There’s an old adage that says it’s better to have a friend with a boat than to have a boat of your own. The reasoning, of course, is that everything about a boat is expensive. Which brings up another favorite saying: What does BOAT stand for? Break out another thousand…
Yup, boats are not cheap and neither is fuel, bait or dockage. It all adds up quickly but the times you have on the water are likely the best times you will have in your life. You never know what you’re going to find when you leave the dock. It’s that sense of adventure that keeps the wallet open and the passion flowing.
If you’re like me, you only have a small boat or maybe you don’t have a boat at all. But that doesn’t mean you don’t like to fish. You probably have all the tackle and gear, you just need a ride. Sure you can jump on a day boat or plan a charter trip, but it’s always more fun to fish from a private boat. That way you can fish how you want, where you want and for as long as you want. The trick is to find someone with a boat who you enjoy fishing with. Maybe it’s a relative, a buddy or even someone you met on the forums here at BD.
When you do get invited to fish on someone else’s boat there are several things you can do to make sure you’re a good guest and invited back. Here is a checklist I go by each and every time I get invited to fish with someone.
1) Play by the Rules. Remember, you’re a guest. If the boat owner says no drinking alcohol on my boat, then don’t drink. If he wants you to wear a hat with the boat name on it, wear it. If he says he wants to fish the left side of the boat, then you fish on the right side. You get the idea.
2) Chip In. Don’t just offer to kick in for gas, insist on it. Whether you fish from a center console or a twin-screw diesel, boats burn a ton of fuel. A lot of boat owners are inviting more guys to fish with them for this reason alone, they want to offset some of the fuel cost. Keep in mind that a six-pack charter usually runs from $800 to $2,000 or more for a full day. I’d say offer at least $200 for gas on an offshore trip. Maybe $75 to $100 for a nearshore trip and around $50 if you stay inshore.
3) Bring Lunch. You don’t need to get fancy, but if you can whip up a killer lunch and feed the crew, do it! Or, stop by a good deli and hook everyone up. You want those guys to miss you and your sandwiches when you’re not there.
4) Stay Busy. If the bite is slow, pick up a hose and rinse off the deck. Grab a file and sharpen some hooks. Get up in the tower and glass for fish. Stay busy. Don’t be the guy who zonks out in the salon all day.
5) Offer to Bring Gear. Some guys prefer to use their own rods and reels, but if you have tackle, offer to bring it along. Don’t just show up with a truck full of stuff.
6) Clean Up After Yourself. Treat someone else’s boat better than you would treat your own. If you make a mess (especially in the head), clean it up. And, for God’s sake, only wear non-marking boat shoes, boots or sandals. There is no bigger sin than leaving black marks all over someone’s boat.
7) Help Clean the Catch. Unless you don’t know how to fillet a fish, grab a knife and do your best work to give everyone a perfect fillet. Heck, even if you can’t clean a fish, you can still help with the bagging and icing.
8) Find A Role. Ask what the crew wants you to do. If they need a gaff man, go for it. If they’ve already got a guy for each job, get the camera and take lots of photos.
9) Wash the Boat! This is critical. Everything on the boat needs a good washing after a fishing trip. Grab a brush or sponge and help out. Don’t even think about leaving until every inch of that boat has been washed and dried with a chamois.
10) Don’t be a Jerk. There is always a nice way to say things, so be polite and stay positive.