BY BRANDON HAYWARD
When sportboat fishing is boiled down, there are two types of trips that start them all: open party and charter trips.
Open party fishing—as most every sportboat angler knows—is simply booking a spot on a boat by calling the landing and usually giving a credit card number. Chartering, and being a charter master, brings with it duties that range in complexity, but always involve talking directly with the captain and/or boat’s office to coordinate the three D’s: dates, deposits and duties.
While charting a boat can be a decent amount of work, the pay off is great. Being able to fish with a handpicked group of anglers—most of whom are buddies. Building the trip around a specific target species or location, like white seabass at an island or offshore tuna on day one and island yellowtail the next day. And limiting the load, to make for a more enjoyable experience. The examples go on and on.
What gets lost in the fray of winter and getting ready for the Fred Hall Show, is that for many boats the best days, the weekend dates, the prime time July, August and early September weekends, are already booked up. So if you want to charter a boat—especially a boat you’ve never chartered before, and therefore to not have first shot at rebooking for the following season—now is the time to pick dates, get deposits in and communicate with anglers as to when money is due, and how cancellations will work. Some of the super popular charter boats don’t just have weekends books, but entire weeks on end and even months. And if the fishing gets good early, anglers flock to try and get dates. That’s why now, not after the albacore show up or the bluefin go wide-open, is the time to book charters.
Start by picking out the optimal dates you’d like your charter to fish on, and then make a list of the boats you would like to go on. The results might surprise you. After last year’s great offshore season, many boats are already booking up. You may or may not get the boat and/or dates that you want. If possible, be flexible. Even be willing to pick up a 2015 date should a group back out.
That’s why now is the time to get on it if you want to charter one of the vessels in the fleet of boats that are part of the Sportfishing Association of California.
After finding a boat and date, whoever is in charge of the bookings will tell you what they need so far as a contract and deposit money. Keep in mind that as chartermaster you will be required to get the boat the deposit and balance of the trip. If someone bails out last minute without paying, it is on your shoulder to pay their spot. That’s why having all anglers pay before the trip is a good idea.
While all this sounds like work (and it is) there is no greater feeling than organizing a group of friends and co-workers and then having a great trip. And not just on a good fishing level. Knowing everyone on the trip, sharing stories, and creating new ones is what chartering is all about.
But first you have to get a date in the books.