What Type Of Charter Boat Do I Need To Book?
This is easy. Just decide what type of fish you want to catch and then find a boat that catches them. Sounds easy, but this is really complicated if you have never been charter fishing before in Orange Beach, Alabama. You need to read below and see which type of boat fits your needs and your budget.
All charter boats are required to have a US Coast Guard Licensed Captain on board. They must also be a member of a random alcohol and drug testing consortium. Professional guides have insurance to protect you in case of an accident. You have the right to ask for proof of captains credentials, random drug testing membership card and proof of liability insurance. The captains license and an unexpired drug card are required to be on the captain while they are operating the boat. Reputable captains will eagerly show you their credentials.
What is a Federally Permitted Charter Boat?
When you see someone advertising Deep Sea Fishing, they are usually talking about boats that have federal fishing permits on board. There are only about 122 federal permits in Alabama, but only about 82 of them use them to charter fish. These federal permits are issued by NOAA Fisheries and renewed each year for a small fee of around $25 to $50. They allow charter boats to take you deep sea fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) without you having to buy a fishing license. The EEZ is the waters beyond 3 nm from Alabama shores.
Most of these federally permitted offshore charter boats range from 30' up to 65' in length. Most of them can only carry 6 passengers or less (6 pack) but there are about 40 charter boats that are called multi-passenger boats and they can carry anywhere from 7 to 49 passengers. There are about 8 boats in our area that carry up to 65 passengers and they are called party boats.
These federally permitted charter boats take you offshore far enough to reach most of the best and bigger fish species of grouper, amberjack, red snapper, triggerfish, vermilion snapper, lane snapper, mangrove snapper, king mackerel, spanish mackerel, wahoo, tuna, marlin, sail fish, sword fish live.
Most of these boats are larger, safer than their inshore counter parts, have air conditioning and restrooms. These boats are designed to be more comfortable ride and can handle choppy or rough sea conditions better than center console boats. These boats are licensed, insured and are members of a random drug testing consortium.
What is a State Licensed Guide Boat?
State licensed guide boats are charter boats. They can only operate in state waters. In Alabama, they can run 9 miles offshore and only red snapper. They can't fish for any other fish species between 3 miles and 9 miles offshore. Other species are restricted to stay within 9 miles when targeting federally managed reef fish and migratory species like mackerel. Most state licensed guide boats fish in and around the back bays or fish inshore. Guide boats are not federally permitted and can't go out in federal waters to fish for red snapper, grouper, amberjack, triggerfish, mackerel. With guide boats, they have a big red sticker only on their vessels and that permit and that serves as your fishing license. Most guide boats are 18 to 24' in length. Most do not have restrooms, air conditioning or a lot of comfortable seating or the ability to get out of the sunlight or elements.
What Do We Need To Know About Choosing Boats That Offer Low Prices, Best Prices and Cheap Rates
To the average consumer, getting the best price or a low rate, sounds like your about to get a good deal and save some money on your private fishing charter. What you need to know, is there is a direct correlation in the price of the charter and the quality of the trip you are going to receive. When we talk about a private fishing charter, we are not talking about buying a product where everyone is buying the same thing. When you invest in a fishing charter, you are investing in a service, not a product. There is a huge difference in the two and you need to know the difference.
There are charter boats that sell low prices and there are boats that sell good service. There is no such thing as getting a low price and good service in the charter fishing industry.
As a consumer of charter fishing, you need to know that you are paying for service, not a product. If you have done your research and have found a couple of charters that you are comparing. They are similar in length, for the same number of hours. But the two boats have a $100, $200 or more difference in price. You need to be asking yourself, why is that person cheaper than the other? You might be asking why is one higher than the other. That reason is one who charges more, knows the value of good service and lives up to the what they charge.
Knowing how all of these Orange Beach charters operate from an inside perspective, do you really want to take a chance? It's your your hard earned money that you have saved. It's a once in a lifetime fishing trip and is it worth ending up choosing a charter that pulls back on the throttle to save fuel, just so they can make a profit? Doesn't it make sense to pay a little more for your trip and expect to get more for your family fishing experience?
How Do Deposits Work And What You Need To Know About Paying One Upfront?
Deposits range from 15% to 50%, depending on the length of the charter you are booking. Most reputable charters only charge deposits on more expensive trips or full day trips or longer. Half day trips or less, usually only require having a credit card number on file to hold your trip.
Do All Fishing Charters Charge Fish Cleaning Fees and How Is This Paid and To Whom?
Most charter boats running full day trips charge .30 cents a whole pound of fish to clean it for you. This fee is in addition to the deckhand tip.
The best fishing charters in Orange Beach offer free or complimentary fish cleaning to be included with their 20% minimum mates fee. You need to search them out, because these guys are the ones who really care about giving you the best service and don't mind giving back with complimentary fish cleaning.
How Do We Know If A Fishing Charter Is Putting Our Happiness Before Their Personal Gain?
There are a few charter boats in Orange Beach who really do a good job at this and have developed a reputation about putting customer service first. The Distraction and Intimidator come to mind when it comes to putting customer service first. These two boats represent the best of the six passenger boats and the multi passenger boats in Orange Beach. They are setting standards in the charter fishing industry. If you want to go with a good fishing charter, you need to book them early. They fill up quick. If you wait to call really good charters after you get to town, they will likely not have anything available. You need to book direct, book early and book with those charters who really care if you have a good time.
Do your boats fish in unsafe conditions, bad weather or high seas?
We do fish in light rain or around thunder showers. We try to avoid fishing in rough seas or high winds over 20 knots. We try to stay away from lightening storms at all times, but sometimes they pop up and we have to go through them. We just try to avoid the darkest cells or heaviest rain. 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.
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 can't 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. Uninspected vessels should be maintained like an inspected vessel. If you get to your boat and everything looks sloppy or the engine room looks dirty, nasty and the fishing tackle is poorly maintained, you might need to look elsewhere. There is no shortcut when it comes to your safety.
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 $1,450 for 6 hours/half day, plus a $300 deckhand fee plus tip. The Best Multi-passengers (7 or more people in your group) charge $1,800 for 6 hours/half day, plus tip for up to 10 people. If you have more than 10 people in your group, the cost is 10% 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.
How far do you go out?
The number one question we are asked is "how far do you go out?" The 6 hour charter goes anywhere from 8 miles to 25 miles, depending on the fish bite. 10 hour trips can get you as far as 35 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?
Sorry, but NO. All of our fishing charters are private except for the Orange Beach Party Boats that offers walk on or shared expense charters. 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.
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.
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. The Distraction Charter boat is the first boat to become highly specialized in family fishing. You need to book with them months in advance if you want a family fishing trip. Before they came along, nobody wanted families on board because families were not experienced enough to catch big fish so the box would be full faster. That's because most captains sold tomorrows trip from what they harvested today.
First time and family anglers didn't have the experience to land those big ones. Family fishing was a term reserved for 4 hour trolling trips back in the day. When the Distraction started up in 2002, family fishing became a focus and first time or novice anglers had a way to get offshore and learn how to catch fish without anyone putting pressure on them to fill the cooler. Moving forward 10 years, many charter boats who didn't like families are now using "family friendly" as a buzz word to attract new clients.
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 on google or trip advisor 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 children's 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. We will catch live bait if necessary.
For more information, you might want to read our Orange Beach Charter Fishing Definitions.