Frequently Asked Questions about Fishing Charters in Orange Beach
Are saltwater fishing charters safe?
As you could probably guess, fishing is not an exact sport. However, accidents and incidents rarely happen with professional fishing guides with a safety program. There are hooks that can stick you and we catch fish that have sharp teeth that can bite you. We educate you and demonstrate how to be safe while on our boats and while holding fish for your picture. We do fish in waters where waves may cause you to hold on while moving the boat around. We care about your safety. We do not want you to get hurt in any way.
What is the difference between an inspected vessel or an uninspected vessel?
An inspected vessel is inspected by the US Coast Guard on an annual basis. They are held to strict guidelines and safety features. Uninspected vessels or six packs (six passengers maximum) make up about 90% of the entire charter fishing fleet. They are not inspected by anyone and you have to rely on the captain to maintain his vessel up to safe standards. Inspected vessels have limitations on where or how far from land they can operate due to being equipped with different safety devices. For instance, most inspected vessels have 100 mile restrictions while there are many more who are limited to 20 miles from land. It is important for you to know the difference because if you are wanting a 12 hour trip, the best fishing is 40 to 60 miles offshore and a 20 mile boat cant take you legally. You have to have a 100 mile boat for that or a six pack.
Does being an inspected vessel mean they are safer than an uninspected vessel?
To some degree yes, but some six passenger vessels have the same safety equipment and are maintained to US Coast Guard standards. The Distraction Charter boat is an example of how a six passenger boats should be maintained.
What does the difference between a life raft and a life float?
A life raft is an inspected life saving device that is inflated automatically when a boat sinks or they can be manually deployed. These rafts keep people safe, dry and out of the elements. A life raft is expensive to maintain and only the best boats have them on board. The life float on the other hand, is what is on 99% of all charter boats that are inspected. They are a round ring that floats in the water with passengers hanging on to the sides while in the water. There is no food or water on board and you will be soaking wet while waiting to be rescued. Six passenger boats do not have these at all. They are not required to have anything excepts a life jacket on board. The exception is the Distraction Charter boat. They have a life raft.
What is the best fishing experience money can buy?
This is obviously a private charter. The best 6 passenger (because they carry 6 passengers maximum) charters charge $1,250 for 6 hours, plus tip. The Best Multi-passengers (7 or more people in your group) charge $1,600 for 6 hours, plus tip for up to 10 people. If you have more than 10 people in your group, the cost is $160 per person for the 11th person all the way up to 20 people.
What is the cheapest way to go deep sea fishing?
The lowest price charters are on the party boats. They are ideal for those on a tight budget, only one or two people in your group or don't mind fishing with other anglers to fill the boat. The average cost ranges from $69 to $125 per person, plus tip and fish cleaning. They usually offer 4 and 6 hour trips.
What if I don't want to go on a party boat with 30 other people and still can't afford a private charter. What are my options?
You have an option of what we call - A walk On Charter or Shared Expense Trip. If a party boat doesn't cut it for you, you can request a shared expense trip in the comments section of the reservation page. Just choose party boat/ shared expense as your option, then in the comments, say you want to join others on a walk on charter.
What are the names of the fishing marinas in Orange Beach?
Orange Beach has several marinas to serve you. The best Marina for private charters is the Orange Beach Marina. Sanroc Marina offers the best party boats or walk on charters. The marinas in our area are Orange Beach Marina, Sanroc Cay Marina, Outcast Charter Docks, Florabama Marina, Bear Point Marina, Barber Marina, Gulf Shores Marina, Home Port Marina and Romar Harbor.
How far do you go out?
The number one question we are asked is "how far do you go out?" A 4 hour charter is trolling only. These trips stay within sight of land where migratory fish like King and Spanish Mackerel can be caught. The 6 hour charter goes anywhere from 8 miles to 20 miles, depending on the fish bite. 8 hour trips can get you as far as 25 miles offshore and a 10 or 12 hour trip can get you as far as 35 to 40 miles offshore.
When is the best time of the year to charter a boat?
Charter fishing is good all year round in Orange Beach. However, the Summer fishing season months are our busiest because of all of the people on vacation. The weather is usually more stable and we have fewer cancellations because of bad weather. Fall, Winter and Spring are also good fishing. The weather causes more frequent cancellations during these seasons, however, we do have a mild climate and we do get to make most of our charters. We also have a fishing definitions page to help you understand everything about charter fishing in Alabama.
Can we join others to keep our cost per person lower?
All of our fishing charters are private except for our Orange Beach Party Boat that offers walk on or shared expense charters. The party boat's number is 251-981-3474. On a private charter, Only you and your group will be on the boat during that time. If you are wanting to keep the cost down on going fishing, our Party Boat and our shared expense charter booking agent will put you on a list and match you up. There are Orange Beach marinas in our area that offer party boat charters and shared expense charters. They are located at Flora Bama Marina, Sanroc Cay Marina, Zekes Marina and the Hudson Marina.
There is only one or two of us that wants to go fishing and we don't want a private charter. What about us? Can you help us go fishing?
We now have contracted with one of the best Party Boats to fill the demand for walk on charters. For those of you who don't want the party boat, we do offer a shared expense charter where you join others to fill a boat and go deep sea fishing. You now have a choice to either go on one of our private charters or go fishing with our party boat or do a shared expense charter. Our party boat is also called a head boat or walk on charter and shared expense charter. A party boat carries up to 60 passengers for either $65 per person for an afternoon 4 hour trip or $85 per person plus tip and fish cleaning for a 6 hour charter. The shared expense charters range from $180 to $200 per person for a 6 hour deep sea fishing charter. If you would like to go on a party boat in Orange Beach, visit our charter fishing page for head boats and get all the information you need about walk on and shared expense fishing charters.
How many passengers do your boats carry?
There are two types of classes of boats in our area. 6 pack or 6 passenger boats and multi-passenger boats. Being a 6 pack boat does not mean the boat is unsafe or small. It simply means that it is not inspected annually by the USCG and we can only carry a maximum of 6 passengers for hire. If not for hire, you may carry what the data installed by the manufacturer allows. Our inshore fishing boat, "Alabama Inshore Fishing" carries 6 passengers maximum. It fishes 4 people comfortably. Our Hatteras, Orange Beach Charter "Distraction" carries 6 people maximum for hire.
Our largest boat that specializes in two day tuna charters is "Intimidator" carries up to 20 people during day trips and 10 people during overnight trips.
How soon do we need to book a fishing charter?
The urgency of booking a charter depends on you and the boats availability. Summer months, Holidays, Weekends and Fishing Tournaments create our biggest rush of fishing charters. A lot of you plan months ahead for your vacation or weekend escape to ensure you get a room. Fishing is the same way. You need to plan early so you get the date of your choice. During the Fall, Winter and Spring, fishing slows a bit but we still experience high volumes of bookings during weekends.
What length of fishing charter do we need to book?
There are a lot of factors involved in this process. An inshore fishing charter is usually 4 to 6 hours in length and we catch inshore fish like Speckled Trout, Flounder and Redfish. Our offshore trips range from a 4 hour trolling trip to a 6 hour bottom fishing trips for Red Snapper, Triggerfish, etc. Our overnight to multi-day Tuna and Marlin trips are great for those who want to experience something unique. 8 hour trips or shorter are mostly for those who want to have fun and catch a few fish to release or catch a few for supper. 10 and 12 hour bottom fishing trips are for those who want to be on the water all day and or, keep a few fish for dinner. Overnight trips are for more serious anglers and groups that want to fish for larger species of fish that live further offshore. If you have kids or you have never done it before, you might consider a 4 to 6 hour trip. If you have been deep sea fishing before, I would suggest an 8 to 12 hour trip.
How much fishing time is there in a typical bottom fishing charter?
As a rule of thumb, bottom fishing consists of a ride from the port to the fishing reefs and back. This ride can be as short as an hour or longer, depending on the length of the trip. Most charters are usually divided into 50% ride (trolling fishing heading out and back) and 50% fishing. There is also time spent driving between reefs that counts as riding. We try to troll between spots that are further than 3 miles apart. However, most charter boats high speed troll while heading out to the reefs. High speed trolling produces fish frequently during the late Spring, Summer and Fall months.
Will we catch Grouper and Amberjack on our fishing charter?
The reality of catching legal sized Grouper and Amberjack is dependent upon the length of the fishing charter taken. In recent years, these species have been over fished and seasonal closures and increased size limits have been put in place to stop over harvesting of these species. With that being said, you can catch them on trips as short as 6 hours. The truth is that you need to take at least a 10 or 12 hour charter or longer to be able to have a chance to catch them. Then there is no guarantee. Fishing for Grouper and Amberjack is usually better during the Fall, Winter and Spring seasons. This is a time when these larger fish move closer to shore and there is less fishing pressure on them. In the Summer, plan on a full day charter to increase your odds. The truth is, grouper and amberjack have been severely overfished close to shore and you need to have a 12 hour trip to have time to go the 35 to 50 miles offshore to have a reasonable chance get them. The reality of catching Grouper and Amberjack within 30 miles of shore is minimal but from time to time, it happens. If you want to catch grouper or amberjack, you need to choose a 100 mile boat and a 10 to 12 hour trip to have a chance. That's because you need to get about 30 to 50 miles offshore where the fishing pressure is less and the water is deeper. A 20 mile boat will not be able to take you.
Is there anything special we need to know about choosing a fishing charter?
Yes, there are many things you need to know about choosing a fishing charter. There are 6 passenger boats and there are multi-passenger boats. 6 passenger boats can go up to 100 miles from land fishing, but if the trip is longer than 12 hours, there must be an extra captain and deckhand on board. Multi-passenger boats are two categories: There are 20 mile boats and there are 100 mile boats. The 20 mile boat is a multi-passenger vessel that is inspected by the USCG, but they must stay within 20 miles of shore because they do not have proper lifesaving and rescue equipment on board. 100 mile boats are multi-passenger vessels that meet all the necessary safety requirements. If you want a trip longer than 8 hours, you need a 100 mile boat. All of our vessels are 100 mile boats.
How young or old should children be to go on a charter fishing trip?
Most of our Summer business is family fishing with kids. We love to see kids catch their first fish. The age of the child that wants to go fishing depends on the maturity and experience of the child. Children that are 4 to 8 years of age are common on 4 and 6 hour charters. I would suggest children be 9 or older to try and take on a trip longer than 6 hours. Again, it all depends on your kids. Remember, our boats are there to help you catch fish and operate very safely. It is up to the parent to watch their children at all times. There are fishing hooks and flopping fish that can cause injury to small ones if left unattended.
Do we offer lodging while in town?
We do not offer lodging at this time. We do have plenty of hotels, motels, condo's and beach houses that you can rent. Orange Beach has several local hotels to lodge at during your stay. The Island House Hotel, The Perdido Beach Resort,Hilton Garden Inn, Days Inn Gulf Shores and Holiday Inn Express are represented in our area. We do have several condo rental agencies like Meyer Realty, Kaiser Realty and Brett-Robinson in town. You may also want to stay at The Beach Club or the Gulf Shores Plantation which are located 12 miles west of Gulf Shores.
Do you have any seafood restaurants you would recommend?
We love to eat fresh fish and local seafood. There are some great local restaurants that offer quality seafood at reasonable prices. There has been a big push by large food distribution companies to sell fresh frozen seafood to our Gulf Shores and Orange Beach seafood restaurants in order for them to control their food cost. Most Orange Beach vacationers do not want to eat the same frozen seafood they serve in Atlanta, Memphis, Birmingham, St.Louis, Dallas or any other city across the country. The reality is, the fish you get in larger cities is the same in most cases as you get here. As far as we know these restaurants offer fresh seafood that is caught by local fishermen are: Big Fish, Shipps Harbor Grill, Cosmos and the Wolf Bay Lodge are in Orange Beach. The Tin Top Restaurant is located in Bon Secour. All of these seafood restaurants offer a great source of fresh seafood for you to try. Again, most restaurants carry IQF (individually quick frozen) seafood because of the good and consistent quality it provides to consumers. There may be some restaurants that have specials on certain types of fresh, not frozen fish on the menu from time to time. Most of the Red Snapper, Mahi-Mahi, Chilean Sea bass and Tuna you get are probably IQF and are really good.
Where can we buy some fresh seafood and shrimp to take home?
There are a lot of seafood retailers in the area that sell to those who want to take some fresh shrimp home in a cooler. Most of the local seafood retailers have a good selection of shrimp to choose from. There is Billy's Seafood in Bon Secour, Blalocks in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. For those of you who do not mind the short 30 minute drive to Pensacola, you can go to Joe Pattis Seafood. Joe Pattis has better prices and more selections than any of the local vendors we sampled. Be sure to buy some of the Orange Beach Charter Boat Cooperatives Game Fish Seasoning to take home to enhance the flavor of your seafood.
How can we tell if the Shrimp and Fish are fresh?
Most fresh shrimp found in local shops and stores come from one of two places. They either come IFQ (individually quick frozen) or fresh off the shrimp boat. There is nothing wrong with purchasing IFQ shrimp and the quality and flavor is real good. Look for shrimp that do not have a dark pink shell with discoloration throughout. If the shrimp look bad, they probably are. Fresh shrimp should not smell like ammonia. Their shells should be smooth to the touch, not slimy. Fresh fish that are whole can have clear eyes or cloudy eyes but should always have and a fresh appearance and a firm touch. Now, if you are going to buy fish filets or slabs of fresh fish, the fish should look fresh. There should be no freezer burn look or dried out flesh. This is a sign of freezer burn or old fish. I would say that buying individually wrapped filets that have been vacuumed sealed is ok. All I know is that there are a many a tourist buy what they think is fresh shrimp and get home to stinking mess. We will tell you how to freeze your fish properly. We will also tell you how to store your fish when you get home. Good luck and choose fresh Alabama Seafood.
Are all fishing charters family or kid friendly?
It is important to do your homework about the charter you are considering putting your family on. I would say use your best judgement when choosing a charter that advertises "Family Fishing." I would suggest you look at the boats respective websites to see if they have a lot of recent pictures of kids and families onboard. I would also look for testimonials or customer reviews to see if they live up to what they offer. Some boats take mostly overnight charters and do not have a lot of kids onboard on most of their trips. However, our fishing charters always act professionally and you can rest assured that you will be treated with respect at all times.
Do you have life vests for children onboard? What ages must wear one?
All boats must have life saving equipment onboard. All of our charter boats carry childrens life jackets that are USCG approved for children. Alabama law requires children 7 years-old and younger to wear a PFD while onboard any vessel in state waters. If you have your own life jacket that is more comfortable for your child, you may bring it as long as it is USCG approved.
Should we fish inshore or offshore?
Inshore fishing and Offshore fishing is a choice that only you can decide. Inshore fishing generally costs less than offshore fishing. If you want to fish close to shore, you should consider an inshore trip. If you would like to go deep-sea fishing, you need to fish on an offshore boat.
Do we have to buy a saltwater fishing license?
You do not need to buy an Alabama Saltwater Fishing License to fish on a charter boat. Alabama Charter Boats provide your fishing license for you while onboard. Each boat purchases the license annually and it covers those who fish on the boat. If you fish from shore or from a dock and your 16 years of age or older, you do need to purchase a saltwater fishing license from a local tackle shop or go to the State of Alabama's Outdoor website here and purchase a license online.
Will I get sea-sick while fishing? Will you bring me back if I do?
Motion sickness is real and effects about 10 percent of all saltwater fishing participants. Sea sickness is an inner ear problem. If you have it bad, you might get your physician to write you a prescription for the patch that is placed like a bandaid behind your ear. Some of you use Dramamine. Dramamine makes people sleepy or drowsy. I would suggest non-drowsy dramamine or Bonine over the counter medicine and take as directed.
All of us offer private charters. That means you are in control of your charter. There are no refunds given for sea-sickness. If you want to return to port, your captain will do what you wish. The other people in your group may not be happy with you but they are your family and you decide if you want to go back to port.
Do all charter boats have restrooms?
Our offshore fishing boats have private restrooms with real commodes. Our inshore boat does not have a restroom. Inshore boats are usually close to shore so you can easily move to a marina to use the toilet.
May we bring our own fishing tackle?
Sure you may bring your own fishing tackle. However, saltwater fish fight hard and your gear may not be suited to handle the fight. We will not be held responsible if your tackle fails.
Do we offer a catch and release program?
Yes, we do offer catch and release. We promote catch and release as part of our program. Not all species are catch and release friendly. However, we do have a lot of species that are a lot of fun to fight, photograph and release.
If I catch a nice fish, can I get it mounted?
We are an authorized agent of Gray's Taxidermy. Saltwater mounts are replicas which means you can either keep your fish to eat or release them to be caught another day. All we need is a 50% deposit, name of the fish, length to get your order started.
Do I have to pay for a rod if it breaks or I lose a lure or bait?
We use new tackle and well maintained fishing gear. If a rod and reel fails on it's own, you will not be charged. If you drop one overboard, you will be expected to replace it. We lose lures, hooks and gear all of the time while fishing. You will not be charged for the loss of lures or bait.
May we bring alcoholic beverages on our trip? Can we smoke?
Yes you may bring your favorite beverage with you. However, we do not allow glass bottles. We ask that you drink in moderation. Excessive drinking and intoxication may lead to accident or injury. We are safe operators and expect you to adhere to all safety rules and regulations. You may smoke outside, away from everyone else.
What do we need to bring on our fishing charter?
Depending on the length of your charter, you need to bring the basics: non-slip shoes, food, drink, snacks, hand towels, protective clothing ( hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, rain gear, etc) and camera. Contrary to what some say, It is not customary to bring enough food to feed the captain and crew. You are paying enough for your charter and we don't want to put you out and feel like you have to feed any of our crew members or captains. The Distraction always has water on board for you and the Intimidator will feed you on your overnight charters.
What are our chances of catching a fish?
As with any type of fishing, there is a chance that we may get skunked. We are professionals and we know how to catch fish. We normally do catch fish. There are some times when fishing is tough and they just don't bite. Fishing for certain species like Marlin, Tuna, Cobia, Redfish and Speckled Trout can be difficult at times. However, we know what we are doing and with a little luck, we can catch you the fish you desire. Reef fish like Red Snapper, Vermilion Snapper and Triggerfish are commonly caught. Due to fishing seasons and size limits, you may not be able to keep them all.
Do you use live bait on fishing trips? Does live bait mean we catch bigger fish?
Live bait is commonly used on inshore fishing trips and on full day or longer, offshore fishing trips. Live bait is best used inshore species like Speckled Trout and Flounder and offshore, full day charters. It is great for offshore species like Amberjack and Grouper. Our fishing charters do not waste your time catching live bait if it is not necessary. If we need it, we will tell you.
Do your boats fish in unsafe conditions, bad weather or high seas?
We do fish in light rain or around showers. We try to avoid fishing in rough seas or high winds. We try to stay away from lightening storms at all times. Our offshore charter boats have state-of-art live satellite color radar onboard to see storms coming. Inshore boats can fish on days when we can't get offshore. Our big boat can handle a 4 to 6 ft sea where our Hatteras handles a 3 to 4 ft sea comfortably.
For more information, you might want to read our Orange Beach Charter Fishing Definitions.