Tips on How to Book a Fishing Charter— Part 1

I recently had a conversation with a client about how challenging it was to decide on a fishing charter for their vacation in The Florida Key. It was their first time coming to Key Largo and they wanted to have a positive booking experience for their fishing trip. Over the past few years, The Florida Keys has become flooded with fishing charters- deep sea and back country fishing charters. In light of that, this is Part 1 of a blog series to help shed some insight on booking a fishing charter.

Should I use a fish charter booking company like

We will be very honest and transparent here because no one talks about this online booking service. And there are a lot of hard-working captains and mates in this industry that don’t have a voice.

When we started our charter in 2012, Good Karma Sportfishing in The Florida Keys, we used They were new, and so were we. We quickly learned that they take a percentage of the cost of the charter and control the payment to us. It was 10-30%; therefore, we didn’t use the online booking service very long.

Sharing another article we found online about

The percentage varies based on the marketing and support they give you.

As a business, in fairness, needs to make money too.

However, they are just a website company who has heavily focused on SEO over the years to rank higher in search to book fishing trips. Rank higher than the charter captains and target people who don’t want to spend a lot of time researching and reading about positive and negative experiences.

The average person, especially a tourist who doesn’t fish or own a boat, doesn’t realize all the overhead, time (prep and on the water), knowledge, and value that goes into a fishing charter.

The margins on most fishing charters are slim. People that are new to sportfishing don’t realize this at all. They assume that a charter that costs $1,000, “Wow, that captain must be making bank!”

Nope. Hence, many captains continue to add to their fleet or branch out into other services or products.

Regarding the tip, captains hope for a 20% tip as many go the extra mile and hope you have a positive experience, but that tip percentage doesn’t always happen. Also, the tip typically helps with some of the expenses.

These are some of the expenses a typical fishing charter may be incurring that, again, an average person doesn’t realize:

  • Dock slip fees— which vary by marina
  • Paying the mate(s) a small base
  • Insurance which is $1,500 or more per year
  • Fresh or frozen fish bait and/or chum
  • Fishing Line (average cost for quality line is $80 a spool)
  • Fishing lures, hooks, and rigs
  • Weights
  • Engine mechanical service (which is far more expensive than an oil change and varies by the number of engines)
  • A new engine is roughly every three years, costing about $32K each plus installation.
  • Rods/Reels- which are pricey, to begin with, and often break
  • Boat repairs include fixing the deck, cushions, outriggers, etc.
  • Tipping people at the marina help keep an eye on your boat.
  • Boat cleaner, which can cost on average $40+ a cleaning
  • Security cameras, service, and Wi-Fi
  • Social Media and marketing- even if they use a service like they should also be marketing on their own via a website, etc.

Oh, and let’s not forget “weather is the boss.” Hence, having a consistent fishing schedule in the charter fishing world isn’t the same as having a store or restaurant that can be open during all sorts of weather.

No one gets paid if a fishing charter is canceled due to inclement weather.

We have seen that some captains rely on to market their business.

If you are a charter captain, we strongly suggest taking some time to create a simple website ( is a great resource) and some other marketing as you do not control or own the booking site.

Long term, you would be investing in your business vs. someone else’s.

Final thought—If you find a captain you like on, you may want to consider contacting them directly, if not the first time but if you book them again.

Hope this helps shed light on how to book a fishing charter and if you should use a booking service or contact a fishing charter directly.

PS- We recommend using