Owning a 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 much 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, being out on the water reeling in fish every day.
Summary of the Basics
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.
1. U.S. Coast Guard License for Charter Fishing
Taking paying passengers out on your boat means that you’ll be the official captain and requires you to get 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
Determining if you need a separate guide license depends on which state you’re in. Some have licensing requirements that can be quite extensive, while others have no additional licensing at all — so do your due diligence and find out what the requirements are where you live.
3. Obtaining Insurance
There can be some 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.
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.
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 depends 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 and aren’t sure what type of entity is best for your needs, you may want to get the help of an attorney. Setting up an LLC is actually easier than you may think, and not particularly costly.
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. This is the hard part.
Almost all fishing-charter services need 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. If you have a following on social media, start there. You can email friends and family and websites like craigslist and Facebook marketplace are free.
Running ads in the local crab wrapper or paid ads on FP and Google can be expensive, so start slowly.
Boatsetter Listings are Free
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 more than 1,500 captains choose to list their services on Boatsetter.
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.