Starting your Own Successful Charter Business for Fishing

A successful charter business for fishing can be fun and it can be profitable! However, you need to make sure you know the essential elements so you can make good decisions. Deciding if it is a good option for you to consider is important. You also need to determine your target audience of consumers, the startup costs, and the potential for growth. Understanding the legal aspects can help you do it correctly from the beginning!


There can be wonderful potential for a charter fishing business if you own a boat and the other necessities. There are so many people who love to go fishing, but they don’t have the money for a boat of their own. They often don’t have the items they need to go any further than the shore for those experiences. Hiring you to take them out to great locations where they can have a wonderful fishing experience is worth their time and money.

Is this Business Right for you?

It is vital to make sure a fishing charter business is a good match for you. While you may be passionate about fishing, do you want to share that with others? Do you have excellent locations where you can take time? Will you may safety a priority? Are you good with scheduling and showing up on time? Those who hire you will expect a wonderful experience from start to finish. You will have to make sure you do all you can to help them gain knowledge and to have a great outcome.

What to Expect on a Typical Day

There is plenty of hard work that goes into any successful fishing charter business. Are you up for it? You will have to be up early each day to take care of getting bait, supplying ice, and fueling up your boat. You will need to look at the weather and the overall conditions for fishing. You will need to make sure you are at the designated location at the marina on time to meet your customers for that day.

It is your responsibility to share safety information with them. Everyone on board must wear a life jacket. It is a good idea to greet them, and to walk them through what the day will entail. You will need to help them with baiting the hooks and reeling their lines. You may need to assist them with reeling in catches too. The ice needs to be there to keep the fish they catch cold until you return to shore at the end of the excursion.

Some charter businesses offer to help the customers with cleaning and packing their fish once they return to shore. It is a good business to offer them these additional perks. Once they are gone for the day, you still need to inspect your boat and clean it up so it is ready for the next day. You will have to decide if you are going to do this all on your own or hire any employees to assist.

Identify your Niche Market

In order to do well with a charter fishing business, you need to identify your niche market. Then you will need to have marketing in place to successfully reach them. Your audience is going to be those with a love of fishing as well as money to spend for those services you offer. You get to determine your prices based on your boat, your location, the demand, and even the prices of your competitors in the area.

Potential for Earnings

The amount of money you can make with your charter fishing business will vary. There are many elements that play a role in this. Ideally, the more days out of the year you have someone scheduled to take out, the more money will make. How much you charge is also going to influence your earnings. Keep in mind, your profit will be what remains after your expenses. You will need to pay for supplies, for marketing, and for any help you hire. If you don’t own your boat, there are also those payments.

Setting your Prices

Take your time to set the prices for your charter fishing business. You don’t want to be so cheap you aren’t making any profit. However, if your prices are too high, you may find your schedule is quite empty, and you aren’t making anything those days. You can offer prices by the hour, half day trips, and full day trips. When you build a solid reputation in this industry, consumers don’t mind paying a bit more for a fantastic experience.

Growth Potential

Typically, such operations are going to stick with only one boat. There are those that have a couple, but they are few and far between. You may decide to grow in other ways such as operating each day. If you want a few days off per week, you can hire someone to take out the customers on those other days. You should strive to have a full schedule all the time too.

For example, you can take out two sets of customers for half a day each. On other days you can take someone out for a full day excursion. You should strive to keep the calendar full as that shows your business is growing. Providing an outstanding experience is going to gain you new customers through reviews and word of mouth. It will also result in repeat customers who want that experience again.

Successfully marketing your charter fishing business is important. People can’t book such an excursion with you if they don’t know about it. Make sure you have a wonderful website, you use social media, and you strive to branch out with where your marketing exposure takes place. As you make more profits, invest some of that back into additional marketing for the business.

Skills and Experience to Qualify you as an Expert with a Fishing Charter Business

A love of fishing isn’t enough for you to do well with this type of business. You need the right skills and experience to be considered an expert. Those looking for a charter boat are going to be interested in your credentials. In most instances, you will need to obtain a license through the United States Coast Guard to operate such a business.

There are several different types of licenses though. The one you will qualify for depends on your type of boat and how many people it can hold at full capacity. Another factor that influences the type of license is the distance from the shore you plan to take individuals out on those excursions.

There are several courses you can consider taking, but make sure it is approved or it won’t qualify for you to obtain such licensing. A complete list of them is found as a directory at the National Maritime Center website for your convenience. You will need to know all of the safety regulations and your boat must pass an inspection.

You should be an expert when it comes to fishing in order to be able to share your knowledge with those who rent your services. The business side of a successful charter fishing business can be tricky and something you aren’t familiar with yet. You will need to learn what has to be done as well as best practices.

How much does it Cost to get Started?

You will incur some startup costs for this type of business. They must be paid before you dive in and start operations. You will need to legally set up the business and there will be some fees involved with that. Getting your license through the United States Coast Guard also requires a fee. If you don’t already have a boat, you need to lease or finance one for purchase. You will need funds for marketing and for insurance.

It all depends on what you already have in place and what you still need to purchase. Those individuals who already own a boat will find it costs them far less to start a successful fishing charter business. They will also be able to keep more of what they earn as profit rather than it going to pay for business related expenses. Don’t forget you will need to pay for fees to dock your boat each night and the applicable fishing license costs too.

It can be a good idea to make a list of all the expenses you will need to cover to get started with this type of business. Next, you can spend some time identifying the cost of them. Make some phone calls and comparisons but you should always estimate on the higher end. You may decide buying a used boat that has been well cared for is a better investment than buying a brand new one. If you have money saved up, you can use that to get started. Otherwise, you may need to complete a detailed business plan and request a loan.

Step by Step

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed, but you do need to make sure you get all of the steps covered. Here is an overview of what you need to take care of:

  • Plan the details – What do you plan to offer? How much is it going to cost to get you started? Who is your target niche market? How long will it be before you make any profit?
  • Legal aspects – Make sure you set up the business in a legal manner. This protects your personal assets from being compromised should anyone sue your business.
  • Taxes – Set up your business so you are in compliance with the tax laws pertaining to operating a business. The laws vary from state to state. Federal laws are also different.
  • Business account – It is important to keep your business finances separate from your own. Open up a business account. Set up your accounting method to keep track of income and expenses for the business.
  • Licenses and permits – Verify the types of licenses and permits you legally need to have. Follow the procedures to apply for them.
  • Business insurance – You will need to get various types of insurance for the business. This is to cover any injuries on the boat. Find out what is legally required where you reside. If you hire employees, you may need to obtain workers compensation insurance too.
  • Branding – What do you want your business to represent? Start working on branding so consumers can become familiar with your name and your logo.
  • Marketing and presence online – You need a well-designed website and plenty of information about the business on it. Use the various platforms of social media to share information about your business and to market effectively for a low price.

Mentoring can be a Wonderful Support System

You may feel a bit alone and overwhelmed starting your own fishing charter business. It can be useful to look into a support system through a mentor. Find such business resources and networks in your area. This will help you to avoid common pitfalls and to put the pieces in place for a successful business from the very beginning.

Tips for doing well in this Type of Business

You want your fishing charter business to thrive, and you need to do it correctly for that to happen. Make sure you look for a boat that offers a flat bottom. You should get one with an engine. While they do cost more, they can be very important for carrying out this type of business. A diesel engine will help you to reduce your costs because they take less fuel.

Market your Business

It is going to take time to build up your reputation and to gain new customers. You aren’t going to be booming overnight! You will find the majority of our business is due to repeat customers or someone hearing how great an experience was from someone they know. Make sure you do your part to marketing the business. Get the information out there so consumers know you exist! You can also partner with travel agencies and sports clubs in the area who will help to promote what you offer.

Make sure you operate your business with integrity. Don’t be tempted to cut corners to save some time or money. You need customers to be very happy so they will return. You need them to share good information about your business out there! Earning a reputation as a great provider of such services will help your business to thrive.

Creating a Team

In the early stages of the charter fishing business, you can handle everything on your own. However, you are soon going to need help. This includes someone to answer the phone and answer email questions. You are out there on the boat with customers, and you can’t take care of the other end of it at the same time. Someone to help with such customer relations and keeping up with the books for the business is ideal.

Hiring a first mate may be important to you. They can help customers on the fishing boat. They can help you to get everything ready in the morning and to clean up at night. As your business grows, you will find you have the funds to cover paying for this greatly needed and appreciated help!

Legal Aspects

You never want to leave the door open to get into legal trouble! As a business owner, it is your responsibility to find out what is needed and to get it in place. If your charger boat has room for 7 passengers, not including the crew, it must be licensed with the United States Coast Guard. Anyone operating such a business, regardless of the size of the boat, is mandated by the United States Coast Guard to have a captain’s license.

The United States Coast Guard has the right to inspect any fishing boat at any time in order to ensure overall safety and security for all. There are both state and local businesses requirements, including licensing you need to be aware of. Find out which licenses and permits are required in your location for you to legally conduct business there.

You may be required to collect and pay taxes on such services for this type of charter business. Find out about any sales tax laws you need to comply with and the procedure for doing so. You don’t want to get into trouble with the IRS for not doing your taxes correctly.

Legal Agreement

It is very important every person that is on your charter boat has signed a legal agreement. This states they understand the cost, the risks, and the services offered. Make sure you have an attorney review the legal agreement too because it has to be in full compliance with all of the laws and regulations.

Potential to make Money

You have the potential to make plenty of money as the owner of a successful fishing charter business. Work hard to lower your overhead, offer exceptional services, and market to get people to book with you. The amount of money you can charge depends on location and the competitive prices of others in the same area. You may have stipulations based on the number of people or the number of hours they are going out on the boat with you.

The amount you charge also has to be sufficient to cover your overhead expenses. You won’t be able to remain operational if you are paying out more than you bring in. On average, such a business is able to earn about 25% profit annually based on going out approximately 200 days per year. This profit is after the captain has been paid and all business expenses paid.

To help you make even more money, you may decide to branch out with what you offer. For example, you don’t have to stick with just the fishing aspect of it. You may use your charter boat to offer excursions such as sightseeing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Make sure you are fully in compliance with what it takes to offer such adventures!