Likes/dislikes of fishing charters!
Okay, since everyone's got an opinion; what do you guys/gals consider to be the key ingredients to a decent charter fishing experience?
I'm asking because I've worked as a deckhand in a previous life and now have an opportunity to get back in it with the addition of a buddy's 2nd charter boat here on Kauai.
Please voice the complaints & gripes as well; I've been on a few charters in Mexico, Tonga, Alaska and have a list of pros/cons myself but value the opinion of others.
I do realize that the Hawaii scene (especially the fish keeping policy) may be different than other places, but would like to hear the good, the bad, the ugly!
- it's nice not to have to worry about tackle, rods and all the equipment.
- really what you pay for is the ability of the guide to put you on the fish... successful fishing takes experinece! you can read all the books, internet tips and talk to the experinced fishermen but the only way to take the knowing the timing, conditions, locations, baits, techniques, and how to put all that together takes time to learn. If you're a tourist you can't make that investment so you pretty much are buying someone else's investment that it took in gaining experience. When I'm looking for a guide theres a couple things I look for.
a) do they own thier own boat and guiding company? (they tend to care a little more cause thier income depends on success)
b) do they live in the area year round? (goes to the above knowledge investment above)
c) how many years have they fished in the waters I'm interested in... (same)
d) recommendations from friends and other clients.
So if I get a guide that lives out of state and gets hired on for the season I tend to take my business elsewhere.
- the price, keep it competative... if you're charging more than the next guy you better be better than he is, and you better be able to prove it before I fork over any fees
- lazy guides - you know the ones who take you to the nearest chicken hole, get your limit ASAP and get you back to the doc so they can do whatever it is they do for the rest of the day. Or the drift boaters who anchor up rather than use the oars when backtrolling a hole.
-Cheaters/do not play well with others - we all know what that is... play by the laws and rules and don't start swearing at your competition and dont' monopolize the holes as if they were your personal property, the private anglers have as much right to try to catch a fish as you/your clients do. play nice with others basicly. when I'm out I take note of the guides that behave badly and keep them on a black list and don't ever recommend them to visiting friends/family.
-tips - I know, I know... but seriously 15% tip on an already large fee is not chump change. I have no problem tipping for exceptional service but there's a bit of an entitlement feel to the industry where you know the boat owners are giving thier deck hands squat for a hard days work and they took alot of crap so you feel obligated to pay the tip regardless of the quality of service. My rule... 10% tip for catching my limit, no fish no tip, if I like you I'll add 1% to 5%, if you gut and clean my fish for me I'll add another 5%, if you listen to what I want to do/try even if its stupid another 5%. you get the picture.
- Guides who don't listen/accomidate clients wishes - countless times I've been on charters, (particularly the saltwater charters but I've seen it on freashwater charters too) where the guides follow some daily formula that works for them every day and refuse to adjust it to what the clients on the boat want to do. I've been on a number of charters where everyone wants salmon but the guide insists on spending the bulk of the day chasing chicken halibut to get everyone limited out first only leaving enough time for everyone to catch one or two salmon (if at all) listen to what the clients want to do and then work out a plan and share the plan with the clients and get everyone to agree. (pretty simple... only had 1 guide out of the dozen or so I've hired actually do that - kudo's to Captain Bob with Saltwater Safari's)
-Research trips - had a couple times where I've been with a guide who used me to scope out new holes. very annoying since those times I've often come away with no fish... do your research on your own time!
Like: Friendly Positive Attitude Crew that is willing to help someone have an enjoyable experience and cater to the needs of the client. Must be a people person crew that really loves to fish and not just making money as a JOB. They should give tips and encourage new fisherman, let more experienced fish the way they like to fish and maybe make a suggestion if they are not doing so well. Take them to places where the crew would like fish when they are alone themselves if they had no clients. Nothing worse then going to a spot, anchoring up and wasting hours soaking a hook. IMO, charterboat crews are Ambassadors of the State of Alaska. Ones trip of lifetime trip to Alaska can be greatly influenced by their fishing experience they have been dreaming of all their lives. They should treat their clients like they are taking out their own family members that they are trying to influence them to enjoy fishing for the first time.
Dislike: Not letting a naive tourist or inexperienced fisherman keep fish that are not really good table fare ie.. pinks without informing them that they really are not a quality fish for freezing or sending home. If they still choose to, thats on them. Not taking care of clients fish properly ie... bleeding them, icing them down. It burns my butt to see fish sitting in the sun on the swimdeck or open fishbox and not taken care of properly. Allowing fisherman to break the law such as catching fish for the boat.
Skydiver nailed it, it really is that simple.
Now matter how good the fishing, if you have an arrogant crew that puts in the minimal effort, you won't enjoy the trip.
Conversley, even if you get skunked or catch next to nothing, if the crew puts out max effort and makes for a good day on the water, then you'll be happy to recomend them to all your friends.
Finally I'd add, be honest. When you call a 10# or under halibut a nice fish, you aren't putting yourself in the best light. Let the client know when he or she should throw a fish back and try for a better one, and wait until they have a truly nice fish before commenting.
The service you are selling is having a good time on the water, having a cooler full of fish at the end of the day is the bonus. Pointing out wildlife or points of interest, i.e. taking the opportunity to teach your clients about the area they are fishing in takes little effort, but makes for a memorable trip.
Captains that drink and don't offer to share their beer (Hawaii).
I have put in some time as a deckhand as well. IMHO the key ingredient to a quality trip is to see that the customers have a good time. Know the area, both fact & fiction, so that you can keep their attention to and from the fishing grounds. Be open to their ideas and their different personalities, especially on a mixed party boat. Treating the wive & children good always goes far. I think that many guys know how challenging their spouses are. I have been tipless on good fishing days and gotten good tips on fishless days, so tipping depends on how good a time people have. Many tourists spend a lot of money to fish in Alaska. Most are pretty easy to please. Some people that have never caught a fish are happy with just the 1 fish. Others just want the bigggest fish that they can get. Each is different & unique. But they all want to have a good time. Some of the bigger challenges are to keep the Alaska meat fisherman happy. They consider the trip in the weight vs pound mentality. Taking people out to catch fish is fun, see that they have as much fun as you do & it is successful
Sorry to get a little off track here but I have to disagree with a couple comments here,
Originally Posted by Sierra Dragon
I've guided for 20 years in S.E. AK. and always operated resort boats, both lodges I have worked for paid little better then minimum wage, the $$$ is in gratutities. If I don't produce or have a bad attitude/bad day its going to reflect in my tip, I take pride in having banner days and have alot of them every season.
The 1st resort I worked at near Ketchikan I was amazed at how 1 dimensional the locals were, everyone trolled flashers and hoochies off down riggers, if they weren't catching anything, well then, the fish must not be biting. I saw very few other techniques tried. When I started in 1990 myself and a couple other guides from out of state did alot of mooching and some jigging, got laughed at a few times, didn't hear much laughing at the end of the day when we unloaded our fish.
As for the out of state guides, the lodge out of Ketchikan hired both local and out of state guides, the resort owner learned quickly that the locals were alot less reliable, if they got mad or got drunk or just didn't feel like working, it wasn't such a big deal to them not to show up, they could probably be running a boat for someone else when they decided to work. Guys from out of state don't show up/get drunk, whatever, you get a check and a ride to the airport. Resort owner fired alot more locals then out of staters. Just my $.02 worth.
Some really great times with the good ones. Treasured memories that it's hard to put a price on. Makes it easy to tip big sometimes.
On the other side...
1) Sometimes we keep fish, sometimes we prefer catch & release for one reason or another. Twice I've booked with guides after clearly clearly saying we were only interested in c & r, but when we got on the fish they insisted on keeping them. Needed them for 'pics for their website' or as 'pay' for the hands. Wanted to kick their sorry ass overboard.
2) Gear way too heavy. I understand how tough it is. Don't want a customer to loose the fish of a lifetime, but seems like the gear is oriented to the biggest 1% instead of the typical catch. Dragging some 5 lb fish across the surface on a pool cue with the boat in gear is not very exciting. My daughter literally doesn't even remember the kings we caught trolling when she was 7, but to this day she still tells her friends about the pinks and chums that almost broke her zebco every time on a creek. If you're stuck with pinks or black bass it would be nice if you had some light tackle to pull out.
3) Stop and smell the roses. If I booked the boat, and we want to stop fishing and watch the pelicans, sealions, bears, or whatever, what's the deal with 'to heck with that' we need to get to xx before the tide change or whatever ? Relax and get in tune with the customer. Especially in Alaska, being on the water is a rich experience in so many ways that can transcend the fishing. For many people it's not the fish they remember most.
I love this forum. I check it several times a week. Here's my 2 cents for Alaska guides. Things have been changing for a while and it will eventually get to Alaska. Nobody keeps redfish anymore and fishing for redfish is booming. Nobody keeps trout anymore... Nobody keeps largemouth bass anymore.... (I know there are exceptions including me sometimes, but you get the idea). Especially considering the trend with the regs (fair or not) you'll have to move the focus away from meat hunters. Sad as it may be, todays kids (tomorrows customers) don't know a halibut from an Irish Lord. Seems to me many Alaska charters have painted themselves into a corner by emphasizing how many pounds you can take home.
We're planning our 6th trip to Alaska. We're coming back for 12 days this year and we've already decided we're coming for at least 14 days in 2012. I know we're in the minority, but a 37" max halibut limit is totally irrelevant to us. Where in the lower 48 can you catch dozens, if not a hundred, of 3-10 pound fish in a day ? Nowhere but Alaska.
1. Charter needs to obey the laws to the letter, no undersize fish, clients that catch their limit stop fishing (as/if required by law) - no handing off, no culling, no catch and release (if it's not allowed), no releasing injured fish and calling that catch and release, no keeping beyond limit. I couldn't care less if the fish is 10# or 100#. You injured or killed it, if it is a legal fish, you keep it. Nothing pisses me off as a client more than a charter boat captain that decides after he leaves the dock that he can stretch rules that apply to everyone else or "lose count". That more than anything else made me quit taking charters.
2. No mentioning the word "tip". Ever. Do this to me, or start giving the clients a lecture about tipping, and your just asking for an empty tip jar; you wouldn't believe how much this pisses clients off. We'll tip you if we want to tip you. Or you can pay your deckhand a decent wage and raise your charge to your clients. Just quit asking for tips/ We know what a tip is. We do tip - we do not need to be asked or told.
3. Sharp hooks. No dull hooks.
4. Relatively fresh fishing line. No old fishing line that has abrasions or kinks.
5. Fresh bait. I have seen dead, live bait; and refrozen frozen bait. No thank you.
6. No seasick clients; ralphing clients are the captains fault. If anyone goes on your boat, 1/2 hour before the dock leaves, they either take the medicine or show proof they crabbed for at least a year in the Aleutians; you have the dramamine available for purchase.
7. Equal/fair treatment of clients. Chawwing with some buddy for 1/2 hour and ignoring 1st time clients is not my idea of a good time. Hitting on daughters/wives/single females....uuuhhh...to understate it, a charter boat is probably not a good place for this.
8. not only try hard, actually work hard.
BTW, I disagree with mapman on all his points. Catch-and-release is often not done due to injury to the fish due to capture/depth change/ingestion of gear/netting (if it seems like a harvest fishery to you - that's because that is what it IS) - yes, you do release undersize fish and the wrong species, but you keep the others - exactly what do you think happens when you cut off a fish that has been hooked in the gut? (it dies in the ocean); heavier gear is standard for trolling and needed for larger fish; and a charter trip is not a sight-seeing trip - whether you booked the whole boat, or are in a mix of clients, where the boat goes, and what is done on the boat, is the captain's call - not yours - that's why he's the captain; there's all sorts of reasons for his decisions on when to move, where to fish, and what the tides are and it's best that you get with the program. You want a sight-seeing trip? Go book one. That's not what a charter boat is for. You want to fish for something else? somewhere else? fine, say so....but accept the captain's decision. If you don't like it, get your own boat.
Stevesch only an idiot would insist on releasing fish that will die. Not my point. If the captain agrees to c & r beforehand and takes your money for a c & r trip it should be a c & r trip.
If you're a captain and have a growing business with a bright future - ignore my comments. But I'm guessing you're not the 'my way or the highway' type.
Most of my charters have been in SE Alaska, Cabo, and Rhode Island. The targeted fish and fishing techniques in these places are very different, but the likes and dislikes I have when chartering in these places are very similar:
1) Confidence (usually) that we are fishing in the right place with the right gear at the right time.
2) Learning how to do (1)
3) Walking away from the boat guilt free, but having cleaned or put away nothing, 5 minutes after hitting the dock at the end of the day.
1) Insecure captains that insist on killing as many fish as they can, every chance they get
2) Insecure captains that insist on fishing where they want with the gear they want when they want.
3) Insecure captains and mates that go on and on about what good fishermen they are.
4) Insecure captains and mates that go on and on about how well we are doing when the fishing is actually terrible.
5) Cutting corners on tackle and bait, even if nothing breaks during my charter
6) Clearly having a limit on fuel consumption for the day
Keys to a good trip:
1) Communication: Charter and captain agree on a plan for fish to target, C&R or pack the coolers, fishing method, fishing locations, etc., before booking the charter if possible. If not, right after getting on the boat, and evey time during the day when circumstances change or new information becomes available.
2) Good effort from the crew
Perhaps we need a Likes/Dislikes of Clients thread...(grin)
Understood, it's misleading you at the outset and taking your charter because they needed the biz and will do whatever is needed to get it:
Originally Posted by mapman5
Still, I'm trying to get a grip on what kind of fishing you could realistically do as pure c/r in salt. c/r isn't necessarily allowed/functional for certain types of fishing. Alot of what's done in Alaska in saltwater: salmon trolling, halibut, yanking up rock fish from the deep; doesn't compute with c/r; you may be releasing fish that are going to die. Or maybe not. It isn't like streams or Florida flats, or Block Island NY where tarpon or stripers are hooked on the lip. The boats are different. The water is cold. The fish swallow hooks and bait. The fish are less hardy. It's not that easy to keep the fish in the water to make a quick release. You shouldn't really even use a net for c/r, and there's not an easy way not to. The fish don't make it. It's a harvest fishery up there. Heck, I think c/r is great; where it's appropriate; and I just don't see AK saltwater charter fishing (and other types, in other states) as being geared up for that. The methods, bait and trolling, aren't consistent with c/r bcz there's alot of handling/stress and mortality associated with it anyway.
There's also regulations that may require or encourage retention; these vary between states and places in states, and times of year; but the reason is to limit the kill by limiting the catch, as, for salmonids - there is a significant hooking/handling mortality. If you retained one halibut and kept it and stopped fishing; that is better than releasing 20 and killing 10% (2 fish); but it's probably more than that.
I can see retention getting out of hand; like keeping colored fish, pinks, chums, all manor of rare/old rockfish, and so forth. But you need to be prepared to retain fish. Captains can't be throwing injured/dead fish overboard because you are c/r, or handing them to someone else, or keeping them themselves (none of that's very legal); you need to be prepared to keep them. As much water and as few wardens as there are around, they live for the pleasure of busting someone they have watched on telescope throwing 2 bleeding fish overboard and continue fishing. And your captain. It's rare. but it happens.
I think the what/when/where can be discussed and preferences indicated; but I would probably have some confidence in my captain to make a good day out of it (not so much the "my way" client). Doesn't always happen. Part of it is the captain; the rest if it is why we call it fishing, not catching.
Being told right after the safety talk the rods /reel are worth a $1000 bucks if you lose one im charging your cc,take the price tag off, or no deck hand on a six pack you cann`t drive, bait ,whine, untangle at the same time .Taken a couple charters out of seward with the grandkids the captain /deckhand spent more time with the kids got them fish it was great, one even let us take the dog made the granddaughter happy still good fishing ,we had the boat and the captains did what we needed thats what I pd for goods tips for all ,not like the sob in beginning
Sorry Stevesch. Like some others on this thread I was including experiences in places other than Alaska (ie Hawaii, Florida, Texas) and that's where I encountered C&R issues. I'm no C&R fanatic that's for sure. Most of the meat we eat in our house was something we killed.
My level of Alaska experience doesn't compare to most on here so help me out. If you've got a salmon hooked in the mouth, and you use a release tool and unhook him at the side of the boat without netting or bringing it aboard what's the survival rate ? Seems to be it would be pretty high. What about a halibut hooked in the corner of the mouth with a circle hook, brought up from 150-200' ? I realize rockfish is a whole different story.
Excellent suggestion. That would be of more help when picking a charter.
Originally Posted by 270ti
It's a two way street act like a jerk you'll get treated like a jerk.