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Hook Games: Deepsea Sportfishing

Larry Olmsted
From the Print Edition:
Wayne Gretzky, Mar/Apr 97

(continued from page 3)

Spur of the moment charter destinations include Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, where many records have been set; southern Florida, especially Key West, Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale; Cabo San Lucas, Cozumel and Cancún, Mexico; and tourist destinations throughout the Caribbean.

Charters are either full- or half-day, shared or private. In a private charter, you pay for the whole boat, and can go alone or with a party of your choice. Many boats limit the number of passengers to six, although you may negotiate exceptions, especially if you have non-fishermen aboard. Patrons of shared boats are usually unaccompanied anglers looking to defray the cost with other like-minded fisherman, and once on board, will take turns and rotate strikes.

A full day is typically eight to nine hours, while a half is usually four. In locations where the good fishing is far offshore, you may lose considerable fishing time traveling back and forth, so a half day may not be worthwhile.

David Ritchie, editor of Marlin Magazine, the leading sportfishing publication, says, "Rates are affected by how far you have to go out, because of fuel costs. In Palm Beach it might be five miles, in Cape May, New Jersey, 80. It varies widely, between $300 to $1,500 per day."

Within North America, if fishing is readily available just offshore, such as in Hawaii, Florida or Puerto Rico, private charters are typically $500 to $700 for a full day and $300 to $400 for a half. Split charters are often available only as half days, for $100 to $150 per person.

Both captain and crew, usually one or two mates, generally expect tips, and mates may depend on them. Ritchie suggests tipping "as you would in a restaurant, 15 to 20 percent of the charter fee, more if you set a record or win a tournament." When making special requests, consider tipping more. Scott Nichols, a former charter captain who now works on fishery management for the state of Florida, fishes the more challenging light tackle, which forces the crew to work harder.

"I went down to Cancún for Memorial Day weekend and I caught 27 billfish in three days," says Nichols. "I had 43 bites, and just seeing that many fish in three days is amazing. I caught a couple on six-pound line, which is very hard to do, so I tipped an extra $50 above and beyond what we gave as a group. They worked really hard, and the boat was clean and well maintained."

Ideally, if you know you are going to fish while on vacation, it is best to arrange a charter in advance. This avoids the possibility of being shut out, especially during the busy season. More importantly, it allows you to select a reputable captain and boat.

"Most good boats have a lot of interest, and they are booked well in advance," says Pete Barrett, an experienced charter captain who is also editor of The Fisherman., a weekly trade publication. "Some customers book the same boat every year. In most places that do not have a heavy concentration of tourists, it's not usually a matter of walking up to the dock and finding a boat. For recommendations on a boat, contact fishing clubs, friends who've gone before, local tackle shops or fishing magazines."

The charter experience is very similar throughout the world, but there are subtle differences. Usually, you will be pursuing the prevalent game fish for that location and time of year, and the crew will stock appropriate bait or lures. If you have special wants, such as fishing for tuna where most people seek marlin, let the crew know in advance. Some boats also charge an extra fee for live bait.

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