Booking A Charter: What to Expect from Your Trip and Fishing Guide

If you want to get more familiar with the local waterways, hiring a charter is a good idea. Besides catching fish, being out on the water is a great way to spend your free time and soak in some Vitamin D.

Before you hire a captain, it is good to know what to expect to prepare for the day ahead. This article will highlight working with the captain before your trip, what you need to bring, and tips for getting the most out of your day. 

Young man with a snook.

What should I expect from a fishing charter?

Fishing guides are on the water daily and therefore better your chances of catching fish. As a local fishing guide in St. Augustine, FL, I have spent countless hours learning about this area and the patterns that fish follow. 

Although fishing guides are good at their craft, sometimes the fish do not cooperate. As much as we try, there are days where fish are not feeding. It is best to book a charter for the overall learning experience instead of strictly catching fish. 

Will the fishing guide communicate with me?

Good communication from your captain is the first step in knowing what to expect and, frankly, is the most significant part of establishing their brand.

A good fishing guide will communicate multiple times before the day of your trip. You can expect basic information such as what you will be catching and your trip details on the first contact. Communication should be maintained to monitor the weather and changing fishing conditions until the day of your trip.

During these interactions with the captain, make sure to ask any questions you may have. The more information you have, the more prepared you will be for the trip. These questions include how the weather has been, how rough the water is that will be fished, and what you need to bring. If you want to target specific species, you should inform the captain as soon as possible. 

 Your guide should explain how the fishing has been lately so you have an idea of what you can expect to catch. It is always best to follow the captain’s advice as opposed to trying to make the agenda. You may want to target species that are unlikely to catch. 

Fishing off the back of the boat during a charter.

What if I am new to fishing?

The more experienced you are with fishing, the more likely you are to catch quality fish. Even though the guide will help you as much as possible, some things take practice to get good at. This does not mean you won’t catch fish, but understand that fishing is a skill that is not learned in a day. For example, a person who has never played golf will probably not play very well even if they hire a caddy. The fishing guide is the caddy of the water. He will give you advice and put you in the right areas, but you are the one holding the pole at the end of the day. This is especially true when it comes to fly-fishing. Novice fly-fishermen should lower their expectations for the day dramatically.

Generally, the guide will attempt to understand your fishing experience during the initial contact. It is in your best interest to inform the captain if you have little experience fishing—this way, the trip is tailored to your skill level to increase the chances of success.

The majority of charter guests are inexperienced, hence the reason for needing a guide. It is our job as the charter captain to ensure you have a great day on the water. This may mean catching a lot of fish or simply helping you become a better fisherman and showing you a good time.

Do you catch a lot of fish on a fishing charter?

As alluded to above, you should book a charter with the mindset of having a good time on the water as your primary goal. 

Clients who expect to catch a lot of fish often set themselves up for disappointment. There are days when the bite is very good, and every cast can be a fish, but keep in mind that this is not an everyday experience. The guide will give you an idea of what you can expect to catch before the trip.

The effort that your guide puts into getting you on fish should be pretty obvious. If your guide is working hard and bouncing between spots, then slow days are likely out of their control. Having a slow day of fishing is very stressful for the captain. As a charter guide, repeat business is how we survive and feed our families. Slow days of fishing run the risk of us losing a potentially good repeat client. 

Men booking a charter catch flounder.

Can I keep what I catch on fishing charters?

If your primary goal is to bring fish home for dinner, it is strongly advised to book a deep-sea charter. The odds of bringing home more meat are greater when fishing offshore.

Keeping fish should be discussed with the captain before the trip. Most charters allow you to keep your catch as long as it is legal to do so. In some instances, a captain may implement a catch and release only policy. It is essential to fully understand the guide’s policies before your trip.

The captain will provide ice to store your catch on the vessel. At the end of the trip, either the captain or mate will clean the fish for you to take home. For more information about cleaning fish and what you need to bring, refer to Do Fishing Guides Clean Fish? What To Expect From Your Guide.

How do I prepare for a fishing charter?

If booking a fishing charter is a new experience for you, it is important to ask many questions. The more information you can gather before the trip will reduce any surprises you may encounter.

How should I dress?

What you wear is one of the most important factors of being prepared for the day. It is advised that you look at the weather before your trip to know the temperature and rain chances for that day.

When fishing in hot climates, like here in Florida, you want to wear light, cool clothing. Avoid wearing cotton or jeans if you can. Microfiber shirts are an excellent option for staying cool and comfortable. If you are light-skinned, then sun protection is another critical factor. Long sleeve microfiber shirts and light fishing pants will help keep you from getting burned. 

Captain James holding a fish on the boat.

Do not forget to wear a hat! A hat will help keep the glare out of your eyes and keep the sun from beating down on your head all day. I would avoid the large floppy hats, as they tend to fly off when the boat is running. 

If there is a chance of rain in the forecast, it is a good idea to bring a rain jacket with you. Being wet on the boat can become annoying after a while. Additionally, light jackets are advised during the morning hours if you are fishing in the fall or spring months. 

Wearing layers in cooler weather will allow you to shed and add clothing to maintain being comfortable. 

Lastly, be sure not to wear large bulky boots and shoes. Footwear should be capable of being wet. Flip flops are generally the best option when on the boat. Your footwear should not have dark soles. The dark soles will leave streaks on the boat, and most guides do not allow them. 

For specific recommendations on clothing to wear, head over to What To Wear Fly Fishing – A Complete Head To Toe Guide

Do I need to take something for seasickness?

Being seasick is one of the worst feelings. Once you become sick, there is no recovery until you are back on land. Typically the boat will not return in for seasick passengers, and you will be stuck on the water having a less than ideal time.

If you are unsure if you get seasick, it is advised that you take motion sickness medication when booking a deep-sea charter. Typically, motion sickness is not an issue when fishing inland water where the water is calm.

Asking the captain what the seas will be like is a good idea to prepare yourself for potentially rocky water. If the water is going to be rough, you may decide to take medication even if you do not usually get sick. 

Captain James holding a fishing caught when booking a charter.

The majority of clients experience seasickness out in the ocean. It is unusual to become sick when fishing inland waters where it is smooth and surrounded by land. If you experience motion sickness in the car or at theme parks, you may choose to take medication even for an inland trip. 

It is important to note that motion sickness medication, such as Dramamine, will make you drowsy. Look for less drowsy versions when making a purchase. 

Do I need a fishing license to go on a fishing charter?

Most states allow the guide to carry the license for his paying guests. In certain circumstances, you are required to buy an additional license. 

Fishing licenses are provided by the charter captain and are included in the price of the trip. Certain states and fisheries require the guests to buy an additional license to fish. Your guide will direct you where to go if a license purchase is necessary.

When selecting a charter captain, it is good to ensure they have the proper licensing and insurance to carry guests on board. In the event of an accident, it is best to be assured that appropriate coverage exists. 

Should I practice my cast for fly fishing trips?

Fly-fishing is a challenging sport to master. Even with the best guides, if the angler’s cast is not up to par, then there is a good shot no fish will be caught. 

It is a good idea to practice your fly cast as much as possible before a fly-fishing charter. If you are new to the sport, it is highly recommended that you take a lesson before booking a charter. Experienced fly-fishermen stand a far better chance of catching fish than a novice. 

When practicing your fly-cast, the most important factor is accuracy. Placing targets in the yard and practicing hitting them from varying distances is the best way to prepare for a charter. A fly angler should be able to double haul the line and be able to backcast. Minimizing false casts to shoot line will increase your chances of catching fish as well. 

What should I bring on a fishing charter?

Less is more when packing for a fishing charter. Space is often limited on a boat, and the captain will supply most of what you need. There is no need to go overboard on bringing things for your trip. Often the captain will make you lug bulky items back to your vehicle.

What to bring:

  • Polarized Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen – No spray-on sunscreen. It stains the boat
  • Rain jacket
  • Snacks
  • Drinks
  • Phone or camera to take pictures
  • Cash for a tip

What not to bring:

  • Coolers – the captain will have a cooler on board. Leave a small cooler in your vehicle if you plan on taking home fish. 
  • Large bags
  • Rod and reels – if you want to bring your own setup, discuss with the captain beforehand.
  • Bait and tackle
  • Spray sunscreen – it will stain the boat.
  • Dark sole shoes – will scuff up the boat.

If you are unsure of what you should bring with you, never hesitate to ask. It is always a good idea to confirm if the captain will supply food or drinks or if it is your responsibility. Some charters include lunch, but this is not standard.

If you are using a booking service, like, often the captain will list important information there.

Man holding snapper caught while booking a charter.

How much do I tip on a fishing charter?

If you have enjoyed your time on the water and your captain has worked hard, then it is customary to tip. Just like you tip a waiter or waitress, it is standard to tip the captain and/or mate. 

It is standard practice to tip the captain or mate twenty percent of the cost of the trip. You are not obligated to pay a tip, but if you enjoyed yourself, then it is a great way to show your appreciation. 

If there is a mate or mates, tips should be given to the captain to divide it among his crew. Tips are typically given at the end of the trip when you pay the balance of the remaining amount due.


Catching fish is only a small part of booking a charter. Enjoying a day on the water and learning about different environments can be just as memorable as the fish you catch. 

When booking a charter, it is vital to have good communication with the captain. Make sure you are asking questions, so you know what to expect. Requests can be made to target specific species, but it is best to follow the captain’s recommendations to ensure the most action. 

If you plan on keeping fish, discuss this prior with the captain. Make sure you have a cooler in your car to transport the catch home. When packing for a charter, bring as little as possible. The majority of what you need will be supplied on the trip.

If you had a great time, reward the captain and crew with a tip. A standard tip is 20 percent of the trip price.

Again, try not to set expectations on the amount of fish that will be caught. Every day is different on the water, and fish can be unpredictable. Some days you will catch lots of fish. Other days may be a slower bite. Enjoy being out on the water.