For those seeking an inexpensive, hassle-free day on the salt water, or those looking for an introduction to fishing the deep blue sea, a party charter can be just the ticket.
Conducted on boats in the 65-foot range, party charters usually host 30 to 40 fishermen and target species like snapper, grouper, amberjack and other deep-feeding fish. Besides being great fun to catch, they make excellent table fare as well. Snapper, among other species, are currently in season and may be kept up to a preset limit.
Unlike trolling adventures for marlin or tuna, hooks are outfitted with cut bait and fished above heavy sinkers just off the bottom. Fishing depths may run 120 to 180 feet or more. A day on such a trip generally begins with a run of 90 minutes or so out of port, followed by stops at a number of hot spots ranging as far as 30 miles off shore.
Once the captain confirms fish holding around structure at pre-scouted points, he gives the signal to commence fishing, then another signal later to reel in when it’s time to move on.
While party charters don’t offer the fighting- chair action associated with blue marlin and other big game of the sea, they offer much more continuous fish-catching action and don’t carry remotely the same price tag either. A full day on a party charter should cost $100 or less per person, half-day trips run a little less than that, and the only thing participants have to bring is their lunch and drinks. The fee covers fishing license, fuel, bait and the use of already-rigged fishing tackle, not to mention the captain and crew’s expertise and assistance. Frequently the crew cleans the catch at the end of the day as part of the deal as well.
With 40 people dropping lines more than 100 feet down next to one another, one would think tangles would happen on a continuous basis but, while they do occur from time to time, it’s not at all the debacle one might imagine. With a well-trained crew on hand to sort out these and any other difficulties, a day on the water this way is generally a lot of fun.
Working for fun
Fishermen new to a full day offshore should be aware that it is still fishing, some days are better than others, and it does require significant effort. The greater reward of offshore fishing comes at the price of a greater challenge.
Most charter boats have an air-conditioned interior cabin for those who need to take a break but, to get the most out of the experience, fishermen need to be ready to adjust to a deck rolling with the waves and be prepared to handle moderately heavy gear, reeling hard and fast when they do get a bite and reeling in to re-bait frequently. Adults who bring youngsters along for the ride should expect to give up a good bit of their own fishing time to help their child out.