How to Start a Fishing Charter Business
Owning your own fishing charter business is a dream job for countless anglers, but only a few actually make the leap. That’s too bad because once you learn how to start a fishing charter business you’ll realize that it’s actually a lot easier than many people would think.
Yes, there are some requirements you’ll have to meet, and it will take some work—as is true of starting any type of business. But once you have a handful of important boxes checked, you’ll be able to make a living doing what you love, out on the water reeling up fish every day.
Here are the basic steps you’ll need to accomplish to start a fishing charter business:
- Get the required U.S. Coast Guard license.
- Obtain a guide’s license for the state you live in, if necessary.
- Obtain the appropriate insurance.
- Buy the gear necessary to run fishing charters.
- Set up the business entity.
- Drum up business.
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1. U.S. Coast Guard License for Charter Fishing
If you weren’t guiding people to the fish yourself, you could merely list your boat on Boatsetter and rent it to anglers, then let them do the catching by themselves. But that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as showing all those people how to catch fish firsthand.
Taking them out on your boat, however, you’ll be the official captain and that means you’ll need a Coast Guard captain’s license:
- Most fishing charter captains have what’s known as an OUPV (operator of uninspected passenger vessel), or “six-pack” license, which covers uninspected passenger vessels carrying six or fewer passengers up to 100 miles from shore.
- This requires documenting that you have sufficient experience on the water, passing an exam, and completing some other basic steps (such as taking a drug test and completing a first aid/CPR course).
- For a full listing of the steps to take, visit the Coast Guard’s Charter Boat Captain webpage.
2. Obtaining a Guide’s License
Whether or not you need a separate fishing guide license in addition to your captain’s license depends on which state you’re living in.
Some have licensing requirements that can be quite extensive, while others have no additional licensing at all—so you’ll have to do your due diligence and find out what the requirements are where you live.
3. Obtaining Insurance
There can be a lot of liability involved when you’re a licensed captain taking paying customers out on the water. Plus, your boat is now a big part of your business. So, lining up the proper insurance is a must.
Fortunately, insurance for charter fishing boats is widely available. Also, be sure to read How Much Does Boat Insurance Cost?
4. Gear for Charter Fishing
Naturally, the most important piece of gear is your boat. But beyond that you also need…
- Fishing tackle—lots and lots of tackle.
- Now that you’ll be taking out parties of anglers, you need to be prepared to outfit all of them with rods, reels, and the appropriate lures or rigs.
And remember, part of what your clients will judge you on is how well you equip them. Good fishing charter captains understand that they need to hand their clients good quality gear to keep them satisfied.
5. Setting up the Business Entity
This is another chore that will vary depending on where you live. The regulations and paperwork necessary for establishing a business will differ from state to state, and that’s on top of federal regulations and requirements.
If you’ve never established a business before and aren’t sure what type of entity is best for your needs, you may want to get the help of an attorney.
6. Drumming Up Business
Once you have all your t’s crossed and your i’s dotted, you’re ready to take people fishing. But like any business, you need to let the public know that your services are available. Almost all fishing charter services need to utilize advertising or public relations to some degree, but since you’re just getting started, you probably won’t want to lay out a bunch of cash.
A painless way to get into the game is to list your service among Boatsetter’s network of fishing charters. Since there’s no upfront cost, you can create your listing without spending a dime, and over 1,500 captains choose to list their services on Boatsetter.
For additional ideas to help you get started, be sure to take a look at the following guides:
Okay: are you ready to take the leap? Now more than ever before, people realize that doing a job you love is more important than just about anything else when it comes to being a happy person.
And what job could possibly be better than taking people fishing every day? If you’ve ever considered starting a charter fishing business, there’s no time like the present.
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With over three decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to dozens of boating and fishing publications and websites ranging from BoatU.S. Magazine to BDOutdoors.com. Rudow is currently the Angler in Chief at Rudow’s FishTalk, he is a past president of Boating Writers International (BWI), a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.