Finding a fishing guide who will give you an enjoyable trip is mainly a matter of asking questions.
Don't ask the charter rate until after you determine what services the rate includes. Most charters furnish gear and bait. Some furnish soda pop and coffee. Most will bait your hook, show you how to fish and unhook the fish you catch. Most include cleaning or filleting your catch in their rates. But don't assume any of these things will be included. Always ask.
Quality of service and equipment in the charter-boat industry ranges from "excellent" to "deplorable." In general, the best boats charge more. If possible, talk to the captain and get a look at the boat and gear before booking. If you have time, ask if you may contact some recent customers.
One of your first questions should be about safety. So-called "six-pack" boats, licensed to carry six passengers, can participate in a U.S. Coast Guard "5-Star Safety Program." A "1-star" boat complies with existing regulations, while a "5-star" boat must have safety equipment substantially in excess of Coast Guard regulations. If you're considering going out on a six-pack, ask how many stars it has.
How much time will be travel and how much will be fishing?
What kind of fishing will we be doing?
What species are we likely to catch?
What have your customers caught recently?
Will I be able to keep some fish? How many?
Under what circumstances will you refund my money?
Ask about comfort. A 40-foot boat usually offers more creature comforts than a 25-footer, and the larger boat won't pound you silly in choppy water. On the other hand, the smaller boat will likely be faster and carry fewer passengers. If it's important to you, ask if the boat has a toilet and a heated cabin.
Ask what you should wear. Some charter operators provide rain gear, but most don't.
Possibly the only unnecessary question is whether you should tip the captain and mate. That's customary, here.
There are no dumb questions. Don't hesitate to ask, and you'll better your chances of having a "trip of a lifetime."
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