I love all things fishing: I love dreaming of fishing, talking of fishing, and reading about fishing. It’s almost as exciting to share memorable stories with friends as it is to actually reel the fish in; it allows you relive the experience.
There are a few differences between freshwater fishing and ocean fishing:
- First off, freshwater fishing is less commitment; you can get there when you want and leave when you want (which for me is still before sunrise until after sundown :-P).
- Freshwater is also less expensive as you can shore fish if you’d like or possibly rent a boat if it’s in your budget. Ocean fishing on a boat is more of an event, and unless you know someone with a boat, you’ll need to save some money and plan a charter trip to get out there.
- The biggest difference for me and my area though, is that ocean fishing allows me to go after some really, really, big fish. To me, this is completely worth the cost and effort put into these trips! Who wouldn’t want to fill their freezer with some giant bluefin or some yellowtail?
Some of you may have gone saltwater fishing before, while others may not live anywhere near an ocean. However, if you are interested in taking a vacation and going on a charter boat for a couple of days, there are some important things you will want to know.
PREPARATION & PLANNING
What to Bring?
I’ve detailed out all of the items I take with me on a charter trip; while this may seem a bit excessive/detailed, missing some of these essentials on my first couple trips did not make for a pleasant time.
You’ll want to pack weather appropriate clothing you don’t fear ruining. If you have a great day, fish blood will likely be everywhere. Keep in mind it is almost always colder than you anticipate on the ocean because of the breeze and water spray.
- Jeans with belt loops
- Shorts with belt loops (if it’s warm enough)
- Tank tops or t-shirts
- Long sleeve fishing shirts if you’d like; these often have up to 50 UPF protection from the sun and are great if you are prone to burning or even just want to further protect your skin
- Sweatshirt, jackets, or vests (wear layers; once you catch a fish, you’ll warm up quite quickly!)
- Neck protection – I personally use a lightweight neck gaiter
- Warm, thick socks that fit your boots (once again, weather-dependent)
Clean clothing for after showering the night after fishing (some boats have a shower; you can check before). If you’ve caught fish, you will possibly be covered in blood, slime, sweat, and all sorts of other grime. You will want to shower and put on clean clothes.
FYI – Most boats have a single bunk house, meaning you will most likely be sharing the bunk area with a bunch of men you don’t know, along with the crew. On some larger boats they have private or double occupancy staterooms, and if they do, you can ask for one of those. You can use the restroom for changing as needed.
I have never felt uncomfortable or unsafe on a charter, even when I have gone on my own as a single female. If you have any issues, please inform the crew or captain; they are there to make sure you are safe.
- Compact bath towel
- Travel-size toiletries such as bodywash, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, razor, q-tips, face wipes
- Pajama pants, sweat pants, or yoga pants are a comfy choice and will keep you warm (sometimes they blast the A/C in the bunks because of the amount of people)
- Tank tops
- Sports bras for lounging
- Warm socks
- Deck boots – I have a pair of XTRATUFs I love. They keep your feet dry and keep you from slipping on the deck. Also, they protect your feet from being stomped on or snagged by a hook/jig bouncing around on deck after a fish has been gaffed. These are often pricey at some fishing shops, look around and you may be able to find them for $65-80 instead of the $100+ many shops sell them for.
- You may opt for flip flops, sandals, or water shoes – Keep in mind the deck will be wet and regularly sprayed down; choose shoes that you won’t be slipping all over the place in and ones where your feet won’t slide out when wet.
- Call ahead to the landing and find out what the recommended line weight and hook size is and any lures that are biting if you’d like – lures are not required and are optional; the boat should provide live bait for you to use (always good to confirm when booking a charter though)
- Bring at least two different rod/reel setups so you can have different line weights set up for different fishing situations – you can rent at the landing if you do not have your own gear; you don’t want to have to re-line if fish are line-picky or breaking off light line
- Extra spools of line – you may wish to change line weight, or you may get broken off or your line thrashed, in which case you will need to replace – often times there is someone on the boat who can assist if you need help tying connecting knots. *Remember, your line is only as strong as the weakest knot; make sure those knots are tied correctly!
- Hooks – Ask at the landing (once again it depends on what you are fishing for).
- Variety of weights if you aren’t fishing fly line (bait only on the hook).
- Hand towel – They sell bait towels with carabiners that you can attach to your belt loop. When baiting your hook, your hands continually get wet/slimy so it is nice to be able to wipe off your hands some way other than on your clothing.
- Sunscreen – High SPF – I use Neutrogena Broad Spectrum 100+ SPF spray and love it. This is a lightweight, non-greasy formula and is one of the few that doesn’t make my skin feel gross. *Make sure to cover any exposed skin, INCLUDING hands and feet. These are areas many people forget and will not only shows signs of aging with excessive sun damage, but are also at high risk for skin cancer.
- Moisturizing lip balm with sunscreen – I cannot stress how much you will want this. The wind, water, and everything else will do a number on your skin. Use something to protect your lips.
- Polarized Glasses – Make sure they are polarized!
- Pliers and Pliers Sheath – These are a necessity in my eyes. You will need pliers/cutters for cutting heavy line, pulling hooks from fish, and many other odd things throughout your trip.
- Fishing License – You must purchase a fishing license prior to your trip. You can pick one up at many sporting goods stores or even at a shop at the landing before boarding; if you order online, keep in mind it can take a few weeks to get to you. If you do not purchase one for the year, make sure you purchase one for the entire number of days and the correct dates you will be fishing on your trip; you will also need the ocean fishing addition if you are in California. Check your states licensing rules before purchasing! Also, if you are traveling, for instance, into Mexican waters, ask if there is anything else you need for the trip and if the boat is providing it. Sometimes a passport or other special permits will be required.
- Sleep mask – If you are easily disturbed by lights, you may want to bring a sleep mask/eye cover to block out any external lights. Often the bunks are dark enough that people need to use flashlights to navigate through; if this would disturb your sleep, you’ll want to get the best sleep possible (if you’re not already too excited to sleep thinking about fishing like I do).
- A fitted Queen-sized bed sheet – I use one on every trip to cover the mattress; these are often a pleather, and gets really sticky feeling at night if it is warm.
- Koozie – If you will be drinking anything (soda, beer, etc.) in a can, I would bring a koozie so you can tell your drink apart from the many others on the trip.
- Coolers – If your boat allows you to bring a cooler and/or beer, I would recommend doing so; however, many do not allow your own personal drinks/food. Ask ahead of time. **However, always bring a few empty coolers and leave them in your car at the landing. there would be nothing worse to me than coming back with a lot of fish and having no way to transport it home! If you do catch and bring home fish, you can grab your cooler from your car and purchase ice at the landing. You’ll need enough for a few inches of ice below and on top of the fish; layer bags with ice between if you have a few bags of fish. Do not let the fish sit in fresh water; always be sure to drain off any melted ice.
- Colored Zip Ties – If you are not familiar with your rods or are renting, you may want to put a zip to around the base of the rod above the handle, so you can easily identify them. You can also put these zip ties on your bags to easily identify your property.
*Please consult your doctor before taking any of these medications. I am not recommending any of these medications; I am simply stating what I take with me on the boat.*
- Meclizine 25mg – I do not know if I get sea sick or not, as I already take this for vertigo. However, it is better to be safe and take something like this (brand name is Dramamine Less Drowsy) than to be sick over the side of the boat the whole time. I start taking it the day before my trip and it is one a day. I purchase the cheap, generic version at Walmart for a couple of dollars.
- Ibuprofen – In case of headache or dull pain/swelling.
- Small first aid kit with band-aids, antiseptic, and ointment in case of scratches, cuts, or nicks (very possible being around hooks for a day or two).
- Melatonin or something similar to assist with sleep; if you are not used to the rolling of a boat, some people may have a hard time sleeping (personally I sleep like a baby being rocked to sleep). Make sure if you take any, you take it early in the evening so your body isn’t trying to sleep when you need to wake up. Often times trolling rotations or fishing begins between 5:00-6:00 am, so I get up around 4:00-4:30 am to get dressed, brush my teeth, and have some coffee to start my day.
With this list, you will be much better prepared for a charter trip than I was on my first one. If you choose to venture off on an ocean charter, I’d love to hear about it! Hopefully you’re able to get on the fish and bring home plenty of tasty meals!