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How to Start a Fishing Charter Business

Living on the coast is something that is more than just a dream for many people. It’s also an incredible business opportunity. When the seas are close by or there is a large lake if you’re more landlocked, then knowing how to start a fishing charter business can be an easy way to generate some extra money. All you need to get started is a boat, the licenses and permits that will let you fish and transport customers, and enough insurance to cover you should something tragic happen.

The key to running a good fishing charter business is to know the patterns of the local sea biomass. Your knowledge of limited access fishing areas that help people catch the fish they expect to catch when they hire you will help to keep business booming. You’ll also want to follow these additional steps to get your business established.

1. Get your captain’s license.

The US Coast Guard requires all boat owners who want to run a fishing charter to be a licensed captain. This will allow you to legally operate a boat and charge people. An extensive application process and fees apply. At the same time, work on establishing your business within your local jurisdiction as well. You’ll need a business license and potentially a sales tax license as well. If you plan on hiring people, you’ll need an IRS EIN. By working both angles simultaneously, you’ll be able to save a lot of time in the initial days of your business.

2. Make sure your boat is legal.

The US Coast Guard can also inspect your charter vessel for safety at almost any time. This means you’ll need a boat that is of appropriate size and have life preservers and other safety equipment on hand in case of an emergency. A boat should be at least 30 feet in length to accommodate group charters, but smaller boats may provide a more intimate experience. Some jurisdictions also require a specific charter license in addition to the safety equipment for the boat to be considered legal.

3. Secure the appropriate fishing licenses.

How people can legally fish from your boat varies by jurisdiction. Some allow for the captain of the boat to purchase quarterly or annual fishing licenses that can be assigned to people when they board the boat. In this instance, you would then charge an incremental fee for use of the license. Other jurisdictions require each person who wants to fish to have their own license that was purchased through the local fish and wildlife service.

4. Be prepared for a lot of hidden costs.

The fishing business doesn’t seem like it would be dangerous, but there really are a lot of risks in this type of business venture. The insurance costs alone are typically 3x higher for a fishing charter business than they are for other businesses. You’ll also have a lot of costs in providing lures to customers, bait, and equipment. Even with good contracts in place that hold clients responsible for broken equipment, maintenance costs can be high.

5. Be prepared to put in some time to establish yourself.

It generally takes about 5 years of full-time work to establish a solid reputation as a fishing charter captain. Because weather can quickly cancel a charter and take expected funds away, having alternate plans that you can implement may help you to save some cash. Having consistency and good fishing will let people know who you are and want to book trips with you. Shrugging people off and taking charters to where the fish don’t bite will stop this type of business cold in its tracks.

6. Know your warranties.

You’ll have engine and hull warranties that are in place when you purchase your boat that may be minimal. Some commercial warranties are only 1 year in length and all it takes is one paid charter to transition them to the commercial version.

7. Build up your web presence.

Most people look for fishing charters when they are taking a vacation somewhere. This means they’ll be researching charters online. Without a solid website, your fishing charter business will never be noticed. Consider optimizing your website for better rankings, allow for online bookings, and provide as much information as you can to prove you’ve got value to offer. Then all you’ve got to do is back up that value every time.

Knowing how to start a fishing charter business means navigating the world of licenses, permits, and safety regulations on a frequent basis. If you can do that and find your way to hot fishing spot regularly, then you’ll have the chops to succeed in time with this kind of opportunity.

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