Booking a charter boat

by Gethyn Owen

Holyhead charter skipper Gethyn Owen knows it takes more than a quick phone call to ensure the best possible chances of a successful day’s charter boat fishing. Here he offers some sound advice on how to go about organising a rewarding day at sea.

Booking a charter boat is surely a simple matter of picking a date, phoning the skipper and booking the boat… isn’t it? The short answer is NO, and certainly not if you want to give your party of anglers of the very best chances of catching their target species and enjoying the best possible day out. A rewarding day’s boat fishing is not likely to happen when an impromptu booking is made with no real consideration to what is desired from the day. In the first instance it takes considerable work in advance to research the venue, the skipper and boat, and thereafter to stack other odds such as tides and times in your fishing favour.

Holyhead charter boat MyWay heads to sea

Before starting out, have a good look at the port that you intending to sail from. Take account of word-of-mouth, the angling press and the Internet. Gleaning as much information as possible will help you to locate the correct boat to suit your angling requirements. My experience as both a trip organiser and a skipper show that even your best mates can sometimes let you down at the last minute. An unforeseen circumstance can render anyone unable to attend. In such an event the boat still needs to be paid for at the price agreed, so it makes massive sense for the trip organiser to collect boat monies from anglers well in advance of the actual fishing day. To do otherwise could leave a rather large hole in the organiser’s personal pocket and is not fair to anyone.

Rolling Deposit System

When agreeing to go ahead and book a boat with mates, everyone should agree to at least pay a deposit to the organiser – whether this is the whole amount or perhaps half is a matter for the group to decide. When making multiple bookings, say six across 12 months for example, the best method I have seen to protect everyone involved is the rolling deposit. Here everyone in the party/club pays the organiser a cash deposit… normally his price of one full charter, e.g. £40 per individual. Then on the day of the first trip, everyone pays the full price, and the £40 deposit rolls over to the next trip. If someone fails to show, the organiser uses his or her £40 to cover the place if a replacement cannot be found. That person then needs to firstly repay his or her rolling deposit to be reinstated as a member of the party for the next trip. Come the last trip, everyone can either redeem their rolling deposits or carry them forward to the following year.

a goup of angler enjoying a properly booked charter boat trip

With the crew and payment method sorted you next must decide on the type of fishing that the group want to do and what boat to charter. Now is the time to call the skipper to discuss his thoughts, boat availability and the expected fishing – remember that there is no need to book the boat there and then. Give the skipper any dates that you have in mind to check availability and suitability for particular species. Some skippers list available dates on their websites. I do this as does the likes of Tony Parry on the Jensen operating out of Rhyl, but bear in mind that dates change daily and lists might not be bang up to date. If we are at sea all week it is sometimes hard to find the time to keep these lists updated on a regular basis. Please note that I wrote “call the skipper”. A phone call or even an email (although the latter may not get answered straight away), are far better forms of communication than text messaging. Most professional charter skippers would agree that a text message is a rather rude and impersonal approach, so please don’t do it. Remember that it is your job to talk to the skipper, not his to call you back on some anonymous number.

an angler enjoys a day on a charter boat

Assuming your date is free it is then best to discuss the type of fishing sought. Most ports have different tides and times of year for example that fish better for certain species. On a personal note, when talking to new customers I think it is always best to talk through your expectations and wishes for the day. I often get calls asking for dedicated cod trips for example, and while my port of Holyhead gets odd codling up to 4lb, they are irregular and I could never take a trip out to target just cod. No point in lying to you, if I cannot offer you what you want on that particular day, it is best you look elsewhere, and then maybe give me a try for another type of fishing another time. A skipper will soon be found out if telling porky pies, and you’ll never be back. Bad word of mouth is damaging for business and negative reputations travel quickly in this digital age and tend to stick.

Rookies and Experienced Hands

Be upfront about the abilities of your crew, when booking a new charter boat, and don’t be afraid to tell the skipper if boat fishing is new to one or all of the party, especially if you need to hire tackle as not all boats offer rods and reels. More importantly, the skipper needs to plan the day to ensure you get the most from it. Off the north Wales coast we drift on a regular basis over inshore reefs for pollack and wrasse. If it is your first time with a rod and reel in your hand, this type of fishing is near impossible to master immediately. There is nothing more demoralising to a crew than losing rig after rig and not catching any fish.

a bunch of individuals on a charter boat

Most skippers – but not all – offer regular tea and coffee through the day – check if this is the case with the one that you’ve booked. Regardless, it is always good policy to take a flask or a bottle of water with you. An ample supply of food should also be carried as you will get hungry out in the fresh sea air.”Can we bring a few beers Skip?” is a common question, and one that makes my hair stand on end. My view is that beer at sea is very bad policy. I can appreciate that a tinny might go down well on a hot summer evening, but this is a sure recipe for sea sickness and other unwelcome problems. If you book a boat to go fishing, do just that and leave the ale behind.

Most boats have an onboard toilet, but there are still a few that do not. I am sorry if this sounds sexiest but toilet arrangements really should be taken into account, particularly if there are any lady anglers in your party.

Bait and Booking

good food aboard a charter boatThere are always questions regarding bait that need to be answered in advance. Do I need to bring bait? Are there plenty of fresh mackerel about? Should I buy worms or maybe squid? These are all common enquiries that will be met with different answers depending on the time of year and the trip in question. The skipper can often make arrangements to supply bait for your outing, and any additional costs need to be factored into your trip. Remember, there is no such thing as a silly question… for the most part anyway.

Some skippers offer a booking form which makes life easier for all concerned and guards against any mistakes. If you complete the form on my website and send it with your deposit, I will have a full record of your details, including name, address, telephone numbers and as well as a note outlining your requirements for the day. In return I send a letter in receipt of the deposit. You should always insist on this when sending a deposit – that way you have documented proof of the transaction.

I hope this all makes sense. In a nutshell, I’m preaching talk to your skipper. Detail your requirements and discuss the day. Any skipper worth his salt will be only too willing to discuss matters to ensure that he can offer you the best service. I would like to sign off with a little advice on p
rotocols: if you are off a mind to call at 10.30pm on a Saturday night because you wondered what the fishing was like then you are likely to be met with an angry response. Equally, leaving a telephone message at 02.00 because you are working nightshift doesn’t go down well either.

If you are interesting in trying the excellent boat fishing from Holyhead in north Wales then check out Gethyn Owen’s website.

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