4 Tips for a Successful Offshore Sportboat Trip

sportboat tipsLast year’s offshore fishing, Year One of our El Nino, was pretty amazing. I think it turned a lot of people on to our sport. Like anything else, there’s a good and bad side to that happening. I’m not one of these old timers or regulars that decries the presence of “newbies” on “our” boat.

I welcome the newcomers to our sport. It’s good for the growth and health of sportfishing.

I can deal with them doing things incorrectly, as long as they come with an attitude of wanting to learn and being open to coaching. I know it can be intimidating to come on a sportboat, unprepared for what may happen, knowing you’re doing things wrong, and wishing someone would give you a little guidance. I’ve been there. I didn’t grow up here. My dad wasn’t a captain. I didn’t pinhead when I was a teenager. I’m just another guy who was drawn in by the allure of being out there on the ocean and wanted to be “one of those guys” that was catching the fish and knew what was up.

4 Tips for Sportboats

Take heart. If you work at it, you can get there. And it won’t be long before you can gain some proficiency and enjoy success. You’ve just got to go do it.

1 – Come With The Right Attitude

You buying a ticket is not a guarantee of success. Adjust your expectations. The captain and crew want you to succeed, but sometimes it’s just not in the cards. OR if the fishing is great, but you personally aren’t getting bit don’t expect them to come to your rescue. You’re a big boy/girl, if the crew is busy, ask someone who is catching fish what they are doing that you’re not. Those of us who fish a lot are hesitant to offer help because so many people come on board with crappy attitudes and think they know everything. We’ve tried to help before, only to be told to mind our own business. We are happy to help when asked.

Also, learn the names of the crewmembers and ask them questions or for help in between stops or at the beginning of the trip. They hate it if you call them “Deckhand” or “Excuse me” all trip. They are there to keep you safe and help you enjoy your trip.

sportboat tip2 – Everything Is Better With Friends

My very first offshore trip was terrible. I went alone, the fishing wasn’t good, and I was pretty miserable. The next year, I was invited and went with an experienced charter group. I had a lot more fun and caught fish.

Get a group of friends together, pick your date, make your reservations and go. Don’t be a count chaser. Believe me, the fishing is great right now. Find a convenient time and make plans. Try to book the halves (1.5, 2.5 day etc.). When you get on an overnight trip, you leave the night before and then return to the dock around 6 or 7pm usually. You have the morning until just after lunch to fish. When you have that extra .5, you fish the whole day and return the following morning giving you much more time on the water which translates to opportunity to find and catch fish.

Also, don’t get drunk and be an idiot. It’s great to crack a beer with your buddies, especially after catching fish but getting S-faced is unacceptable. You are on a moving platform with a lot of sharp objects around. It’s not safe. I’ve seen drunks fall and hurt themselves, and the boat have to cut a trip short because of it. Don’t be “that guy” that ruins it for everyone else.

3 – Do Your Homework

I talked last week about getting on some local trips (1/2 day or 3/4) before heading out. There’s other homework you can do too. If you can’t get on a boat, spend some time practicing casting. I used to go to the park or a lake/dock to practice. There are rubber casting practice thingamabobs you can buy, or just use an appropriately sized weight (to match the bait/lure you’ll use on your trip). Learning to cast will go far to helping you have success on your trip.

Also, read up. The landing websites often post tackle recommendations from the captains. Read BD Outdoors or SoCal Salty. If you are on Facebook, join some fishing groups and ask around. Don’t think that because you did this or your buddy told you that last year, that things are the same now. Things can change day-to-day and even hour-to-hour during your trip.

crew seminarsUsually, there will be a seminar given by the captain or a crewmember at the beginning of a trip. LISTEN and PAY ATTENTION. I do. They are the ones who have been out most recently, and know what is working now. Also, listen while you are fishing. The crew will shout out instructions or tips during the fishing….”Shuffle to your right!” or “We’re marking fish 100-feet under the boat.” etc. 

4 – Bring Cash and Tip Your Crew

If you had a good time and the crew took care of you, show your appreciation. Why do you tip a coffee server (I refuse to say “barista”) $2 on a $3 coffee, and not tip appropriately to someone you’ve just spent a whole day or more fishing with? Do you want to come back and be treated well? Get with the program.

If you get lucky and win the jackpot (It’s hard to catch a lot of fish, but anyone can get lucky and catch one big fish. It always seems like it’s the newbs who do!), be extra generous. When I win, I just give them the whole thing (I typically get to ride free, so it’s only fair). If you win, $50 to $100+ is not uncommon.

fishing tipsIf you follow these tips, they will go a LONG way to you having a successful offshore trip. It’s far from comprehensive though. Feel free to comment with a more tips, or questions. See you on the water. Tight lines!

Joe Sarmiento
Joe Sarmiento is the founder and primary writer of the So Cal Salty blog. The blog covers saltwater fishing, primarily aboard the many sportfishing boats of Southern California. In addition to writing his blog, Joe's writing has appeared in Western Outdoor News, The Log and Griffin Media. Joe is ...