Getting Afloat

Booking a charter boat cannot be any simpler – pick the date, phone the skipper, make the booking – hey presto job done! But is it really that simple? I don’t think so, not if you want to get the most from your day afloat. A rewarding day’s boat fishing is not going to happen when a booking is made off the cuff. It takes a lot of good planning to research the venue, the boat, the skipper and your angling party, get the correct blend of all 4, and your half way there.

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Before starting out, have a look at the port you’re intending to sail from. Use the angling press, internet forums, a boats website and if at all possible, mates or a club you know that have been to this particular port before. By gleaning as much information as you can from various avenues will help you to locate the correct boat to suit your angling requirements.

Mates & Reliability

Talking from experience as both a trip organiser and a skipper of late, believe me, even your best mates can sometimes let you down. Sadly an unforeseen circumstance may render him or her unable to attend.

When agreeing to go ahead and book a boat with your mates, everyone should agree to pay a deposit to the organiser, whether that is the whole amount of the trip or half, you need to decide. When making multiple bookings, 1 every 2 months for example, the best method I have seen to protect everyone involved is the rolling deposit.

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Here everyone in the party / club pays the organiser a deposit, in monetary terms, normally his price of one full charter, e.g., £40.

On the day of the first trip, everyone pays the price in, and the £40 deposit rolls over to the next trip. If someone fails to show, the organiser uses his or her £40 to cover the place if a replacement cannot be found. That person then needs to firstly repay his or her rolling deposit to be reinstated as a member of the party for the next trip.

When the time arrives of the last trip, everyone can use up their rolling deposit or carry it forward to the following year.

Call the skipper

Right, you’ve sorted the crew and their deposits and also decide amongst you the type of fish you’re after and the boat you want to charter. Now it’s time to call the skipper and have a chat about him, the boat and the expected fishing.

Call the skipper and inform him of the date you have in mind, some skipper’s list their availability on the internet; I do, as does Tony Parry on the Jensen in Rhyl. But please bear in mind that it may not be up to date. If we are working, it is sometimes hard to find the time to keep these lists updated on a regular basis.

Before I go on, can you please note that I wrote, call the skipper. A call or even an email (although the latter may not get answered straight away), is a far better form of communication than text messaging. Speaking to other skippers, we all agree that a text message just feels an impersonal approach. Unless we know you, we simply have only a number to look at; you’ve taken the time to text why not call?

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Maybe I’m getting on and texting is the way forward. I just prefer the more personal and professional approach.

So back to the booking, assuming your date is free, it is then best to talk to the skipper about the type of fishing you require. Most ports have different tides and times of year for example that fish better for certain species. On a personal note, when talking to new customers I think it is always best to talk through your expectations and wishes for the day. I often get calls asking for dedicated cod trips for example. Well, we get the odd codling up to 4lb, but not on a regular basis and I could never take a trip out to target just cod. No point in lying to you, if I cannot offer you want you want on that particular day, it is best you look elsewhere, and then maybe give me chance another time. A skipper will soon be found out if telling porky pies, and you’ll never be back and let’s be honest, bad word of mouth journeys far quicker than good.

Ask Questions

Have a chat also about the abilities of your crew, if booking a charter boat, and actual boat fishing is new to you then mention this fact, especially if you need to hire gear. Firstly not all boats offer rods and reels. More importantly the skipper needs to plan the day to ensure you get the most from it. Off the north Wales coast, we drift on a regular basis over inshore reefs looking for pollack and wrasse. If it is your first time with a rod and reel in your hand, it can be quite a hard scenario to master in one go. There is nothing more demoralising to a crew than losing rig after rig and not catching any fish.

Most skippers, but not all, offer tea and coffee through the day, – check on this, and check on the frequency. One cup of tea on the way out and another on the way in can leave for a fairly dry day. You may need to bring a flask or some pop along.

Food is another thing to consider; when out in the fresh sea air you will get the munchies. Where as some skippers offer a small snack, warm or cold, they’re not in the business of offering an a la carte menu, so please remember to bring along some sandwiches or biscuits etc.

Onboard toilet facilities, most boats have a toilet onboard, but there are still a few that do not. Plus, some boats deny the use of the toilet to the angling party; it has comes close to this on My Way a couple times, but not just yet. If it ever does you have only the irresponsible crew before you to blame!!!

A question that pops up on occasions is ‘Can we bring some beers Skip?’. My personal view is that beer and the sea rarely mix. I can appreciate that a few beers may go down well on a nice day in the summer, but for a few it just helps churn the stomach around.

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If you book a boat to go fishing, do just that, go fishing and leave the ale behind.

Bait, do you need to bring bait? Are there plenty of fresh mackerel about? Do you need ragworm, lugworm, will squid come in handy? Many questions that that do need asking; at the end of the day there are never any silly questions, just silly answers ….. no actually there are a few silly questions out there!

Some skippers offer a booking form. I also favour this approach. If you complete the form and send it to me with your deposit, I will have a full record of your details, from name and address plus telephone number to requirements for the day. In return I will then send you a letter in receipt of the deposit. You should always insist on this when sending a deposit – that way you have documented proof of the transaction.

Well that all makes sense to me; in a nutshell I think I’m preaching talk to your skipper.

Detail your requirements and discuss the day. Any skipper worth his salt will be only too willing to discuss the day to ensure he can offer you the best.

On a lighter note, when you call 10.30pm on a Saturday night, because you wondered what the fishing was like …..well that just sucks. Plus, 2.00am because you’re working nights and thought you’d leave a message on the phone …….. likely to be met with an unprofessional approach!

That’s about it really. Hopefully the above will help you out for future trips.