This is a long story, but for those who can read through it, there is a lesson you may someday be happy you learned.
I'm old enough to know that I should deal only with the owners/operators of businesses, but I let a fast, smooth-talking charter captain book me on another company's boat because his was already full. His fancy website lured me in and once on the phone, he had me circled-hooked with visions of 4-species limits. This was not a discount charter. It was about $650 for the 2 of us. My wife and I found out which boat we were assigned the day before our trip and visited the dock to check out the catch that evening. Very decent catch being unloaded by the deckhand - oh wait, he's the captain! As he explained, the owner/captain decided a week or so ago to leave him in charge, but not to worry he had been a deckhand last summer and this summer so far, and knew the good spots. Hmmm, well he did have a good catch, so it shouldn't be a problem to duplicate it the next day.
The next morning we arrived early and then another couple showed up and then nothing. Where was the 3rd couple? Well they arrive late and when asked for their license, they produce driver's licenses! They claim they were told that they could buy their licenses "here". Somebody didn't give them very good instructions. So off they go to get licenses, and upon their return, they announce that they need to catch the 6:00pm train back to Anchorage so they need to be back by 5:00, and the "office" told them that is no problem. Hmmm, again, leaving late and need to get back early. I know from experience that good charters will return much later than that if the bite is slow and they are struggling to catch fish. Again, I'm thinking optimistically this will all work out. Wrong! We are greated with a big confused swell at the mouth of the bay and after getting beat up for an hour trying to plow through it, the captain announces we can't make it to the choice halibut grounds. So we start fishing along the coastline and after a few hours, only two 5-pound halibut come over the rail, both landed by my wife and I, which we promptly returned to the sea.
So now the captain is freaking out because he only has a couple hours left until he has to get these nimrods back for their train. He opts to bring us fishing for black rockfish, and we get on a good bite. I switch to deckhand so we can stay on top of them. We then jig for lingcod, but it is a disaster. The pinnacle we're trying to fish is so steep, the jigs keep getting snagged and after wasting precious time trying to retrieve stuck jigs and loosing most of them, we go for halibut nearby. Well as you might guess, the halibut either aren't home or not feeding because when we had to leave at about 2:45pm, there were only 3 small halibut in the boat. My wife and I had caught 2 of them in the 5-10 minutes before we had to leave and were getting bites in every drop, which we had not had all day up until then. Another 15 minutes or so and I'm sure we would have limited, albeit with chickens at best.
I was so mad I sat on the back deck all the way in, fearful that I would lose it and verbally abuse the nimrods and captain and have the law waiting for me when I got back. I got back and avoided speaking to anyone until the fish were at the cleaning table. I got my fish and left after telling the college student captain (yep college student) how I felt ripped off. He was very upset too. First time I ever didn't give a tip on a charter. Afterward I tracked down the captain that I booked the trip with and fairly calmly told him I felt ripped off. He told me, that I should have booked the whole boat and to take my problems to the J-Dock, which I did. I spoke to Mr. Art at J Dock who listened intently and seemed genuinely concerned. He told me he would check out the details of what happened. The next day, Mr. Art explained that although his business occasionally books clients on this particular boat, he had not done so for this trip and therefore had no responsibility. That made sense to me.
I feel ripped off for the following reasons: Placed with an inexperienced captain although I had been promised a seasoned expert who would have been much more likely to find fish on a marginal day and, much more importantly, placed on a boat with people who "the office" told would be back by 5:00pm no matter what. I was never able to find out who booked them on the trip. I spoke to several other charter operators afterwards and was told by all that they absolutely would not ever agree to have people back to the dock so early unless they booked the entire boat.
SO, the moral to the story is, when you book a charter, book directly with the owner/operator and ask if they, or anyone who books for them, make any promises to clients to bring them back at a certain time. If they do, STAY AWAY. By the way, the same boat had not returned from fishing by 6:45pm the following day! I went on another charter a couple days later and returned close to 8:00pm with a lot of fish caught late in the day.