charter fishingGuide To Charter Fishing for Beginners

You’ve probably decided to go on a charter fishing trip for the first time. That’s great! As any angler can tell, this is the most effective way to wet your line. There are still a lot of things to be aware of and learn. We’ve created this guide to help you prepare for your first fishing adventure. Read on if you’d like a more detailed guide!

Some aspects of chartering fishing are universal. We’ll cover the following: how to prepare for your trip, what to be aware of while on the boat and some things to remember after you return from the water.

Plan Your First Charter Fishing Trip

To make your first charter successful, you need to plan ahead and set expectations with your Captain. Charter fishing offers a wide range of options. No two charter fishing trips are alike. The first time you go out on the boat may be very different than someone else’s. What you bring and what to watch out for while fishing will depend on the type of trip that you select. Here are some tips on how to plan your trip.

Before you go

Before you even step foot on a boat, you can start planning your first fishing trip. Doing your research early is crucial, from knowing how to communicate with your guide to what to pack.


As soon as you have booked your trip, it’s important to speak with your captain or guide. This is the best way to set expectations and make sure you are both on the same wavelength. You can ask yourself some questions when you book:

What am I looking for from this charter? Do I want time on the water, or to target game fish?

What kind of fish am I going to catch?

Do I want to release my fish after catching it or keep it?

You can use these tips to find the perfect charter for you. Your captain will also appreciate your responses. They can then make sure that the trip you booked with them is suitable for your needs.

What you want from your trip

You probably have some ideas about what you would like to do, even if you have never been on a charter. You may want to try a new technique, catch a certain species, or visit a particular fishing spot.

Now is the time to tell your captain if you or other anglers are thinking of something in particular. Let your guide know this is your very first fishing trip. They’ll know your level of skill and be more prepared to teach you.

The most important thing to consider is the type of trip that will suit you and your group. The first thing people think of when they hear about fishing is deep sea for large game species. However, this is not the only kind of trip that is available. Charters are not always about fighting huge Marlins in deep water.

charter fishingYou can ask yourself these questions.

How far would you like to travel?

It is important to reach the hotspots first. It takes time to get to the biggest fish, which are usually offshore. Do you have the patience to wait? In that case, an inshore trip or bay trip would be better. The fish will be smaller but you will spend more time fishing.

Do I want to catch a lot of fish?

Filling the boat is seen as a sign of an enjoyable trip. However, this is not always the case. What will you do if you catch a lot of fish? It can be a disappointing experience to have to throw away your catch. Most anglers, especially those who are new to charter fishing, are more than happy to take home a few fish to cook and share with their friends.

How long do I want to spend actually on the water?

Some people dream of spending a whole day on the water. Some people may be seasick and not want to spend a full day at first. How, where and what you catch will depend on how much time you have available. You can’t expect to catch large species if you have only a few hours.

What is my level of involvement in actual fishing?

It may seem silly, how involved do you want to be in your fishing trip? You may think this is silly, but how hands-on do you want your fishing trip to be? You could cruise the water and only grab your rod when you see something bite. If you are charter fishing for the very first time, consider whether you would like to learn a certain technique or let the captain handle the situation.

It is important to discuss these issues with your guide before the trip for two reasons:

Your guide can prepare for you exactly what you need.

Your guide will inform you if something you requested is not possible (for instance, a certain fish is out-of-season), and you can then agree to go fishing for another species. You can also avoid disappointment by setting realistic expectations.

Included in the Policies

It is important to ask about the “onboard policy” of your guide. Your captain might not find it acceptable for you to smoke a cigar while on board. Alcohol and food are also subject to the same rules. It never hurts asking.

Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for anything. Some guides will pick you up and drop you off for free, while others won’t or charge extra. Apply the same logic to fish cleaning and filing, live baits, licenses, gear and other items that are not listed as included.

Check if the fuel cost is included in your trip. Fuel costs can be expensive, especially when you travel far from the shore. Many captains include fuel costs in their trip prices, but you should confirm this with them before your trip to avoid unexpected charges.

Arrival time and directions to the boat

Confirm your departure time and location one final time before leaving so you can start on a good note. Many things can happen between the time you book your trip and the actual day. Your guide could have moved to a new base or a marina may be undergoing renovations.

Ask your guide for directions and where the closest parking lot is. Your guide knows the area probably better than you do! Don’t be late to your fishing trip. Your guide may have another fishing trip in Myrtle Beach scheduled in the afternoon if you plan to fish in the morning. If you are late, the trip may be cut short.

charter fishingHow to Prepare

Now that you’ve got all the information in your guide, it’s time to pack. Clothing will depend on both the location and season. Below are a few essential items.

Rubber-soled sneakers. They will help you stay steady and firm on the boat. To avoid leaving tracks on your boat, make sure that they are non-marking.

Clothing in layers. You can adjust to changes in the weather. Choose materials that are easy to dry and warm but also offer protection from the wind.

Use sunscreen and polarized glasses. Polarized sunglasses will not only protect you from the weather, but they can also help with some fishing techniques like sight fishing.

Seasickness medications (like Dramamine). These are great options if you are prone to motion sickness and will be traveling in rougher waters. 

Bring a backpack for storage and zip-lock bags to store your valuables. One cooler is for drinks and food, while the other is for fish (if you intend to keep it).

Drinking lots of water. Drink lots of water! Even though almost all fishing charters provide bottled drinking water, staying hydrated on the boat is important due to the sun. Dehydration can make you feel seasick. You’re better off with too much water rather than not enough.

Last but not least, get a good sleep before you leave! If you are out on the boat, you’ll regret a party night with your friends.

The Trip

It’s finally the day of your adventure! It’s always thrilling to go charter fishing for the first time, but you still need to do a few things. Make sure that you have packed everything. A checklist is the best way to ensure you have everything.

You should also leave early. This is so important; we can’t emphasize it enough! Give yourself enough time to travel, even without news about traffic jams.

Arrive at least 15 minutes before the scheduled departure. Arriving early will give you more time to meet the crew and share your expectations. This brings us to our next step…

Meet the Crew

Knowing your captain and your first mate can greatly impact the quality of your trip. Respect and a friendly attitude will make your trip on the boat more enjoyable.

Many fishing guides are a showman with amazing stories about fish. Some fishing guides are more reserved but still very knowledgeable. They are an excellent source of information. These guys are not only here to drive your boat and bait hooks; they’re also here to teach you how to fish.

When you are charter fishing for the very first time, it is important to ask questions. It’s important, to be honest with yourself about your knowledge and what you don’t understand.

Get on Board

If this is your first boat trip, you’ll probably need some time to get comfortable. This is not solid ground, even if there are calm waters, as is the case on shorter trips inshore. Hold on to something when the boat is moving, and you have to move.

Your belongings are the first thing to be taken care of once you step aboard. You can ask the crew to provide a safe, dry place for your belongings. The wetness and sliminess of the water can be shocking to a first-time fisherman.

The Drive

Book a six-hour fishing trip. You won’t likely spend six hours straight fishing. You’ll be away from your dock for six hours on average (the time you return may vary depending on how good the bite is). The travel time includes the trip to and from the fishing spots. You’ll spend most of your time traveling to the deep waters if you want to go deep-sea fishing.

You can make the most of this time. If you are charter fishing for the first time, feel free to ask any questions and get more information about the fishing. Your guide or mate will give you an overview of the gear as you depart from the dock. Depending on your technique, you’ll use one or more rods and/or bait and/or lure sets. Ask questions and pay attention to the crew.

The fishing

It’s in the name: it’s not called catching, but fishing! You will enjoy fishing more if you have realistic expectations. Many factors, including the weather and the time of the year, can influence how well fish bite. It doesn’t have to be a bad experience.

If you don’t catch any fish, it’s okay. You’re just charter fishing. Give yourself a little break. Spending time on the water with family or friends and learning a new sport is a great way to pass the time. What’s there not to love?

Your experience will be determined by where you fish, what you are fishing for and which techniques you and your skipper decide to use.

Inshore trips are usually conducted in calm waters with smaller fish. They are popular amongst first-time anglers and especially with families. Nearshore trips are generally directed away from the coast towards underwater structures such as wrecks and reefs. You can try bottom fishing and catch some tasty fish.

Deep sea fishing is another option. Fishing charters in Myrtle Beach take you far enough from the shoreline that you cannot see it. Depending on the location, a deep sea trip may last a day, an overnight or even a week. It is the goal to catch a big fish, so it will be difficult for newbies.

Live bait is required for many fishing trips, no matter where you choose to fish. Captains may ask you to start by fishing for live bait yourself. You should factor in the time it takes to fish, even though it is usually not long. You can also ask your captain to purchase bait in advance at the marina if this is possible.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a bite on your first couple of attempts or even at all. Learning the ropes and cast lines is still a lot of fun. A good captain will do various things if the fish aren’t biting at a particular area. It could be as simple as moving to another location, changing your technique, or using different bait.

Ask if you want to try a new species, a different technique, or a different fishing spot. You’ll probably get a positive response from the captain as long as your request is reasonable.

charter fishingWhat can I do with the fish?

The rules and regulations of the area you are fishing in will determine whether you can keep your catch or have it filleted.

The crew will inform you if you have caught a fish that is a keeper, provided it falls within the legal limits. They’ll bring the fish aboard. You can bring your catch as close as possible to the boat for the crew members to gaff and swing it on board.

You can also release your fish. Be sure to discuss this in advance with your captain. You may need to practice catch-and-release if, for instance, your fish exceeds the legal limit. You’ll learn how to safely unhook the fish at first from your crew, but it won’t take long for you to get used. Check out our guide on catch-and-release fishing to prepare yourself.

After the Trip

You’ll be exhausted from the activity you did in the open. Be sure to collect your belongings before you leave the boat. Ask the crew to arrange a photo shoot of your catch with the boat.

Depending on where you are charter fishing for the first time, your captain and crew may be able to clean and filet your fish once you get off the boat. You can then take the fish home. Some crews charge for this service, while others don’t. Some crews will split your catch 50-50 with you, while others will allow you to keep the entire catch. If you decide on this in advance, there will be no surprises.

How much do I tip?

Paying for your trip afterwards is the most important thing you can do. You must pay the processing fee if you choose to pay by credit card on the dock.

Also, you should be prepared to tip. A 15-20% tip is expected in the recreational fishing business. This is not included in your trip price. Most captains will only accept cash and may not have access to card machines. Bring enough money.

This might seem excessive if this is your first-time charter fishing in Myrtle Beach, but think about it: If you tip someone to pour you a drink, why not tip someone who has spent hours with you on the water, teaching you how to fish? Deckhands are usually paid only through tips, so by rewarding them directly, you will be rewarding their hard work. It’s best to give tips when both the deckhand and captain are present.

Saying goodbye

All good things have to come to an end. You can always go back to fishing and try again. To round off your fishing trip, you should write a guide review. Many people wait until the next day to collect their thoughts and photographs.

What happens if I have to cancel my trip?

Each guide has their individual policies. You or your captain may have to cancel your trip for various reasons. It’s vital that you keep in touch to stay informed. You can also reschedule your trip so you won’t miss out. If your plans don’t work out, here’s what you can do.

Captain cancels trips

There are some circumstances where your guide might need to cancel a trip. The most common are:

Weather Forecasts

Mechanical problems

A shared trip cannot be run due to a lack of guests

Double bookings are rare (due to our calendar).

Cancellation of Trips by You

We recommend that you review your booking information to see the captain’s policy on cancellation. You’ll know whether you are eligible for a full refund.

A good communication will save you from a last-minute cancellation. Stay in touch with your partner, whether you’re rescheduling a date or looking for an alternative boat, is essential. 

You’re now ready to charter fish for the first time!

This is a lot to take in! You’ll be able to follow your captain through the above steps. You can use this guide to remind yourself if you are worried about forgetting something.

It’s possible to catch the biggest fish of your lifetime or nothing at all. It is normal to return to the dock empty-handed. Everyone brags of catching large fish. We know that catching big fish is not the only thing to keep you returning.

Take a moment to enjoy the time you spend on the water. A great first fishing trip is about learning new things, sharing stories and having fun. This is how a novice angler can become a true enthusiast.

Call Captain Smiley Fishing Charters LLC. now to book your fishing trip.

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Captain Smiley Fishing Charters LLC.
4495 Baker St
Little River, SC 29566
(843) 361-7445

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