How to Save Money on Your Fishing Trip
Jun 17, 2019 | 6 minute read
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Everybody wants to have a memorable fishing experience, without spending a ton of money in the process. Now, you’re probably thinking that affordable fishing trips are cheaper for a reason – and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, some trade-offs are worth making. What’s important to you might not be important to the guy in the boat next to yours. What’s tricky is knowing which trade-off you can make, without losing out on your fishing opportunities. Today, you’re going to learn how to save money on your fishing trip.

a dollar bill on a fishing hook

The first thing you need to decide is what exactly you want out of your trip. This sounds simple enough, but is easier said than done. Start with your priorities and work your way down the list. You’ll find that your options start to narrow down rather quickly.

Where Your Money is Well Spent

For most people, the top priority is the quality of fishing. Perhaps you already know where you want to fish. If not, you’ll need to carefully go through potential locations and read some recent fishing reports until you find the perfect spot based on what you want to catch.

Even if you find a location where the fishing is hot, that doesn’t mean that your research is done. For example, you know that fishing in a renowned destination like Panama City will bring you loads of fish. However, you might want to check if a more affordable location like Apalachicola would cover your fishing needs too. Again, it comes down to knowing what you want.

Once you’ve picked your destination, you’re going to go through the potential fishing charters there. This is when it starts to get a little tricky. Each charter will have its own features and perks – but if you’re serious about quality, the first thing you’ll look at is customer reviews. This will give you an accurate picture of what you can expect from your captain, the mate, the boat, and pretty much everything else.

Where to Save Money

You now know where you want to fish, and you have a pool of charters you like – great. Now, on to the hard decisions.

The Boat

The boat you’ll be fishing from is very important. Mind you, ”important” doesn’t mean you should just drop loads of cash on booking a yacht. Here are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • Figure out what type (and size) of boat suits your needs for the day, and don’t bother booking a more luxurious boat unless it comes at a cheaper price (or the same price).
  • If you’re planning an outing in shallow waters, consider moving from a center console to a bay boat. Bay boats are perfect for navigating shallows, but can still withstand a bit of chop. You’ll have more comfort than on a simple skiff, without the price spike you might expect with a center console. Here’s a useful guide on different boat types.
  • Establish what amenities you need. Any women in your group will surely appreciate having an enclosed head. On longer trips, men will probably prefer one, too. However, an onboard bed, kitchen, and a multimedia system are something you could live without if you’re trying to save money.
  • Don’t go for fishing equipment you won’t be using. Outriggers may look cool, but if you’re just trying to bottom fish, what’s the point?
  • Engines. Powerful engines are great – they’ll get you where you need to be in no time. However, unless you’re heading 10 or more miles offshore, the amount of time you save traveling won’t make that big a difference. What you will feel is the price difference that comes with faster boats.

a flats boat

The things you should not compromise when it comes to your boat are deck space, build quality, safety equipment, and fishing gear you know you’re going to need. All of these factors contribute to a safe, comfortable, and productive day on the water.

Departure Time

Trip prices aren’t usually influenced by what time of day you set sail, but sometimes you’ll find a captain who offers cheaper trips in the afternoon. Deals like this give you the same amount of time on the water for less money. But there’s a caveat.

Fish behavior is highly dependent on tides and temperature. During spring, summer, and autumn, fish are most active during early morning and late afternoon, when they come out to feed. In most situations, midday means that the water is too hot and easier to see through, so the fish retreat into deeper waters. Therefore, if you’re going to book an afternoon alternative, go for a later departure time if you can.

fishing in the morning

This is not to say that you won’t catch anything in the afternoon. It just means that you’ll need to work a little harder for it. Unless you’re fishing on a rainy day, that is. During bad weather, wind, clouds, and rain limit the amount of sunlight that can penetrate the water. This will reduce the water temperature a little bit, and allow the fish to come closer to the surface. Whatever the case, this is where your fishing report research will prove invaluable.

In winter time, a midday start can actually be the best thing to do. During these cold months, the fish wait until the sun is up, and the waters get a little warmer, before they start feeding.

Time of The Week

This one is pretty straight-forward. Many fishing guides set cheaper prices for weekday trips, and leave more expensive trips for the weekends. This usually happens during high season, when people start lining up for fishing charters.

The one thing you should do when targeting a specific day of the week is book ahead of time. Good captains get booked in a hurry, so make sure you don’t miss out!

Sharing a Boat

Shared fishing trips usually take place on bigger vessels (aka “party boats” or “head boats” in some areas) which can accommodate large groups of people. Rather than relying on massive groups to book the whole boat at once, captains fill these boats by taking individual reservations. This allows one-to-two people to come aboard and join other anglers who also booked individual spots for themselves. Choosing a shared charter will cut the price of your trip like nothing else. For example, an eight-hour private trip in Saint Petersburg, FL can go for US $800–$1200. The same trip on a shared charter will only cost you $90 per person.

rods on a party boat

Elbow room is overrated anyway

Except, the trip won’t really be the same trip. There are a number of trade-offs to consider when choosing a shared charter. First of all, the crew won’t be able to give you a personalized experience, since they also have to cater to everyone else on board. Secondly, you’ll constantly need to make sure you don’t get your lines tangled with other anglers fishing at the same time. Alternatively, there may be a limit on how many people can fish at once, which means waiting your turn and catching fewer fish for yourself. Lastly, you won’t have a say in where you’d like to go. But there is a solution.

If you’re fishing on a budget, the best thing you can do is go for a shared trip on a regular charter boat. There are many fishing guides who provide this type of service, especially in the Gulf of Mexico. This way, you can have a half day trip for $125 instead of $550. These boats usually carry up to 6 anglers, so you’ll be sharing the experience with just a few more people and can still wet your line plenty of times. Who knows, maybe you’ll even make some friends along the way.

Fishing License

Last but not least, you can save money on fishing licenses. Every state has its own fishing regulations, but you’ll need a license to fish in almost all of them. On most days, that is. Many states have a “fish for free” day, so if you’re flexible with your dates, know that you’ll be able to save a lot of money just by booking your trip at the right time of year.

Another way to save money on licenses is to do a little research beforehand. Most states have one-day, multi-day, and annual licenses, with separate categories for residents and non-residents. On top of that, they offer big discounts for the elderly and kids, for veterans, and for the physically or mentally handicapped. Such factors, in addition to how long you plan on fishing, will help you figure out which license is most cost effective for you.

You can’t put a price on a good fishing experience. The memories and friends you make on your fishing trip can often last a lifetime. Still, saving a few dollars without having to sacrifice the experience is always a welcome bonus. All you have to do is choose what’s right for you. Your choice, is hopefully, now a little easier.

father and son fishing

So there you have it. Which of our tips do you think is best to save money on a fishing trip? What would you recommend to someone who’s fishing on a budget? Let us know in the comments below.

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