want the best fishing charter and the best customer service, you need to investigate the charter boat you want to go on. I urge you explore review sites such as Trip Advisor or Yelp before booking any charter in Key West

Tip #4: Deciding where you want to fish?

You have choices in Key West when it comes to charter fishing. You can either charter a boat that fishes inshore or offshore. Inshore charters are usually for 1-3 people, private. Offshore charters are usually private, but some boats do offer seats or a shared trips. Deciding where is more of a decision of what you want to fish for. Let the Captain decide where.

Tip #5: Decide how long of a charter you want to go on?

Inshore fishing or flats fishing charters are usually 4 and 6 hours in length. There are some Offshore fishing charters that offer 4 and 6 hour light tackle, family fun charters. All offshore charter boats in Key West offer 4, 6, and 8 hour trips.

Tip #6: Do you want a private charter or split/shared charter?

Private charters are the best fishing charters in Key West, Florida. Private charters are where only you and your group will be on the boat during your fishing trip. The only other people on your private fishing charter will be the deckhand/mate and the Captain. The price of a private charter is based on the fee for the entire boat for a specific number of hours. Normally, 4 hour private charters on an offshore charter boat run about $650 to $750, plus gratuity. The tip for the mate usually runs about 20 percent of the price of the charter. Private Inshore fishing charters run $500 for 4 hours.These prices can vary between boats.

Split charters or shared charters are offered to individuals by certain Captains for the purpose of putting people together with other people, so they can fill a charter boat to capacity. If you do not want to charter the entire boat but want the offshore/inshore experience ask you captain if they have an open seat. These usually range from $150-$200 per seat.

Walk on fishing trips prices are based on a per person charge, ie, $65 for 6 hour trip on a party boat. Most party boats prefer you call ahead but most likely have room for an extra group or a solo fisherman. The tip for a party boat deckhand is 20% percent of the price you paid, per person.

Tip #7: About inshore and offshore charter boats. What's the difference?

Inshore fishing charters are usually private charters and are offered by smaller charter boats that fish in and around the bays and estuaries of Key West, Florida. These inshore charter boats are primarily center console boats with limited seating and shade. Most inshore fishing boats in Key West are 21' to 24' in length. Inshore charter boats carry up to 6 passengers per trip. Inshore boats are called 6 pack boats and bay boats. I don't know of any inshore fishing charters that carry more than 6 people per trip. Just because the boat can carry 10 or 12 people on their data plate issued by the manufacturer, does not mean they can carry that many while operating as a charter boat or "For Hire." The US Coast Guard only allows boats that are not inspected by them, to carry a maximum of 6 passengers for hire.

Because of the size of these bay boats, 4 people plus the fishing guide is usually the maximum number of people allowed without pushing the comfort level of each passenger. Small kids are the exception. The 24' boats can usually accompany 6 people comfortably. The only drawback to inshore fishing is the boats don't usually have a restroom. Most of the time, you are never more than a few minutes ride from a shoreside restroom.

Offshore fishing charters are either private charters or walk on / per person charters and are offered by larger charter boats that fish out in the Gulf of Mexico & the Atlantic Ocean. These offshore charter boats are normally 36' to 65' in length. Offshore boats are either 6 passenger or multi-passenger boats. These boats are very comfortable. Private charters are the preferred of most fishermen. Private offshore fishing charters are ideal for those with kids.

Tip #8: The difference between 6 pack, multi-passenger and party boats!

Six passenger boats or 6-pack boats - These boats in Key West are anywhere from 18 to 55 feet in length. They are called "6 Pack" boats and can carry groups from 1 to 6 "paying" passengers fishing. 6 passenger boats can either be inshore or offshore fishing boats.

Offshore, 6 passenger boats can go as far as 100 miles offshore. Six passenger boats that operate offshore have restrooms onboard. The average length of an offshore 6 pack boat is about 30-50 feet in Key West. Most 6 pack boats provide a stable ride in rough seas.

Multi-passenger boats or Party Boats or Head Boats are inspected by the US Coast Guard and the maximum number of passengers is set by their certificate of inspection or COI. These boats can carry over 7 people for hire and may not exceed the maximum number of people established by the Coast Guard's "COI." The average multi-passenger boat in Key West, has a 15 person minimum requirement to leave the dock. A boat licensed to carry 60 usually carries carries 45 people comfortably, and generally fishes 20-25 daily. Some Key West charter boats can carry less and some can carry more. Multi-passenger offshore fishing charters have restrooms onboard. Because the size of multi-passenger boats are similar, they ride good in seas up to 3' to 4' feet. Some larger multi-passenger boats that are 65' in length, ride good in 5' seas. The size and weight of the charter boat determines how smooth and comfortable the ride.

Party Boats offer walk up fisherman 99.9 percent of the time. They charge around $55-65 per person and a small rod and reel fee. Party boats only offer deep sea fishing trips. Key West party boat trips are 5-6 hours. These charters are great for those who don't have a large budget or have enough people in their group to justify investing a lot of money in a private charter on a 6 pack or multi-passenger boat. They are also available for large group private charters.

Tip #9: Where do charter boats fish?

Inshore fishing includes fishing around piers, rock piles, jetties, bridge pilings, grassy flats, unseen deep holes, and other structures that may hold fish. Inshore fishing charters usually produce fish species like Red Drum (Redfish), Speckled Trout (Spotted Sea Trout), Flounder, White Trout, Ladyfish, Tripletail, Pompano and Sheepshead.

Offshore fishing includes fishing the Gulfstream for Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo, Marlin, Dolphin or fish the reef for Kingfish, Mackerel, Snapper and Grouper and Barracuda and even fish inshore for Shark or Tarpon. Depending on weather, tide, current, moon phase and wind you will fish in the Atlantic of the Gulf of Mexico.

Tip #10: What types of fish do I want to catch?

Offshore fishing charters are boats that fish out in the Gulf of Mexico. Most charter boats offer nearshore and deep sea fishing trips. Charter boats that fish near the shore line and stay close to land, are either trolling or sight fishing.

Depending on the fishing season, nearshore charter fishing trips mostly catch Spanish Mackerel, King Mackerel, Jack Crevalle, Bonita, Ladyfish and Bull Redfish. Nearshore fishing trips fish in open water with no reef or structures below.

Deep sea fishing charters are also called bottom fishing or reef fishing trips. These boats fish over artificial and natural reefs that are located on the bottom or sea floor of the gulf.

Depending on the length of the fishing charter you choose, a deep sea fishing trip may let you start fishing anywhere from 8 miles offshore to over 50 miles away from land. Bottom fishing is when the charter boat stops at a specific GPS location the captain has marked or saved and hovers the boat over the reef. Each angler baits their hook and drops it below the surface of the water. When a fish bites, you fight him and reel him in. Common deep sea fish caught while bottom fishing or reef fishing are: Amberjack, Almaco Jacks, Cobia, Lesser Amberjacks, Lane Snapper, Mangrove Snapper, Triggerfish, Porgies, Grouper and Scamp. Migratory fish that can be caught while trolling offshore are: Mahi-Mahi, Wahoo, Bonita, King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, Blackfin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna and Bluefin Tuna.

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