First Time Party and Charter Boat Fishing Tips
If you’ve clicked on this post you’re likely interested in taking your first party or charter boat fishing trip and you’re in luck.... We’re spoiled by having one of the the largest, most experienced fleet of charter and party boats in the country here in NJ and you’ve come to the right place.....
Lets first talk about the difference between charter and party boats...
Charter boats are typically reserved in advance for you and your group, deposits are usually required to secure your date. You’ll find most are referred to as “6 packs” since they're licensed to take 6 people besides the captain and mate... There are however charter boats that are licensed to take more then 6, these are referred to as inspected vessels since they are licensed and inspected by the Coast Guard to carry more then 6 passengers and are reserved for larger groups.
Party boats on the other hand are licensed and inspected vessels but no reservations are usually required. You simply walk on the day of the trip and you pay by the head, which is why they are also referred to as "Head Boats"...
With a charter boat you typically choose what you to want to fish for and the length of time you want to fish while party boats have predetermined schedules they run by and a specific targeted species.
In either case here is some basic advice for first timers..
- If you’re not sure if you or your crew get seasick, you might want to stay inshore for your first trip where the water is usually a bit calmer and take a half day trip..
- Bring your own gear if you prefer but not necessary since charter boats will have the gear which is included in your fare and party boats will rent gear for a nominal fee. Both will supply the bait you’ll need.
- Bring a cooler of food and drink, most boats have restrictions on hard alcohol. Some party boats have galleys and you can purchase food and drink and some charter boats you can prearrange food with them for an additional cost...
- Make sure and tip the mates....Many don’t get paid very much and rely on tips to earn their living. 20% of your fare or the cost of the charter is typically if you catch fish or not... If you have a load of fish to be cleaned, it’s also customary to give the mate a few extra bucks for cleaning...This is not mandatory but it’s a nice gesture for the extra work involved..
- Since this is your first time don’t be shy about asking for advice a pay particular attention to others that are catching and don’t be stubborn. If something is working for someone else chances are it will work for you too.
Now for some specifics on charter vs party boats.
- With a charter boat you have some flexibility as to what time you want to depart and return and what you want to fish for... Since this is your group if you want to return early you can, if you want to change gears and fish for something different, if the captain is amenable and prepared with the proper gear and bait you can. For this reason you should discuss your intent with the captain so you both have the proper expectations.
- As mentioned above, party boats have a set schedule and usually fish for a certain species. Since this is a trip with a lot of different people this is the way it has to be... People have expectations of what the boat is fishing for, how long they want to be out and they can’t cater to individuals who want to deviate from what the trip was advertised to be. Having said that, some captains will choose to fish for something else if the targeted species is not cooperating the opportunity presents itself. This should not however be expected... Most are going to stick to what they advertised and if you happen to get sick, they’re not going to come in early since it’s not fair to others...
- Fares for each vary... Party boats are usually between $60 and $75 dollars depending on how long a trip it is... Half day, 3 quarter or full day and could be more if they are planning a special trip off shore. Charter boat pricing your paying for the boat regardless of the number of passengers. If some of your party don’t show up don’t expect a refund for them. If you are expecting them to split the cost of the charter, you should tell them in advance they are responsible for their portion of the fare if they don’t show up.
Having said all the above, there are charter boats that fish open when they aren’t chartered and you pay by the head... In this case reservations are usually required and if you say your going to go, you need to go or expect to cover your fare if you don’t... These sorts of trips the captain is reliant on a certain number of people to sail and if they don’t get that number, they may not sail and it’s not fair to them and others on that trip. Conversely there are also party boats that will charter for large groups. In this case you are paying for the boat, a deposit is typically required and is regardless of the number of people so if you have no shows, don’t expect a refund.
Weather is always a concern and in either case the decision to sail or not is left up to the captain’s discretion. With a charter the captain will usually make the call the night before and inform your party. Party boats the weather is not as much of a factor, not that they aren’t concerned with the weather. These are usually larger boats and the captain may choose to sail if he has enough people and you don’t have to if you think the weather is not to your liking since you’re a walk on.
I hope this encourages you to take advantage of the great choice and variety of fishing opportunities we have here in NJ and make a more informed decision on what’s right for you and your party.
I’m sure there are a lot more questions on things we’ve haven’t covered here and some others can chime in with some advise, so feel free to ask questions and pile on.
Gerry Zagorski <><
Founder/Owner of NJFishing.com since 1997
Proud Supporter of SSFFF and RFA
28 Carolina Classic
Sandy Hook Area
Last edited by Gerry Zagorski; 08-10-2019 at 10:51 AM..