Finding The Right Captain
Whether you’re fishing the Panhandle of Florida, the blue waters of Cabo, or the rivers inland – finding the right charter Captain can be one of the most important things you do for your vacation!
Here in the Pensacola area, there are two different types of boats you could potentially charter on your next vacation to the emerald coast – private boats and head boats, also known as party boats.
Head boats are typically large fishing vessels that charge by the head where you could be fishing with upwards of 60+ other anglers. A head boat might be a good option for you if you are looking for a cheap way to get out on the water, go for a boat ride, and catch a few fish.
There are some things you should know about these types of boats before deciding. The top speed of a head boat generally is much lower than that of a private vessel; therefore, it takes longer to get to your fishing spots.
Having a bunch of anglers on one boat, of course, means more lines in the water which can spook certain species of fish and can lead to tangles and lost fish. To avoid any unwelcome surprises, make sure you do your research before committing to a head boat.
Some head boats have extra costs associated with them, such as renting equipment, purchasing bait, or paying to have your fish cleaned.
A Private charter allows you to hire a Captain and vessel for yourself and whomever you choose. The US Coast Guard allows up to 6 passengers. Private charters cost a little more than a head boat; however, you get a more personalized experience on a private charter, and you get more elbow room!
Also, since it is your boat for the day, you can change what you are fishing for based on your preferences or what the Captain suggests. It is much harder for a large head boat to switch gears and fish for something else if a particular bite isn’t hot.
On a Private vessel, you get more fishing time as you can quickly run between locations looking for hungry fish.
A very common question I receive is, “how big is your boat?” I run a 26′ twin vee, a catamaran-style hull equipped with two 150 horsepower motors. Boats in our area tend to vary from 24-27 foot for private captains and 40 foot plus for head boats so they can accommodate more guests.
Every boat is different, so find the one that you will be comfortable on but rest assured a 26 foot long vessel is a good size that can most likely accommodate your fishing needs. We run over a hundred charters a year on the same boat and have many happy returning customers!
Price can sometimes be a touchy subject for fishing Captains, especially if a potential client wants to haggle. Please keep in mind that this is a full-time job for most Captains, including myself, and this is how we pay our bills. When it comes to charter fishing, you get what you pay for.
A Captain’s level of experience, the size of the boat, amenities, operational costs, and other factors will impact the price of your trip. However, most prices among us Captains are relatively similar, so if you are price shopping and come across someone you like but for some reason their prices are significantly higher – do some research and try to figure out why.
If you call me and immediately try to get me to lower my prices, I will probably refer you to a cheaper Captain.
If you are looking to fish multiple days or hire multiple boats, I might work out a special offer for you.
There are tons of different platforms such as Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, to name a few. When looking at a Captain, it is an excellent idea to research your potential Captain and see what the consensus is! If you see many 5-Star reviews, odds are you will feel the same way about your trip and be the next to leave a great review!
Social media is a great place to see what sort of fish the Captain has been catching or what the business has been up to in general. Fishermen love to brag about their catches, so odds are, if they aren’t posting at least a few times a month, then they probably aren’t doing a whole bunch of catching. Social media is about the only “free” advertising a captain has, so they should be using it to its full potential! I try to make a habit of posting on mine at least once a week.
Your Captain’s Personality
I encourage you to call your Captain or look into his social media/ reviews. Not just about his ability to fish but his attitude and how he makes the experience.
Charter fishing is just as much about having a good time as it is trying to catch fish. If you have a slow day, you want someone on the boat to joke around with and still have some fun. Give your Captain a call and see how his attitude is with you, a potential new client.
Shoot them a text message and see how well they communicate. All these little things may not mean much to everyone, but sometimes they make a big difference!
Once you have found your Captain of choice, get on the books as soon as possible. If you wait until the last minute, you either won’t get a spot on a boat or you will be referred to a different Captain altogether. The longer a Captain has been in business, the more clients he will have, making availability limited, especially from May to August when it’s busiest.
I hope you found this article helpful when choosing the right Captain for your needs. If you plan to be in the Pensacola, Navarre, or Perdido Key area, reach out to try and find a day to go fishing. I can’t wait to see you out on the water!
– Captain Austin