Dream Catching: The Finer Points Of Fishing Afar

Checking a trophy fish off your bucket list is more likely to happen if you spend effort identifying the best season and skipper for your target fishery. Photo by Zach Harvey

By Zach Harvey

As we head into winter fishing show season, many start shopping for good charters to fish in the coming season. The following points should save you some headaches.

Know Thyself
The best thing to ensure a successful trip is to take a hard look at yourself and your crew—your experience, ages, skill levels and general disposition. Rough out your group’s hopes for the trip: Is the gear type of utmost import? Are you five old college friends for whom the trip’s fish tally comes after talking and laughing? Are you hoping to take home a load of fillets? There’s a possibility a port’s highliner—the guy who mohawks the fish every trip—could be the worst guy in town given your group’s criteria for success.

Know Your Quarry, Ask Questions
Understand the logistical realities, timing issues, and if there’s a viable fishery underway. One of the biggest problems fishermen encounter in destination fishing is pride prevents us from asking what we view as “googan” questions. We end up trying to convince our would-be hosts that we know what we’re doing and forget to ask the questions that might make that so. Ask the stupid question.

If you’ve been hoping to land X species of X size your entire life, flush out as much detail as possible about the fishery: Are there certain windows of timing for the best fishing? Is tide stage a major factor? Every species and every region is full of caveats and idiosyncrasies.

Full-time chartermen must fish as many days as they can book. You can’t expect to get straight answers to all your timing questions. You can, however, zero in on an area’s better tackle shops to fill in blanks. The quest for reliable intel is something you’ll have to patchwork together.

Planning charter or party boat trips around ideal tidal timing in places known to turn out heavyweight slabs will increase your chances of landing, for example, a 10-pound fluke/flounder. Photo courtesy of Capt. Andy Dangelo.

Policies and Parting Advice
As you zero in on a decision, there are other considerations. Do not base boat choice on price first and foremost. Charter fishing is not cheap, but a well-executed trip with a top captain can make your dream trip a reality.
Be sure, however, to get a clear breakdown on the boat’s weather cancellation, deposit, rescheduling and trip-downgrade policies to be sure all in your crew have clear expectations. Ask detailed questions about the boat’s policies on fishing gear and whether you may target more than one species during a trip.

Wherever you fish, whoever takes you and whatever you target, consider: Any seasoned crew will know, inside five minutes, the real extent of your experience. Everything works better if you check your ego at the dock.

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