How to start a small charter fishing business

Updated July 20, 2017

If you own your own boat, have a passion for fishing and are familiar with the waterways in your area, you may want to start your own charter fishing business. Vacationers, and even locals, will pay good money to charter captains who can bring them to where the big fish bite. Several charter fishing captains in Venice, Louisiana reported that prior to the 2010 Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, charter trips for the months of June, July and August practically provided them with an entire year's salary.

Acquire a charter (or commercial) fishing license. These licenses can be acquired through the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries of your individual state. Prices will vary, depending on the state in which you reside. Through the application process you should also get a better understanding of the physical boundaries your license will cover. Some state licenses will specify just how large an area past the coastline you will be able to operate in. For example, if you intend to fish beyond a set amount of miles beyond a specific coastline, you may need to apply for a charter license with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or U.S. Coast Guard, which covers federal waters.

Decide whether you want to incorporate your charter fishing business. While there are several reasons you may want to incorporate, the main reason is for protection. For example, setting up a simple LLC (limited liability corporation) for your business will protect you from personal lawsuits. Fees and procedures for establishing LLCs also vary from state to state. Check with your individual state's Secretary of State's office to find out the specifics for both.

Investigate the costs for business insurance for a charter fishing company. While no one expects accidents or mishaps, they can and do happen. Call your insurance company (typically the same one with whom you have a homeowner's or car insurance policy) and inquire about the costs. Business insurance requirements also vary from state to state, so you will want to make sure you know all the specifics of the state where you intend to base your business.

Stock your boat with fishing supplies. While fishing is slightly similar to golf, (inasmuch as a lot of fishermen carry their own personal fishing poles and gear, just as golfers carry their own clubs), some charter fishing clients will expect the charter captain to supply poles, equipment and bait. Make sure your boat is well-stocked with all equipment needed.

Advertise your charter fishing business. Overhead for supplies and fuel alone can be costly, so you may not have a huge budget for advertising. In any other business this could present a problem. However, charter fishing businesses are very results-oriented. That is, people want to hook up (pun intended) with the captain who brings in the most fish. Word-of-mouth advertising is priceless in the charter fishing business. Places to consider advertising include area hotels, bait shops and tourism bureaus.

Things You'll Need

  • Boat
  • Charter (or commercial) fishing license
  • Insurance (optional)
  • Incorporation papers (optional)
  • Fishing supplies including rods, reels and bait
  • Computer with printer
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About the Author

Ashton Daigle, a New Orleans native, graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1998 and went straight to work as a journalist. In 2005 he tackled the biggest news story of his life - Hurricane Katrina. Daigle is writing a collection of essays: What It Means to be a Saints Fan.