The scenario sounds perfect: a nice spot by the water, a cozy chair, perhaps a cold drink in hand. Everything goes according to plan, until three hours pass and no fish seem interesting in your bait and reel. For those fishing novices, it may feel like a waste of time or that there’s something wrong with their technique.
For those looking to make a catch or for those simply seeking a new way to explore the area, perhaps it’s time for a charter fishing expedition.
Charter fishing excursions are trips led by fishing experts who know how to catch fish, where to find them and which fish types of fish are nearby.
“We come across 30 (different types of fish) during the course of a year,” said Steve Gale, captain of Captain Hook Party Fishing. “The fish here are transient; they’re like the tourists. They come and go.”
With so many fish to choose from, it’s Gale’s job to help all aboard make a memorable catch. An average charter trip Gale leads lasts five-and-a-half hours, and his boat holds up to 60 people.
At the start of each trip, Gale instructs everyone on how to use their rod and reel, how to bait their hook and everything else needed. Even for first timers, Gale makes it easy to learn. In fact, he actually prefers those who are a blank canvas.
“I would rather teach them how to fish right here off Hilton Head than have someone from New York or Boston,” he said. “They know what they know, but not here.”
After the instructions, the boat locates a nice spot and everyone spreads out to begin the hunt, though it often takes awhile for some people to find a comfort zone.
“Usually when they put in first, it’s a disaster,” said Gale. “But after 10 minutes they start to get it and we have a good time.”
Gale mostly seeks fish that customers can take home and cook, but every day is different. Sometimes people catch mostly trout, some days black drum, and other days it’s black bass.
“First of all, they don’t expect to catch anything,” Gale said. “And then when you do catch a good one, you’re somewhat elated.”
By the end of the tour, Gale expects everyone to leave with at least one fish in hand, though he tells everyone not to have any expectations beforehand.
“There is no average,” he said. “They’re not in a barrel or a bucket. We’re fishing in the open wild ocean.”
For a list of local charter fishing boats, visit www.hiltonheadmonthly.com/charters
Here are some charter fishing tips from Sea Wolf Charters:
- Send in the deposit as soon as you book your trip.
- Bring your own sunscreen, seasickness remedies, coolers, hand towels and extra clothing.
- Treat the boat like your own home.
- Bring bananas. Sounds weird, but fishermen swear they are bad luck on a boat.
- Wear shoes with hard or black soles, which may leave scuffmarks on the deck. Sneakers and deck shoes are OK.
- Get upset when the captain moves off a spot where you are catching fish. This is often done to keep a certain wreck or reef from being overfished.
- Wait until the last minute to book a trip. Plan on booking six months to a year in advance for a weekend trip; weekday charters can often be booked two to three months in advance.
- Expect to stock your freezer on a one-day trip.
- Demand to catch a certain size fish or a certain number of fish. Fishing is fishing and there are no guarantees.
- Expect to pay less if you come home empty-handed, unless this is negotiated before the trip.
- Expect an eight-hour trip to mean eight hours of fishing. The stated length of the charter includes running time to and from the fishing grounds.
Local charter fishing groups
Hilton Head Harbor RV Resorts
Offers inshore fishing on 20-foot flat boats. There's also the Fiesta, a refurbished classic boat custom-made in 1973. Don’t let the age fool you though; everything is clean and new.
Capt. Hook Party Fishing Boat
Shelter Cove, Hilton Head
The Capt. Hook is a 70-foot party fishing boat. It has a full galley, enclosed cabin, shaded and seated fishing areas, two restrooms and sunbathing on the upper deck.
South Beach Marina, Sea Pines
The Drifter is a 60-foot long party fishing boat. Everything needed for fishing is provided, including rod and reel, bait, instruction and fishing license.
Catmandoo, Gullah Gal, Bayrunner
Family fishing fun; something for everyone on this fleet.
Fishin’ Coach Charters Inc.
Palmetto Bay Marina, Hilton Head
Inshore fishing is done out of a 22-foot Century Bay boat with a wrap-around deck that makes for easy maneuvering for several people. Offshore fishing is done from the 28" Pursuit which can handle 6 people.
Harbour Town Yacht Basin
Just 10 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean, the fleet will guide you to fertile fishing grounds. Offshore and shark fishing trips available.
Palmetto Bay Marina, Hilton Head
The Mighty Mako is a custom-built boat. Designed specifically for fishing, it has plenty of room.
Off The Hook Charters
Point Comfort Road, Hilton Head
Capt. Brian Vaughn is a unique charter guide. He’s not only a professional fisherman, but is also an artist who practices the ancient Japanese fish print technique known as Gyotaku. So after you make a catch you could also have a print made.
Outside Hilton Head
Shelter Cove, Hilton Head
In-shore fishing focuses on the local redfish. Spin or fly casting is available with expert guides in flats boats or power catamarans appropriate to group size and conditions.
Pole Cat Charters
Behind Hudson's, Hilton Head
Inshore, offshore, sunset or shark fishing packages are all available to educate and entertain every vacationer, from the novice angler to the most experienced fisherman.
Redfish Charters LLC.
As the name implies this charter specializes in catching redfish. These fish are available year round, are not hard to catch and are good to eat.
Sea Wolf Charters
Experience charter fishing on a 35-foot Power-Cat. Hit the Gulf Stream for some blue water fishing with Captain Wally and experience fishing charters consisting of but not limited too sport fishing, bait fishing, trolling and bottom fishing.