Fishing guides and charter captains have rules and regulations they have to follow, and the same goes for clients, although the rules for clients or “sports” are usually unwritten. If you’re going to secure the services of a fishing guide, there is protocol to follow to make the trip enjoyable for all. The Outdoor Hub recently came up with a list of "dos and don’ts" compiled by fishing guides for sports to follow, and after having listened to many stories from local charter captains, I’ve added a few of my own suggestions. Some of the tips will make you a better angler, in general, even if not fishing with a guide.
• When you book a fishing trip, proper attire is always required. Don’t show up unprepared for the weather. While some local charter captains have a couple of sets of foul weather gear on board, some don’t so it’s best to bring your own. Most of the time, sports are under-dressed and unprepared for wet or cold — or wet and cold — conditions. Better to have it and not need it than need it and hot have it. Also wear proper footwear with slip-resistant soles. If it’s a wet boat, wear rubber boots or at least ankle high boots. If ladies are going to be on the trip, no high heels. With today’s up-to-the-minute forecasts and marine forecasts, there’s no excuse for being under-dressed and irritating your fellow anglers and the captain by whining about how cold or wet you are and begging to cut the trip short. A well-dressed, well-equipped angler is comfortable and spends more time on the water, catching more fish.
• Most guides and captains supply the tackle because specialized rods, reels, line and lures or rigs are carefully tailored to the targeted species and also the local conditions. Unless you have similar sentimental tackle and clear it ahead of time with the guide, don’t show up with your favorite “fish pole” that hasn’t left the basement in 10 years. Your tackle box is also useless in a guide’s boat. Trust your captain — he or she will have the right tackle for the type of fishing you’re going to do that day.
• Near the end of a battle with a big fish, when the guide is going to net or gaf the fish, stop reeling well before the fish gets to the tip of the fishing rod. The guide knows you’re excited, but the last few moments of the battle when a big fish is at the boat are intense, and the chances of the line snapping or a fishing rod breaking greatly increase when you reel the fish too close to the rod tip. As a rule, stop reeling when a fish is 6-8 feet from the rod tip. Instead of reeling it close, stay calm, back up and give the guide some room at the gunwale so he/she can boat the fish.
• When you’re playing a fish, don’t keep reeling while the fish is making a run. It only serves to twist line and wear-out drag washers. When the fish runs, hold the rod tip up, unless the guide advises you otherwise, and let it run. Don’t reel against the run. When it stops, then you can reel and gain line.
• Secure all hooks and lures when moving from spot to spot, or when heading back to the dock, or you’ll put your eye out, or maybe get an ear pierced. And don’t put a hook into one of the rod guides. Guides have sensitive inserts in them and they can be damaged by hooks, causing the line to fray, which can result in lost fish – and lures. Instead, put the hook through the hook keeper on the rod, if it has one. It’s usually just above the fore grip. If it doesn’t have one, put the hook through the frame of the guide, not the main ring of the guide. Some captains prefer that big hooks be kept on a crossbar of the reel. After you secure the hook, reel the slack out of the line until it’s snug, so the hook can’t come loose, then stop reeling. Unless you brought an arrow to fire out of it, don’t reel the line so tight that it bends the rod into a bow.
• Being on the water in the sun all day means you’ll need sunscreen. You’ll get thirsty, too, so bring water with you. Most guides keep sunscreen and bottled water in the boat, but it’s best to bring your own unless the guide tells you to leave it behind. Most outfits don’t provide food so bring your own if it’s going to be an all-day trip. Also remember to bring any medications that you’re taking. If you get seasick, get seasick pills and follow the directions which means you probably have to take them some time before leaving the dock.
• Don’t show up drunk or hung-over. It’s a dangerous condition to be in when on a boat, especially in rough seas and it will certainly increase the likelihood of you getting seasick and chumming the fish. Why spend hundreds of dollars to charter a boat to be sick, miserable and have one of the worst times of your life? If you want to bring alcohol, ask your captain what the policy is about drinking on board. Some will allow you to have a couple of cold beers while some won’t allow any alcohol. If you’re thinking about chartering a boat for a bachelor party and bringing a giant cooler full of booze, do yourself and the captain a favor and don’t book a fishing trip. Strip joint maybe?
• Most captains do their best to keep the deck clear and safe, so be neat. Don’t leave jackets or gear bags on the deck and don’t let soda cans or water bottles roll around. Trash and sandwich bags, which are slippery when stepped on, go in the proper receptacle. Rods go in holders. Don’t lay them on the deck where they can get tripped over and stepped on. Loose lures go back in the tackle box or on a hanger, not on a seat.
• Guides expect the number of people that you discussed when booking the trip to be the exact number of people standing on the dock. If you need to add an extra person call ahead and clear it with the captain. Boats have a limit on the number of passengers they can hold. Showing up with extras could mean one of two things — either nobody goes or the extra spends the day in town sightseeing, starting at 5 a.m. If a lady will be aboard, ask the captain if there is a private head, before booking the trip. Ladies prefer a private head to sitting on a bucket in the middle of the deck.
• Don’t GPS the captain’s spot unless you have permission to, which isn’t likely to happen. Most guides have spent years learning the spots and they’re quite protective of them. Don’t forget to tip your guide if he/she has done his/her best to provide a pleasurable experience and try and get you on some fish, even if you didn’t catch any. Sometimes you really should have been here yesterday. It’s not the captain’s fault if the fish have lockjaw.
• Let the guide be your guide. Most guides love to talk about fishing but don’t be a know-it-all and tell them how — or where — to fish. They know how and where to catch the fish. In addition, guides and captains usually are in contact with each other, either during the trip or at the end of the day, sharing “intel” on where the fish are biting and what they’re biting on. If you could fish better than they can, you wouldn’t be hiring them.
• Don’t ask the guide to break the law. Adhere to the seasons, bag limits and size limits. Getting caught with undersized fish, too many fish, fish out of season, or upgrading by discarding smaller dead fish for bigger fish can cost the captain his license and reputation.
Follow these rules and not only will you have an enjoyable experience, your guide will think, “they’re good fishermen, I hope they book with me again” instead of “what a bunch of turds, I hope I never see them again.”
3D archery shoot Aug. 20
The Fall River Rod and Gun Club is hosting a Tri-County League 3D archery shoot, featuring all Reinhart targets, from dinosaurs to a squirrel and everything inbetween, on Aug. 20. Shooting begins as soon as there is enough daylight to shoot safely with registration to end at 1 p.m. Entry is $10 and youths under age 18 shoot for free. The kitchen will be open for breakfast and lunch. The club is located on Sanford Rd. in Westport. The next Tri-County League 3D archery shoot to be held at the club will be Sept. 3 with the same rules and details to apply.
Marc Folco is the outdoor writer for The Standard-Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or through OpenSeasonSpecialties.com