Setting Up a Charter Trip
By Dennis Doyle
One of the more pleasurable ways for a group of people to enjoy an adventure on the Chesapeake is to take a charter boat fishing trip for striped bass.
The first item to consider for most outings is the number of people going, which will inform the type and size of the boat needed. Most charter boat captains carry a six-pack license. That means they are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry up to six passengers on their vessel. Beyond the six-passenger rating there are additional Inspected Vessel Ratings for boats with greater capacities, but decide first how many you intend to include before you make inquiries. If you are researching online, be sure to read all of the information available on the charter’s website. It will answer many of your questions before you speak to anyone.
Your charter boat will have all the licensing necessary for guests fishing and the cruise. Be sure to inquire if fish cleaning services are included and that your guests know to bring zip-top baggies and a cooler of some type in their vehicles so that they may transport their catch back home.
Tackle is provided by most charters and it will simplify things greatly if everyone uses the charter’s equipment. There are two basic techniques utilized by charter boats for multiple anglers: trolling and chumming/bait fishing. With trolling, the boats will pull multiple lures behind to entice the fish to strike. Anglers will then take turns handling the rods and fighting the fish to the boat. The tackle is rather heavy duty but the fish can be as well. The only downside to this approach is that the angler is not always actively involved in the fishing process and if the bite is slow, it can become boring, though of course the company they are in should provide some distraction.
The second technique to consider is chumming and fishing cut bait or live lining. In this instance the angler will each have a rod and reel, instruction on how to handle the gear and will be expected to hook and fight their own fish. It is not overly complicated and is really the best way to accomplish everyone enjoying themselves.
Charters usually provide water but don’t usually have foul weather gear. Everyone should know if rain is a possibility to have a light raincoat, though the boat usually has at least partial overhead covering. Food and adult beverages during your voyage can often be negotiated.
One very important detail is to advise everyone to take motion sickness medicines with their breakfasts—you never know what type of weather will be encountered on the water. A bit of wind is a possibility anytime and once an episode of seasickness begins it is too late to medicate. It will also be prudent to have some on hand as people assemble at the boat in case anyone has forgotten. The captain will only have one option of dealing with an individual episode—ending the charter for everyone. This can be a serious consideration, do not ignore it.
Charter boat anglers have a special exemption to current rockfish regulations in that they can keep two fish over 19 inches. That is meant to ensure a continuation of the policy of encouraging everyone to enjoy the Chesapeake and allow as many as possible to participate in its outdoor adventures.
The second rockfish season has begun and the legal limit for stripers is 19 inches with a possession limit of one for recreational anglers but two fish for anyone engaging a commercial charter. The trophy season was short but seemed all the shorter for the nasty winds that continued to blow this month. There are still some big migrators cruising the Bay, however, so don’t discount the probability you can still hook up with a giant. Anything over 19 inches is legal. The white perch have moved into the creeks and river shallows with the advent of warmer weather so they too will add to the opportunities of enjoying a solid day on the water. Summer is here and the time is right for the great outdoors.