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Adventure Travel Magazine


Larry Larsen's Media

 How to Select A Saltwater Guide or Charter Captain

by Larry Larsen

Tarpon guide Rufus Wakeman - Adventure Travel magazineMost outdoor enthusiasts traveling the country and world want to find the top saltwater guide, outfitter or charter captain.  But, just how do you do that. My advice is to be careful because there are a lot of poor ones around .  And there are a lot of good ones. 

How do you find a good one? Know that what may be a great guide for someone else may not be the best one for you with your possibly different goals and expectations. Do you want to fish white bait for numbers of inshore species, or are you more interested in tossing jigs or spoons for trophy-class reds or snook?

Selecting the right charter captain or saltwater guide usually comes right down to communications before the booking.  Your ability to define your objectives and thoroughly understand his qualifications and abilities is generally the key to have a successful and enjoyable trip. It is best to learn as much about the guide or charter service and the kind of fishing they are most experienced at.  The captain may specialize in heavy tackle, or light tackle; he may use only artificial lures, or only live bait.

Crocodile Bay Billfish & Larry LarsenIf the kind of fishing that a captain or outfitter is experienced at is what you want to get involved with, then ask several specific questions of him. Ask the right questions ahead of time, and you will not often be disappointed the day you are on the water.  The guide may specialize in catching redfish or tarpon on beefy tackle and live crabs and call the day great if you catch some.  But if your focus were to catch snook or seatrout, or grouper or snapper on ultra-light spinning gear and artificials, it would be wise to call another guide.

Word of mouth, or a referral from a trusted friend, is often the very best way to find a good charter captain, outfitter or guide.  Other means are by talking with tackle shop owners, marina owners, outdoor writers, tourism representatives, etc.  You can find them listed in brochures, magazine advertisements, write-ups in newspapers, magazines or books, or other print sources , as well as in television, video or radio.

Beach photo by Larry LarsenOnce you have the names of a few guides, realize that your job is not over.  The additional time you invest in finding the right guide will pay off. Make sure that the outfitter's gauge of success or failure of the outing is similar to yours. Once you have talked to the captain or guide, talk to the people that have fished with him.  Ask the guide for several references that are repeat customers over a period of two or three years.  Then talk to two or three of them. 

You should learn quite a bit about the prospective captain, his compatibility, professionalism, equipment, drive and skills. A captain or outfitter can tell you how many fish he has caught, but that does not mean much; anyone can brag, but if you call a couple of his clients and hear differently, then Trout guide Mark Nichols, DOA Luresit's another story. Check him out!

Personality and other factors also define a good charter captain. Also important to most clients are a guide's flexibility, one who will try several things if one technique is not working.  One of the most important characteristics of a good captain to many saltwater anglers is his ability to put forth a true effort during the day.  A good guide will not quit trying, even during the roughest of fishing days.

Those charter captains and inshore fishing guides that make trying hard look easy are usually on the water every day.  They are the full-timers who are usually more in touch with the action.  A good captain will know the fish, the waters and how weather might influence the action from one day to the next, because their paycheck depends on their performance.  And they are often booked far in advance.


   What to discuss with the prospective charter captain:

Fee, Deposit, Lunch
Tackle Used, Furnished
Type of Fishing
Boat, Equipment
Waters Fished (inshore, offshore, tidal marsh, etc.)
References incl. Phone #'s
Trip Timing
Start/Finish Hours
Calendar Openings
Gauging a Successful Day  (goals/expectations) 
Other specific interests of yours
Potential Concerns
Any Special Needs

Go through this checklist  before booking your next trip! -Larry Larsen

Walking down to the nearest marina and trying to find the right charter captain for the following day may be extremely difficult.  You might get lucky, but you would be well advised to locate the right person far ahead of time.  Like in other endeavors, your satisfaction is often based on the effort you put in at the beginning of the activity, and that is in the vital guide selection phase.

A great place to begin your search for a charter captain or guide is on the internet which offers a huge database of outfitters and captains.  You can search by state or species and type of fishing on several different sites.  You can also search for reviews on guides and charters. If you know a name or location of the captain or outfitter, you can search with just that information for contact information.  Then, pick up the phone and discuss your prospective trip with them in person! Then, check flight and hotel availability! 

Note: Larry Larsen offers numerous recommendations on guides, charters and destinations in the "Recommendation" section (current and archieve) of this magazine. Larsen's Adventure Travel at www.larsenoutdoors.com. 

Five Top Saltwater Charter Captains

 Check out the following great guide choices of Larry Larsen:

1. Northeast Florida/Southeast Georgia – Call Captain Terry Lacoss, Amelia Angler, Amelia Island Plantation, Amelia Island, FL 32034; phone (904) 321-5090. Kingfish and inshore species.

2. Northwest Florida – Call Captain Ray Van Horn, A Van Horn Charters, 2677 Richards Rd., Tarpon Springs, FL 34689; phone (727) 938-8577. Tarpon and inshore species.

3. Southwest Florida – Call Captain Pete Greenan, Gypsy Guide Service, 2416 Parsons Lane, Sarasota, FL 34239; phone (941)923-6095. Redfish & other inshore species, flyfishing)

4. Western Louisiana – Call Captain Terry Shaughnessy, Hackberry Rod & Gun, 701 Lakebreeze Dr., Hackberry, LA 70645; phone (318) 762-3391. Redfish and other inshore species.

5. Eastern Louisiana – Call Captain Gene Foret, CoCo Marina, 106 Pier 56, Chauvin, LA 70344; phone (504) 594 -6626. Redfish, snapper and trout.


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