Fishing Orange Beach

Walk On and Shared Expense Fishing Charters in Orange Beach

affordable-fishing-charters-in-orange-beachWalk on or shared expense fishing charters have been available in Orange Beach for over 50 years. These trips have always been popular with first timers or those who don't have the budget for a more expensive private charter.  Shared expense trips are designed to be a gateway to saltwater fishing for new anglers.  Because of their low price cost per person, they are a very popular trip.  These types of charters take you deep sea fishing, but they do not offer the same level of quality and excellent service as their counter parts give you.

What Is A Shared Expense or Walk On Charter?

A shared expense or walk on charter is where you join other people and pay a per person fee instead of renting the entire boat for yourselves.    These trips are designed to put people together and match them up with others who are wanting a similar length fishing charter.  When enough people sign up or they reach a minimum number, the person you booked with, calls the trip and lets you know when and where to show up.  They often get a lot more people sign up, and they fill up a boat to capacity.  When boats get filled to capacity, they get crowded.  This is where your service may suffer a bit if the boat is not properly staffed with enough deckhands or has ample room along the rails for everyone to fish.  These types of charters are not booked for inshore or back bay trips.  In addition to that per person fee that each one of you pays, there is an extra fee or tip that you need to pay the deckhand.  That amount runs about 10% on walk on charters.  If they do a better job, you should tip 15%.  Fish cleaning costs .30 cents a pound, whole weight. 

Just so you will know where the price per person comes from, let's look at a simple math problem.   Most charters charge X number of dollars to run a 6 hour trip.   For example, a 6 hour private trip for 10 people normally would cost $1500 plus tip.  If 10 people sign up for this shared expense trip, the cost is divided among those people signed up, or $150 per person.  Where these boats really make a lot of money, is when more than the minimum number of people sign up and go on the same boat.

Every one of these Walk On or Shared Expense deep sea fishing charters are booked through some type of Marina Charter Office or middleman.  The booking agent or charter office will get a credit card number from you, to hold your spot. Then writes your name and how many people you have wanting to go fishing.  The waiting lists they put you on will correspond to the date, time and the number of hours you want to go fishing for.   These agents may book a lot of different boats and may have more options for you.

Warning:  If any charter office, agent or third party website makes you pay a deposit up front, be alarmed.  This deposit you pay, is usually a 15 to 20% commission that can be over and above the price of your trip.   Reputable fishing charters only take a credit card number to hold your reservation.  Most will make you pay the day of your trip, before you get on the boat.

You going fishing on the day you sign up for, depends on the agent or charter office having enough people signed up for a particular trip.  This is because in order for the boat to leave the dock, it must reach it's people minimum carrying capacity.   Most six passenger boats won't depart without having 6 people signed up.  Some multi passenger boats won't depart unless they have 7 people signed up.  Some larger boats won't depart unless they have 10 people.  The number varies from boat to boat.  It is ok to ask your agent, "how many people will be on this boat?  How many are signed up already?"

During the summer months, these trips hardly ever get cancelled.  However during spring and fall, you may find yourself not going fishing at all because not enough people signed up for the trip you want.

There AreTwo Types Of Boats That Offer Shared Expense or Walk On Charters

For the sake of keeping this simple, what you need to know is, there are Party Boats and there are regular charter boats that charge a per person fee.  This is what makes them a walk on or shared expense charter.  There is a difference in the two types of charters.   Party boats only offer 4 or 6 hour trips.  Regular charters that offer these types of trips, offer 6 hour, 8 hour, 10 hour and 12 hour trips. 

The most popular trips offered by regular charter boats are 6 hours in length.  The price is $125 per person to $185 per person, depending on which charter company you choose.  The longer the trip you want (more than 8 hours), the more difficulty you are going to have in getting enough people to sign up for them.  These trips get canceled more often because of a lack of interest in longer trips.  This is because of the price. 

Because of over fishing in the 6 hour territory, many anglers are now signing up for 8, 10 or 12 hour trips in order to be able to catch larger fish.  A little bit more about this later in this article.

Party Boats do offer less expensive shared expense trips but, they are big boats, usually 65' or more in length.  They carry as many as 65 to 85 people per trip.  You are still fishing next to each other, but the boat is a larger scale.  They can be called shared expense or walk on charters if you like, but they are totally different than a true walk on or shared expense charter.  They are similar because they take individuals and small groups fishing.  They generally don't offer the same quality fishing trip as a true walk on or shared expense charter.

Don't let the name party boat scare you.  They are not a boat where its a big Party or celebration going on.  Party means, the size of the group they carry.  Party boats forever,  have been the most inexpensive gateway for the fishing public to have access to deep sea fishing.    They charge as little as $65 for a 4 hour charter, to as much as $85 to $95 per person for a 6 hour charter. Party boats hardly ever offer any trip longer than 6 hours.

The only draw back to these charters is, they pack you on like cattle during the busy time of the year.  If you get sea sick, you are stuck out there until your time is up.  If seas are rough, they will likely go because they can handle it better.  They usually fish big public reefs that get fished all of the time, so often you don't catch as many quality fish as you could on a regular charter boat that fishes walk on charters.   Some people do catch big fish, but as a general rule, these charters don't target big fish.

Walk On or Shared Expense Charters.  These are regular charter boats that offer shared expense trips when they are not booked with a private charter.  They are either 6 passenger or they are multi-passengers vessels that carry 7 people or more.  Multi passenger refers to the number of people the US Coast Guard will allow them to carry on any one trip.  Some smaller multi-passenger boats that are less than 41 feet in length in Orange Beach carry as many as 22 people.  Some of the larger ones carry 49 people.  Carrying capacity has nothing to do with the size of the vessel.  It has to do with Coast Guard approval.

These 41' boats are ideal if there are 10-12 people signed up, but no more than 13.  However, if the boat owners can get more people to sign up, they will pack you on like cattle and have no room to move around.  Then you will be just like you would be on a party boat.  Some of the larger boats like 65 feet, that carry 49 passengers, usually only can fish 20 people at a time maxium.  This means you have a little more room to move around.

Is There Quality Fishing In Walk On Or Shared Expense Charters?

Quality is determined by your expectations.  In our experience, a quality fishing charter is one that offers a clean, comfortable boat with new fishing tackle, plenty of room for everyone on board (not packed like cattle), who takes you far enough offshore to where you can catch a lot of fish (beyond 20 miles).  What you need to know about quailty in shared expense charters, there is a direct correlation in the price you pay and the results you will get.  If you don't pay a lot, you should not expect a lot.  The more people on the boat, the less qualtiy you receive.

What You Need To Ask Before Booking A Shared Expense Fishing Charter?

What is the size of the boat you are putting me on and how many people will be on the boat?   Any boat less than 50' in length is only comfortable with 10 people or less on board.  Even if they are a walk around boat, like a center console like the CAT boat or Wishbone located at Hudson Marina.  There is standing room only if there are more than 10 people.  Besides, one deckhand can only handle about 10 people and maintain quality.  You need two deckhands if you have 11 people or more on the boat.  If the booking agent is about to put 18 to 22 people on a boat that small, you are going to be cramped and service will suffer.

How far are we going offshore?  Because of over fishing of red snapper close to shore (within 35 miles) the past 4 or 5 years, the bigger fish 4 pounds or more, are now located 35 miles or more offshore.  If you choose a 6 hour trip or less, they are going to stay close to shore or within 20 miles, where there is a lot of fishing pressure.  You can expect to catch smaller or barely legal fish 12" to 17" in length or about 1.5 to 3 pounds in this 20 to 35 mile zone out of Orange Beach.  This is where you need to ask yourself about wanting a quality fishing trip or big fish.  NOTE: During the first two weeks of June or the opening of Red Snapper season, there are a few big snappers (18" to 22") close to shore or within 35 miles.  After that time, every spot has been fished so much, you will barely catch a 16" legal fish within 20 miles of shore.

How long of a trip do we need to catch big fish?   If you want to catch big fish, you need to book a 10 to 12 hour trip.  This is due to over fishing out to 30 miles or more from shore.   Booking a longer trip will get you far enough offshore where you have a chance to catch some big fish.  If big fish is what you want, you need to budget more money to get far enough offshore to get them.

Where Do We Sign Up For Shared Expense Charters

Most people go to a local charter marina booking office to sign up for these trips.  The best choices are SanRoc Cay Marina, Zekes Marina, Action Charter and the lowest price charters are sail from Hudson Marina.  There are a half dozen charter boats that are listed on google search engines as "Orange Beach Fishing Charters."  Those listed as "Orange Beach Fishing Charters" are middlemen and all charge a fee to you or take a fee off the top as a commission.  This paid commission keeps you from getting the best trip you deserve.

 

 


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