how to start a fishing charter business

How To Start A Fishing Charter Business

For many wounded warriors, figuring out what to do with themselves after they come back from combat situations is difficult. Many of them have disabilities, both visible and invisible that can make integrating into the traditional workforce difficult.

This has lead many of them to start their own business, and it can be a great solution. If you’ve been thinking the same, have found a love for fishing, and you have a boat, have you considered starting a fishing charter?

How much money can you make running a fishing charter?

That depends on the area and the demand for your services, but you could be looking at $150-$400 per day depending on demand. You should keep in mind though that your income will be dependent on how good of a host you are.

People are paying you to have fun, and that means you need to know where the good spots are, and you’ll also likely need to guide them into reeling in a big catch.

What are the requirements to start a fishing charter?

The most important part of running a fishing charter is knowledge. You need to be really good at fishing to pull this off, because if you take a bunch of people out on a charter and they don’t catch anything, they’re going to be mad.

Know your territory like the backside of your hand, and know how and where to catch fish when other people can’t. Most importantly though, know how to make your fishing trips fun, because those first few customers will help you to grow your business more than any marketing will.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way. Let’s move on to the “official”requirements of running a fishing charter. You’re going to need a few things here, so let’s tackle each point individually.

  • A captain’s license
  • A boat big enough for charters
  • A business license
  • State fishing licenses
  • Business and liability insurance
  • A marketing plan

Captain’s License

  • Decide on your license type
  • Have 360 days on the water + 90 days in the last 3 years
  • Pass the coast guard’s exam
  • TWIC card
  • Obtain 3 written character refrences
  • Obtain CPR and first aid certification
  • Random drug test (Dated within the last 6 months)

In order to operate a commercial vessel, you’ll need a captain’s license. This license is issued by the US Coast Guard, and they have the requirements, albeit a bit confusingly, listed on their site.

Most potential charter boat captains will want the OUPV license. This allows you to take up to 6 paying customers on your boat with you. You’ll also need to decide where you’ll be fishing, as there are different licenses for inland (rivers, lakes, etc) and coastal routes (up to 100 miles off-shore).

You’ll also need a total of 360 days piloting or crewing a boat before you’ll be able to get your captain’s license, and you’ll need at least 90 days in the last 3 years. The good news is, you can use time spent on other people’s boats, or even time you spent piloting a boat in the service if you can get that person to sign off on your hours!

You’ll also need to pass the coast guard exam. They have schools for this that will fully prepare you, and you can expect to pay somewhere around $500 for it.

Okay. Once you’ve done all that, you’ll need to submit your application, and that application needs to come with the other medley of things listed in the first portion of this post, including a TWIC card, CPR certification, and other documents that will identify you.

Basically, as a professional charter boat captain, you’re responsible for everyone that boards your vessel. That means that the coast guard wants to be sure that you know how to respond in an emergency situation to prevent loss of life at sea. While all of this may seem complicated, it’s not that big of a deal, and once this is out of the way, you’re home free.

Choosing a charter boat

If you’ve already got a decent size boat, then you can relax on this step. However, if you don’t have a boat yet, then you really need to run the financials to make sure that you can afford an adequately sized vessel.

Your boat should be at least 25 feet, which should be large enough to comfortably house clients and crew. You’ll also want to make sure that the boat is in good working condition, otherwise you’ll be spending all your time and money fixing it.

Plus, customers don’t like being stranded at sea for some reason. Weird!

Don’t forget to account for other essentials in your budgeting as well like fishing gear, life preservers, a first aid kit, and other necessary items.

If you can’t afford to purchase your boat outright, then loans are always an option, though securing financing can be a major headache. The good news is, if you served in the military, there are organizations which help veterans to obtain loans to start small businesses that may help you out.

Obtain a business license

  • County business license (varies by location)
  • EIN number
  • Sales Tax Certificate (Varies by state)

This is probably the easiest part of the whole ordeal, and you should be able to do it all online. You’ll need to apply for a business license, likely with your county, you’ll need an EIN from the federal government (for tax purposes), and you’ll need sales tax certificate, from the state.

Licensing requirements are different for every state, so you’ll need to consult your local tax authority for help here. However, most of them have all the information you need on their website and you can apply online. The fees for this are usually minimal.

Obtain fishing licenses

Fishing licenses are separate, and you want to make sure that everyone on your boat is above board. With this license, your customers are not required to have their own fishing license, because yours covers them.

This is good for you, because it means you don’t have to worry about them doing what they’re supposed to and causing trouble for you. The cost for this will vary by state, but expect to pay a few hundred per year for licensing.

It’s also important that you familiarize yourself with harvest laws in your state. There are bag limits in place for charter vessels, and while it’s okay to allow your clients to take their catch home, they must comply with harvest laws or you could face serious consequences.

Obtain business and liability insurance

You must have liability insurance. A lot can happen out on the water, and one mistake could cost you big time. The cost of charter boat insurance varies depending on location, vessel, and the activities that you participate in on your fishing trips.

However, I would recommend that you get several quotes, because the price of this insurance varies wildly by provider. So, it certainly pays to shop around. Just make sure that you’re getting good coverage. Read your policy careful before signing anything or the insurance company may pull a fast one on you if you ever need to use it.

Marketing Plan

You’ll also need to have a marketing plan before you do any of this. Have a solid plan for how you’ll get clients. Will you use local advertising? Will you use search engine marketing or social media ads?

At the bare minimum, you must have a website that clearly tells potential clients about your service. However, this is not enough, and you’ll need to hustle if you want to turn this into a real business.