How to Become a Fishing Guide?

Do You LOVE the outdoors and fishing? Want to do Something You Love, maybe Become a Fishing Guide?

How to become a fishing guide

A HARD look at becoming a fishing guide

Can guiding work for you?

This is the most comprehensive truth about how to become a fishing guide you will find on the internet. Let’s start out with industry requirements, then progress into what it takes to be successful with the goal of being one of the best fishing guides.
As a professional fishing guide and/or boat captain, the language is the same. The term “fishing guide,” is typically used for fly fishing guides, inshore captains, and pretty much all freshwater fishing guides. The term boat captain or sometimes known as charter captain is used mainly in offshore boats or boats with a larger capacity. Why the name is different, the requirements are the same.

What’s required to be a fishing guide?

DMV Boat Registration

Before applying for your state or federal charter licenses, your boat must be registered at the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This is the exact location for your car registration and tags. The owner can only register the vessel unless you have a power of attorney document. Registration can be done online in some states, by mail, or at your local DMV office.

Most states have a leniency window of 30, 60, or 90 days for you to get registered and legal before they will start ticketing. Until then, always carry your bill of sale with you.

Registration of a boat is required in all states and costs anywhere from $25 to $100, even if you use it only on private waters. The trailer will also need to be registered depending on the state, like Florida. The trailer does not need to be registered in states like Georgia and others. And again, whether you’re a resident or non-resident, the price will be considerably more. If you are moving and transferring from one state to another, beware of the impact some states charge.

Boat Insurance

Again, every state is different, so check your local laws. In California and Florida, it is not mandatory to have boat insurance. But, if you plan fishing out of Bass Pro Shops or through a local marina, they most likely will require liability insurance. If getting liability, we recommend that you insure your boat and the equipment to be safe. This is not something you want to skimp on, one accident and you will be out of business.

State Guides License

In some states in the United States and even worldwide, you need a state license to operate a charter service legally or as a single guide. States like California, Pennsylvania, and others require a state guide license from the local Department of Wildlife. This could cost between $100 for residents or $539.00 for non-residents based on the state. Many other states, like Florida, only require a state license if saltwater charter fishing, and that license can cost between $250 and $800.

No state charter fishing license in Florida is needed for freshwater fishing, but your customers are required to buy a state fishing license. The saltwater license is costly but does cover all your customers, so they are not required to purchase a license. While the cost for them is not huge, the hassle of getting a license is like getting teeth pulled. Finally, you and your clients must purchase their local fishing licenses and any other stands that may be required.

Federal Guides License

You will also need a United States Coast Guard captain’s license for most locations. Navigable waters are waterways with GREEN and RED navigation markers designed for navigation and commercial traffic. This would include Lake Erie, all Intracoastal waterways, big lakes like Lake Okeechobee, and rivers like Sacramento River and St Johns River.

The coast guard license does have some basic qualifiers, age, experience, health, etc.; the top 6 are listed below; read all the requirements here.

  • Must be 18 years old
  • Must be able to document 360 days of experience on a vessel
  • Must have 90 of these days within the last three years
  • 90 of the 360 days must be on the ocean or near coastal waters, or the license will be limited to inland waters only
  • A license will be limited to uninspected vessels of less than 100 gross tons
  • If you are not a U.S. Citizen, you can receive this license, but it will be restricted to undocumented vessels.

Hurdles all fishing guides must overcome to be successful

How to become a fishing guide in Florida, Texas, California, Pennsylvania

Do you need the security of a 9 to 5 job?

As you might imagine, showing customers where “the big one lives” may not be the ideal job for the security-minded person looking for a strong 401K plan. Consequently, it may not be the reason you went to college and I am sure your degree wasn’t fishing related. This is why a lot of fishing guides are involved in a business outside of the fishing guide industry for additional income and security. Usually in the form of retirement pensions or some kind of off-season employment for security.

Having a “HOME BUSINESS”, have you ever owned a business? The Business of fishing is “Green,” can you afford to operate your business green? You can’t afford not to be in this industry, making a living in the fishing industry does nothing more than give you greater responsibility for the environment around you. If your fisheries go away, so does your job!

The hard reality

The reality is, that most destination for a fishing charter captain only provides months of great work. For example, Alaska is hot from June to August with unlimited work, after that what do you do? Lake Erie, the season is a bit longer, April to November if you’re lucky. This is why many captains tend to fish in the Northern Hemisphere in the summer and the Southern Hemisphere like FL, TX, CA, etc in the winter to extend their season of guiding. Every location has limitations, just some more than others.

Due to these reasons, you have the choice to reconsider doing this part-time or full-time. You really have only two options, operate a solo proprietor like many before you. Secondly, connect with an online lead generation company. The sole benefit, is you don’t pay a commission to anyone. The downside for most as a sole is consistency. As a partner, you have more dependability of work, no maintaining a website, social media, and working the phone 7 days a week and all hours of the night.

Most seasoned fishing guides or industry leaders feel that you must fish your local area body of water for years. Must be a regular angler before you’ll know the waters well enough to consistently produce fish for your clients. It takes time to learn the environment around you to “read the water” to know the various depths and hot spots. To “search out” just where and when the fish will show up. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.

What does it take to get started?

Getting established as a fishing guide requires some cash outlay for most people. Although it’s possible to save on your expenses by purchasing used equipment, boat, etc., guiding isn’t exactly the kind of business that can be started on a frayed shoestring budget.

“You’ll need a new or used vehicle (truck or SUV) that seats three to four people. Preferably four-wheel-drive (but not necessary). In many locations, you may need to transport your customers from location to location. Equipment, about 15 rods and reels of various sizes and styles based on where and what you are fishing for. An assortment of terminal gear, tackle boxes, line, hooks, lifevest, etc. Perhaps as much as $1,000 worth of fishing supplies, above and beyond the cost of your automobile and boat.

Don’t do it

Your first thought could be to have the tendency to buy cheaper equipment, some do. Most of them are not guiding any longer, or end up spending more in the long run. But I will advise you as the expert, to avoid buying stuff you wouldn’t use yourself, and for good reasons. Probably 80% of your customers will be inexperienced anglers, and such folks tend to wear out equipment faster.

So, good rods and reels last longer, besides it’s repairable and under warranty. Also with the boom in the fishing industry, anglers want to use the latest technology in equipment. The customer is much more informed these days, so don’t insult them with the cheap stuff.  To help with start-up costs, most big companies like Bass Online have partnerships with many of the industry companies for deep discounts on many of the great products you will need. Everything from rain suits, rods, and reels and an array of lures companies. So again, why buy the cheap stuff?

The life of a Fishing Guide, can you find HAPPINESS in doing this?

Reason to become a fishing guide

Read on…learn more about the life of a fishing guide.

Essential qualities

Nearly everyone who gets into guiding knows how to catch fish, some better than others. Know this will only get you so far. Again, if we were creating a ranking list, being an avid angler and knowing how to catch fish would be somewhere 3/4 of the way down the page of the priority list.

For the first-timer, the best attribute is patience. We hired Capt Mark, who was a bartender. He loves people, and they love him. Today, he’s one of the premiere fishing guides requested anywhere in the nation. Being able to communicate with someone at any level is important in a conversation. This has nothing to do with your education but more with communication skills, patience, and being able to adapt to all different kinds of situations and people as they change daily.

Perception is truth

To most people, looking from the outside, “it’s like having a dream job.” The industry has always had a rotation of new young guys who are really good at social media and personable and have a lot going for them. But, the failure rate is over 50%, as they realize it’s a lot of work. Also, as a guide, you won’t be fishing as much as you think. You will spend lots of time picking up rods, not casting them.

Cleaning the boat, rigging gear, and so on. You’re still out there every day hopefully, but not fishing for yourself. Then when a day off comes, most season guides don’t want to go fishing, really anything but fishing.

This career has to be all about the customers, the most successful guides are the ones who really appreciate somebody else catching the fish. You have to enjoy watching others succeed, or you won’t. There isn’t anybody interested in paying to watch a guide sit in a boat and fish. Even while many Captains keep trying the method and failing!

Diversity is the key?

In the old days, you could write articles and do other industry activities to produce additional income. Because of technology and competition, these options are no longer available as most guides do them for FREE just to keep up with the competition. Life as a full-time guide doesn’t always produce enough income for year-round living expenses. Most guides will give up the additional $$$$ for the additional exposure by published stories and reports that give their guide service exposure.

Why this surely doesn’t hurt your business, in most cases it provides a lot more benefit to the publisher. The time it takes to write the articles generally does not provide the ROI that it would if you were working on other parts of your business. Your decision to learn all aspects of fishing in your local area will have the largest impact by documenting everything because it is now key to success. Details, like where and how to live bait? What artificial lures to use? As well as becoming a fly fishing expert will help offset some of the downturn of simple economics alone.

For years, fishing guides managed to be specialized in one area for one species, like peacock bass, largemouth, snakehead, smallmouth bass, shark, etc. The industry no longer allows for such singular fishing abilities. Those guides are no longer with us, are they have adapted! Learn the most you can find a profitable supplement.” Again these are things that consistency of working all year round only comes to a select few.

The ability to learn different skill sets to help you master the art of fishing in your area. “Become the perceived expert, even if you are not.”

Can a fishing guide be successful as a business?

First, you should ask yourself. Do I, know how to start a business, not even a fishing guide business? Which should include start-up ideas and start-up costs? How to get and keep clients? Can I or do I know how to market myself? Where should you start?

If you can’t distinctly answer each one of those questions in detail, you may want to pause and get the answers first. Your failure to answer these questions will lead to your failure later. That’s a guarantee!

How to become economically independent?

Skilled anglers seldom have or even need the services of a fishing guide. Consequently, in your day-to-day operations, you will be servicing the majority of beginners, families, groups, and elderly folks. All of whom will require patience, kindness, and a good deal of encouragement throughout the trip. You will have older customers who would like to do most of their fishing from a chair and children who drop or even break rods and reels which happens with eager anglers.

Even the most experienced anglers can provide a memorable moment, maybe it’s a customer that goes into the water. Needless to say, patience and the ability to laugh in the face of adversity are important attributes for all great fishing guides to have. The ability to adapt and work with all these customers under the best and worst conditions will surely help your goal of being economically independent as a fishing guide.

Why consider joining our fishing network

Team Work to Become a Successful Fishing Guide

The power of a TEAM

Our fishing network cuts the learning curve for new guides, with years of experience, knowledge, and data. First of all, no other guide service in this industry has these stats. The sheer fact that we have more fishing guides on the water daily, in more locations than anyone else. That they work more days than others, allows us to produce more and bigger fish which we can guarantee.

What does this mean to you wanting to become a fishing guide? We are able to shorten your learning curve with our fishing network approach and get you profitable quicker. We build each captain a plan and stick to it, the plan has worked for over 20 years now.

You have the choice of being a solo independent fishing guide or joining a TEAM of like-minded anglers. After reading this article, hopefully, this helps you and others appreciate the value of fishing and participating in conversations regarding the outdoors on a daily bases. So how does that sound so far?  Great…right!

Continued reasons our fishing network system will work for you, we cut the labor-intensive hours out of being a guide with our technology systems. Spend more time fishing and focusing on the customers, go home relax with the family while others return home to phone calls, emails, and countless other tasks trying to find their next trip.

The industry’s harsh truth

Since we began the guide service in 1990, several other aspiring hopefuls quietly entered the profession. You could even say it was a boom of such and just as quietly many have fallen out of the industry once again. There are still some tackle shops that offer guides as a traditional add-on service. But many guides, marinas, tackle shops, groups, and fishing organizations have deteriorated with the tech boom.

Now many have joined forces with our fishing network-knowing our successful network is around to stay and it’s better to join than compete against us.

The same concept works for either part-time vs full-time guides because of its full proof. Listen, if you don’t know this there is a war on the internet. In the last few years, there have been many internet booking websites and today there continue to be more. While the promises are grand, 99% have are will go out of business. In a not shell, if they can’t get you to work, what good are they?

Many promises of huge results and hope to fish guides everywhere. We all learn in life early, there is nothing for FREE. These sites become a revolving door for fishing guides hoping to make it in the industry, they USE the fishing guide industry for their commission profit only. This NEVER happens consistently, they have no interest in your survival, and you are just a booking number.

Do you have training?

Yes, no fishing guide we have gets to take our customers on the water without first being trained on our system and fishing guide procedure and industry etiquette. That’s both on and off the water.  We also have quarterly reviews and mandatory yearly meetings to evaluate the overall business and local regions. Evaluate the industry and our guides to effectively continue to service the customer, environment, and industry in the best possible way.

Why join our TEAM – Yes, it’s FREE!

If you are still reading at this point you may have what it takes to answer, how to become a fishing guide. While we are accepting fresh new fishing guides all the time, we also like to add experienced fishing guides that are tired of struggling and want to be part of our TEAM. Have your own clients, no problem. Have your own website, no problem. We do have limited availability in some areas, but we are also always expanding to new areas. This you can find out more by clicking here and filling out the contact form.

With nothing to lose or a better question is “What will you lose, if you don’t join?” Even if you have a job, maybe this would be a great additional part-time income. An additional career for after you retire? It does not cost anything to become a fishing guide in our service and you only pay us when or if you accept a fishing trip.

How to Become Fishing Guide Reviews

Great Place and Lake

Lake Apopka
This place is a well hidden secret. A huge variety of fish, birds, bunnies and not to forget big bass and lots of alligators in every size can be seen. No fences in their natural habitat.
- Torsten Dreier

Everglades with Captain Kirk

Kirk Osborne
I have been on numerous trips with this company and they have all been great. However this past trip on 05/06/24 was the best trip I have ever been on. The biggest reason for this was Captain Kirk Osborne who shared his knowledge of fishing as well as taking the time to get to know me as a person and making me feel welcome. This place to fish was also phenomenal. Captain asked do you want to catch fish right away or do you want to go for a little ride and catch more fish. I opted for the later and after a nice trip through the Everglades we were fishing. On the very first cast which I caught a 3 pound peacock to the very last where a caught a very nice oscar it was fun exciting and enjoyable. We caught somewhere between 70-90 fish and multiple species, was able to see multiple alligators and even got to see a python snake. The captain taught me a new way to fish and after demonstrating and showing me how to do it I was reeling them in left and right. I assure you this will definitely be a place I return to and Captain Kirk is definitely at the top of my list for a return trip. Thanks for the memories and fellowship Captain.
- Scott Burton

Erie bass with Captain Mark Rose

Mark Rose
If you’re thinking about booking with Captain Mark Rose definitely go for it! In a six hour trip with him we caught easily over 50 fish. My son caught more fish with Captain Mark in a single day than any other day he has ever fished! He knows the spots, gets you on fish, and keeps the action going all trip!
- JC DePaolo
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