I have been a fishing charter guide full time for 15 years in Tampa Bay and called this area home my entire life. Growing up, fishing this area, I have watched the growth in Tampa Bay and the fishing guide industry grow beyond anything I ever imagined. Before Google and other search engine companies most people would book a fishing charter in Tampa Bay based on a referral, a TV fishing show, radio, or featured magazine article. Typically, the fishing guide featured, or on TV did something good in the industry or came highly recommended. This made booking a fishing guide a lot easier to kinda know what you were getting into. Nowadays the average joe typically looks for a Tampa fishing charter on the internet and quickly becomes more confused than when they started due to the amount of pop up ads, reviews, and booking referral sites. It becomes downright confusing. I’m using this blog post to give people a better understanding of what is fake and what is real, what questions to ask and what answers to look for. While everyone on the internet seems like the best thing around there is a difference between Tampa Fishing Charters.
Make sure the fishing guide you choose is licensed and insured. While this seems like a standard, it’s not. Ask for the Coast Guard license number. If they cannot provide it don’t book. This is required for anyone to run a fishing charter in Tampa and take any type of payment. Believe it or not people are doing fishing charters illegal, the Florida Wildlife Commission has been cracking down on this it has become so much of an issue. As for insurance its actually not required by the state but do you really want to go on a fishing charter in the open water if they don’t have any type of insurance? Chances are if the guide is cutting corners by not having insurance he is probably doing the same with his equipment or boat. The key is to have a great day of fishing but more importantly get back to the dock safe.
You also want to make sure what you see on the website is what you are going to be offered when you show up to the dock. This goes for gear, boat and captain. Seems simple, but I see different every day.
Tampa Fishing Charter reviews are the next big one. While reviews seem like a great way to judge your trip not all are as advertised. It’s a great starting point some not all are real. Read through a few at least then make a call and talk to the captain directly. Ask all the questions mentioned here and see if he fits what you are looking for in a fishing charter. If you don’t feel comfortable on the phone you probably will have the same feeling on the boat. Fishing guides are not the same and some may not be fit for you. That doesn’t make them a bad fishing guide, it just means that they might not be right for your fishing charter.
Pricing is always the first question that pops up. While this should be asked and considered in choosing your fishing charter in Tampa, remember you are going on the water and a fishing guide that is that much cheaper than everyone else is cutting cost somewhere. Most guys are within $50 of one another as this is an expensive business. Remember you want to have a great time but also make it back safe.
This next one is a huge problem and growing by the day. That would be booking referral sites. These are typically companies that have mass marketing dollars and try to run the small guys out of town. They make their money by the fishing guide that pays the most 5% of a referral by the company, not by who is the best guide for you. Most fishing guides that use these are new to the industry or just do it to make a boat payment not for a career. Not all but most. If you see someone you like on one of these sites do yourself a favor and find their website directly and contact them. You will find better results this way. I would also recommend just to not use these websites at all. You will be better off.
Another great tip is to leave a message and give the fishing charter guide you want to book with an opportunity to call you back. While we try to answer the phone most of the time, fishing guides spend most of their time on the water with limited service or helping our customers for the day. I personally always call back and if you are asking a series of questions that require time I’ll typically ask if we can chat when I get back to the dock and can take the time to answer the concerns and questions. We are typically one-man operations and it’s a little hard to catch every call from the boat.
Tampa Bay is a great city to visit and offers a bunch of things to do including some great fishing. Hopefully someone reading this will better understand what to look for in a fishing charter in Tampa Bay and will be more prepared for the charter. If you are interested in a fishing charter in Tampa Bay, I would be glad to answer any questions you may have and hopefully earn your business. My cell is (813)727-9890 or email firstname.lastname@example.org