Just as there is no perfect guest there is no perfect host. The best guest on a boat behaves in a manner that allows the host (owner/captain) to lead a successful trip; good fishing and good times. But, the captain can only do so much to make a trip a success. He/she (from now on I will use the conventional he) can make sure the boat is clean, in good repair, and properly equipped with plenty of fuel. The captain should know the rules of the road, speed limits, channels etc., and, if he also knows where the fish are and how to catch them, all-the-better. The captain has no control over weather, tides and other things that may affect the catch so guests should be prepared to appreciate the experience and hope next time is more productive.
Englewood Florida is one of the “fishingest” places in the “fishingest” State in the USA. The water is here, the fish are here and the resources to enhance fishing are all here too. We also have the Englewood Fishing Club , one of the most successful fishing clubs in Florida. One of the best benefits of membership in the club is the chance to go out on experienced members’ boats as a guest.
Many of the over 300 species of fish in our waters are accessible from beaches, jetties, docks etc. Most are not. But to get to where most of the fish are a boat is needed. The most popular design is the center-console boat. Shallow draft flats boats, medium draft bay-boats and deep-vee hull offshore boats all have their special uses. Going out either on a friend’s boat or booking a trip on a Charter Captain’s boat for harbor or Gulf fishing can be time and money well spent.
This article is intended to make you an informed guest who will be invited back.
It is a very good idea to have time to sit down with the captain to ask questions about the trip he has planned what you should bring, and what is expected. This article is intended as a guide on what questions you should ask.
Please consider however the circumstances under which you are asking the questions There are very few things which can be forgotten without compromising the trip. The same is true at the launch site, both coming and going, and when we return home. The time for the questions is while we are on the road, or during waiting time at the ramp.
One of the most important things a captain should do is file a “float plan” with someone who will know when the trip has gone over schedule. The plan does not have to be very formal, but should include the approximate schedule and destination. If plans change a call to alter the plan is wise. As a guest you should provide your personal on-shore contact with phone numbers to use to check if anything has gone wrong if the trip is running late.
Do not assume that beer is acceptable on-board. Florida is in some ways a very permissive state. That does not include operating a boat under the influence. Most of the most serious, even fatal, boating accidents involve alcohol. A clear head is critical to safe boating. If you want to drink and fish, find a pond and fish from the bank.
Once you are aboard his boat the captain should show you around. You should know where the life jackets are stowed, where the fire extinguisher is, where the bait well and live well are, where to stow your gear etc. etc. The captain may also review his trip plans. Where is he headed, and how long you will be underway. He will also tell you some special rules he may have. Rods should be in rod holders, and tackle boxes properly stowed after use.
The share of the trip’s cost you are expected to pay should be discussed before you finalize plans. A captain who is not a Coast Guard licensed Captain cannot legally profit from taking paying passengers on his boat. But he can take money as a share of his cost. Expect people to share to the cost of bait, ice, fuel and dock fees.
If you are going fishing in salt water you should have a copy of salt water regulations and you should be familiar with them. Do not plan on keeping your catch if you have not confirmed it is legal to do so. The captain will be held responsible for any fish in the “box” even if he did not know it was there, and fines are high in Florida for illegal fish. Also, do not lift fish you cannot keep from the water by the head, and do not keep an illegal fish out of the water any longer than necessary.
Boats under twenty feet usually do not have a head. Peeing over the side is not exactly legal and certainly not safe, Urine from a healthy person contains no germs. The best a “headless” boat can offer for other business is a bucket. A few inches of water in the bucket can make dumping more practical, but since poop floats it is best to not have to use the bucket. A modest pre-trip menu can reduce the need for the bucket, so do not eat heartily at Taco Bell before the trip.
Even the most modest chop can bring on motion sickness in some people. Using a legitimate motion sickness prevention product like Bonine or Dramamine can keep you off the rail. If you have special health concerns please make sure the Captain knows. Provision can be made for assistance, and accommodation in most cases.
Sunblock is a must for most of us. Bring your own small container, apply it properly and wash your hands afterward. The solvent in some products will dissolve all sorts of stuff, and the fish do not like it.
Plan on bringing a modest amount of lunch, or snack food, and bring enough water in small containers. Wear a hat, sunglasses, pants and shirt which can limit sun exposure. Bring enough water to keep hydrated! Heat prostration is a real concern and preventable. It can be very serious.
If inexperienced ask your Captain what fishing equipment you should bring.
Do not plan on bringing home fish if the trip is catch and release. Others objections to you keeping some part of the legal catch. Find out if you should bring a cooler, and ice, or if the captain will have an iced box. If you do plan on keeping fish you should either plan on taking them home on-ice to fillet, or plan on using a fish cleaning station on shore.
I hope this article has served its purpose to better prepare you to be a guest on someone's boat.