Starting a Charter: Tips for Fishing First-Timers

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Find the right charter for your fishing needs! Photo: Joao Freitas/Hemera/Thinkstock

The shoreline is just the beginning. While the sand and sunshine and sounds of waves lapping the shore may seem like plenty of marine exposure to many visitors to the East End, others view sticking to the beaches as tantamount to driving all the way to a concert hall only to feel the music’s pulse from the street. For those without a boat of their own who wish to explore the awesome deep blue, the best approach is to sign up for a charter. Here are some tips on how to book a charter boat excursion.

Pick Your Game, Pick Your Crew, Set Your Course
Do you and five friends aim to see who can pull the largest striped bass or bluefish? Set a course for Montauk and hire a large enough vessel to accommodate your party for an afternoon. Thirty-foot and larger boats should suit most parties of six or less, though it’s best to have a frame of reference for boat sizes before reaching a decision. Thinking of nabbing some fluke with one other person or by yourself? You’ll want to set out from the Shinnecock Bay. Consider a party boat if you’d like to offset your expenses by sharing the experience with other patrons. Looking to head further offshore and pluck yourself a marlin, tuna or shark? In that case, you’re going to need a bigger boat.

Research the Companies Available to You 
Captain Michael Potts, owner and operator of the Blue Fin IV out of Montauk, frames it this way: “Looking for a boat isn’t like shopping for a rental car or a hotel room. One should ask a captain if he’s a full-time fisherman, how long he’s been in business and what his own set of rules are.” Different captains have different policies regarding occupancy limits, alcohol consumption or the number of fish they’ll take in one day. Most captains maintain a web presence with their rates and contact information posted online. It’s important to research the company that best suits your needs instead of blindly accepting the lowest price, or you’ll run the risk of allowing your day on the water to become a total wash.

Book as Soon as You’re Ready
Weekends are especially sought-after. Once you have your party size, destination and date in place, contact your chosen charter company and be prepared to put down a deposit.

Respect the Fish, Respect the Crew
There are regulations in place to maintain marine life populations. Ask your captain about specific policies regarding game size limits and what will happen to your catch when you return to shore. Toss back what you don’t plan to eat so that the ecosystem can sustain itself into the future. Also, gratuity should be considered for additional hands on deck during your trip.

Safety First
You probably won’t be put to the test, but it’s always wisest to have a basic understanding of water safety. Charter captains are trained in proper safety procedures and look out for one another in rare events of personal injury or equipment failure. The likelihood of this is very low, but make it your business to have your captain explain the locations of onboard life vests. Are you at all prone to seasickness? Bring some over-the-counter medication. Likewise, save the celebration until after your voyage is over. You don’t want to be the member of your party who overindulged the night before and suffered because of it. “You’ll never know what you missed,” says Potts. Get a good night’s sleep and show up to your appointment with a solid meal in your stomach. Wear sunscreen and soft-soled shoes and wait until after you’ve returned to shore to begin celebrating. The last thing you want is to be reeling from discomfort while another member of your party reels in the catch of the day.

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