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How to Start a Fishing Charter Business

Do you want to start a charter fishing business? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a charter fishing business with NO money and no experience plus a sample charter fishing business plan template.

For a lot of people, living on the coast is something that is more than just a dream. But majority of those people do not know that it can also be an incredible business opportunity. When the seas are close by, knowing how to start a fishing charter business can be an easy way to generate some extra money.

To start this business, all you need is to get a boat, the licenses and permits that will let you fish and transport customers, and enough insurance to cover you should something tragic happen.

If you have plans of starting this business, then note that you need to know the patterns of the local sea biomass. Also your knowledge of access fishing areas that aid individuals catch the fish they expect to catch when they hire you will help to keep business booming.

It is very necessary to state that in coastal areas, fishing charter companies provide access to a variety of offshore fishing locations to locals and tourists. If you love water and fishing, and enjoy spending time with different types of people, starting a fishing charter business may be a good business opportunity for you.

Indeed becoming a small business owner can be exciting and can have rewards in the future. But no matter how enticing it may seem, one needs a detailed business plan in order to be successful. You also need to follow the laws and policies set up by the government, and you equally need to have a good marketing strategy for it.

When starting your own charter fishing business, catching a fish is one factor that you need to take into consideration. You also need to be a good captain of the charter boat.

The end point is that you need to learn more than just catching fish and being a good captain. This is because we believe that the charter fishing business has become popular especially for those people living along the coast, and can mean a lot when it is well planned.

Steps to Starting a Charter Fishing Business

1. Understand the Industry

Businesses in this industry provide charter fishing services or party fishing boat services. Note that the services provided are usually local and involve same-day return to place of origin. Reports have it that over the past five years, the charter fishing industry struggled to recover from the recession. But as the economy improved, incomes increased and spending on recreational activities moved up.

Also while a growing economy did increase demand for industry services, its fragile condition caused consumers to stop discretionary spending for activities such as paying for boat charters, limiting revenue growth. Escorts believe that in the next five years, that the industry revenue will finally surpassed pre-recession levels.

They also stated that revenue will rise and small and medium businesses will fare better than the past five years. Nonetheless, the industry is projected to face stiff competition from other forms of recreation, threatening demand of the industry and its activities.

It is also important to state that the offshore fishing services include bottom fishing, reef fishing, drift fishing and pelagic fishing services. This segment is expected to account for 53.1% of industry revenue in 2016. These services rank among the most popular of industry services, predominantly because of the variety of fish they offer to consumers.

Bottom fishing can include Porgies, Grunt and Snapper, while reef fishing can result in catching Grouper, Eels and Barracudas.

Invasive species such as Lionfish in Florida are also common catches, but because of their venomous fin rays, are not as popular as other finds. Offshore pelagic fishing ranks among the most popular as there are huge possibilities to catch large game such as tuna, wahoo, dolphin, marlin and mackerel.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

Indeed a lot of people enjoy fishing but just very few have the boats, tackle and knowledge to go fishing far from shore. Charter Fishing businesses take people on fishing trips that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience. These trips may range from going into swamps to venturing far offshore. Customers are usually allowed to keep any fish that they catch (assuming the fish are legal to keep).

We believe this business is for anyone who is passionate about fishing and enjoys sharing that passion with other people.

In this industry, industry clients expect fishing charter captains to be knowledge about and have a love for fishing; sharing that knowledge and love helps make sure customers have a great time. Note that the ideal client in this business is someone who likes fishing and has discretionary income to go on fishing trips.

3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On

Just like we already know, a charter fishing company aids tourists and commercial fishermen locate popular fishing areas in the coastal line. There are just few businesses you can start without an initial capital and charter fishing business isn’t one of them.

To start this business, you need enough capital to float this business and most of the capital will go into advertising your business and purchasing equipment you will need to run the business. A lot will argue that this industry has no specific niche; we choose to disagree because the industry is huge and open for focused entrepreneurs to specialize in a particular service.

Niches in the Charter Fishing Business may include;

  • Inshore/coastal fishing
  • Offshore fishing
  • Tournament fishing
  • Commercial fishing
  • Deep sea boat charter
  • Fresh water boat charter
The Level of Competition in the Industry

No matter how we see it, fishing is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the united states. Even though participation has reduced slightly in recent years, more than 45.7 million Americans still took at least one fishing trip in 2015.

Indeed fishing as a hobby is generally more prevalent with older generations, but more than 60 percent of participants were under 45 in 2015.

Estimates have established that the number of annual outings among fishing participants can vary dramatically. Just In 2015 alone, the largest share of fishermen went on four to eleven trips, but a small percentage clocked up outings of more than 104.

We believe that the most popular locations for these trips included the shoreline and from boats. For a lot of people, the positive attributes of participating in fishing include the chance to enjoy nature and to escape from the demands of everyday life.

In order to analyse the competition in this industry, we need to note that the average annual expenditure per consumer unit on fishing and hunting equipment has been sporadic in recent years. In 2015, the average U.S. consumer unit spend reached 33.6 U.S. dollars.

We believe equipment is not the only thing participants must purchase; they must also hold a fishing license in the United States. Also in the 2016, there were more than 29 million paid license holders in the country. The gross cost of these fishing licenses exceeded 686 million U.S. dollars in that year.

4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry

  • Alex Adler
  • Carter Andrew
  • Al Anderson
  • Aubrey Black
  • David Beacon
  • Andrew Bostick
Economic Analysis

A fishing charter business makes money by charging customers who want to go on fishing trips. These trips may last anywhere from a few hours to several days. Most charters, however, are either half-day or full-day trips. Also we believe that some fishing charter businesses operate out of a single location, because captains need to have an in-depth knowledge of the waters they fish.

Running this business in different regions – even if on the same body of water – reduces how much a captain will know about the fish in each region.

The fishing business doesn’t seem like it would be dangerous, but there really are a lot of risks in this type of business venture. Note that the insurance costs alone are typically three times higher for a fishing charter business than they are for other businesses.

Also in this business, you will have to spend a lot in providing lures to customers, bait for fishes and equipment. Even with good contracts in place that hold clients responsible for broken equipment, maintenance costs can be high.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

Buying the franchise route is likely a better option for this business. Signing on with the franchise of an established brand with proven systems can help jump-start your business, especially when there are so many other charter fishing companies vying for consumer dollars.

Also by becoming a franchisee, you will most likely be assigned an exclusive franchise territory. Even though competition may still exist against other charter fishing companies, having your own territory makes sure that you won’t be rivaling franchisees of the same brand. Things you will be gaining when buying a franchise may include;

  • Quality Education

Franchises that take the time to invest in their franchisees help to make them much more successful than ones that do not. We believe that the training period is a perfect opportunity for the franchisor to impart knowledge that has been hard-won over years of business ownership.

  • Unified Brand

Indeed Franchises, by definition, are multiple locations and branches of the same business. Sometimes these are spread across the country, or even the world. It can be difficult to maintain a focused brand across such geographic and cultural distance, but it is possible.

  • Quality Business model

Have it in mind that a successful franchise is dependent on a quality business model. It must take the success of the original business and find ways to replicate it in a different market with different owners. Note that this model should be scalable, able to fit ten franchise locations or a thousand.

Additionally, a strong business model will have guidelines in place for determining the number of franchisees locations a particular geographic area can support.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

Charter Fishing serves as an excellent outlet for a whole lot of people in the United States. Individuals who love fishing will pay a reasonable sum to have it inculcated in their vacation trip. But before you start this business, there are barriers which you might encounter and they may include…

  • Choosing a suitable location
  • Applying for permits
  • Purchasing inventory
  • writing a business plan
  • Industry competition

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

Have it mind that there are a lot of factors to be considered when choosing the best form of business structure when starting your Charter Fishing business. The type of business structure you choose can have an impact on multiple aspects of your business including taxes, liability, and your exit strategy.

When starting your Charter Fishing business, a LLC structure is strongly advised because LLCs are simpler and more flexible. Note that unlike both types of corporations, LLCs don’t require a board of directors, shareholders meetings and other managerial formalities.

Business owners can divvy up the profits any way they choose, as opposed to shareholders in corporations who have to carve them up in proportion to their percentage ownership in the company. Another benefit of this is that entrepreneurs can entice talented employees with a share of the profits, even if those employees didn’t pony up their own equity in the beginning

The LLC structure also gives tax-treatment flexibility. An LLC’s profits can be taxed as a corporate entity (a C Corporation) or as a “pass through” entity (an S corporation), meaning that the company avoids paying tax on both corporate profits and the owners’ personal income.

Most LLCs choose the pass-through option. However, in some cases, LLCs can choose a C Corporation tax structure and save money by funnelling profits back into the business tax-free.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name

  • 53rd Landing Fishing
  • Anchor Charter
  • Access Marina Charters
  • Large Bear Charter
  • Channel Island Fishing
  • Safe Charter Fishing
  • Water Anglers
  • Smooth Fishing Charters
  • Fish Taxi
  • Trip Hook
  • Fun Landing
  • Lucky Bear Charters
  • Inland Fishing Charters
  • Off Limits Fishing
  • Inner rift Fishing Charters
  • Point Loma Sport Fishing
  • Alfred’s Fishing
  • Aquarius Men Fishing Charters
  • Sea Runners Fishing
  • Summertime Charters
  • Warm Saltwater Adventures
  • The Long Run Fish Charter
  • Far range Gun Charters
  • Water kings

9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

We all know that charter fishing captains tend to share their love of the open water and fishing expertise with those who don’t often have the opportunity to track and catch the big ones. Having appropriate insurance can help you protect your vessel and yourself while you focus on the task at hand.

Also note that having the proper coverage for your boat or boats is a vital component in how you are able to run your business. Appropriate, but highly priced coverage can have almost as big an impact on your business as a lack in coverage can.

  • Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Vessel Policy Coverage
  • Hull and Machinery coverage
  • General Liability Insurance
  • Professional Liability Insurance
  • commercial insurance coverage
  • Shore excursion coverage
  • Six-Pack Charter Coverage
  • Bareboat charter coverage etc.

10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

It is important that you know that the creation, exploitation and protection of intellectual property (IP) rights are fundamental to the success of every business known to mankind. In the Charter Fishing Business, intellectual property protection and Trademark are needed to serve as;

  • Brand and image rights
  • Protection and registration of designs
  • Enforcement and dispute resolution
  • Anti-counterfeiting and piracy
  • Patents laws
  • Trade mark filing and opposition
  • Brand audits and watching services
  • Securing trademarks and passing off
  • Domain name strategies and disputes
  • Data and database rights
  • Competition law
  • Protection of technology and innovation
  • Advertising and marketing issues

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

When planning to start this business, you should consider getting fishing certifications that will tell how good your company is and how experienced you are, or if you are currently majoring in marketing or information systems, you could benefit from earning a few certifications. These certifications include;

  • Certified Fisheries Professional (FP-C)
  • Associate Fisheries Professional (FP-A)
  • Small Vessel Operator Proficiency (SVOP)
  • Basic Safety Course (MED A1)
  • Restricted Operator Course Maritime (ROC-M)
  • Certified Tidal Angling Guide (CTAG)

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

Note that if your fishing charter boat carries 7 or more passengers (excluding the boat’s crew) it must be licensed with the Coast Guard. The US Coast Guard always need boat owners who run a fishing charter to have a captain’s license. Charter boats can be inspected by the Coast Guard any time and are expected to adhere to Coast Guard safety regulations.

Some states in the United States may need a state-issued fishing charter license. Requirements vary by jurisdiction, but states frequently require fishing licenses.

In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply, which is why we suggest that you check with your town, city or county clerk’s office. You can also get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.

13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

In this our modern age, no matter how great your ideas and goals might be, without proper financing your ideas are just like water poured on a rock. Proper funding in the Charter Fishing Business is a big factor that can move a business to limelight and without a detailed business plan; a company won’t be able to land sufficient funds from prospective investors.

You should know that securing funds for a business is not an easy task because no one would want to pledge his/her money in a business that can’t guarantee returns and profits. You need at least $50,000 to start this business, the majority of which will go to the purchase of a boat for the business and other smaller equipment.

But if you believe or you already have this amount stashed up in a savings somewhere, you can start with it, but if you don’t, you will need to find a way to source for the funds to do so. Note that one of the very unique ways to do so is to meet friends who you know have a lot of money at their disposal.

Start by showing them the business plan and ask them to invest in your company. We also advice that you map out from the outset how liabilities and profits will be shared in the business, and if possible get a lawyer to draw up the terms of agreement, even if it is with family. Basic ways of financing a Charter Fishing business include;

  • Funds from Personal savings
  • Getting loans from families and friends
  • Investors
  • Taking small business loans
  • Getting microloans
  • Attract an angel investor

14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

In this business, location decisions are often important. This is because location decision has a direct effect on an operation’s costs as well as its ability to serve customers (and therefore its revenues).  Also, location decisions once made are difficult and costly to undo, because the cost of moving an operation is often significant and you run the risk of inconveniencing customers and staff.

This is why it is always best to get the location decision right the first time. Things you should consider when choosing a location for your charter fishing business may include;

  • Style of Operation
  • Demographics
  • Human traffic
  • Accessibility and Parking
  • Competition
  • Proximity to other businesses and services
  • Ordinances
  • Utilities and other costs

15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

Note that almost all fishing charter business owners in the United States will need to be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard. The type of license that a captain must have rests on how many people they will be taking out on their boat and how far from shore they will be traveling.

We believe that the National Maritime Centre has a directory of approved courses which are offered throughout the country by different companies.

Also apart from knowing how to operate a boat safely, captains should also be expert fishermen (or women). If you don’t already know how to fish, you may want to work for another fishing charter captain in the area for a season before opening your own business.

Hands-on experience is the best way to learn how to fish. Also note when choosing a boat that you should look for one that is built for the type of water you will be fishing in. Fishing in bayous and swamps may require a flat-bottomed boat that has a shallow draw, while heading miles offshore might call for a deep V-bottomed boat that is built to handle waves.

Also if you plan on purchasing a used boat, you should be weary of buying a boat without an engine. Boats that don’t have engines are usually extremely inexpensive because engines alone can cost thousands of dollars – thus greatly increasing the cost of the vessel. Also getting a boat with diesel engines generally adds to business as it reduces fuel costs.

How much a business can save on fuel by selecting diesel engines will depend on how far from a marina the boat will be taken. We also believe that most captains are able to field more phone calls and emails from customers if they operate one or two boats.

Captains who have more than two boats, however, may want to hire a receptionist to help manage booking trips. You might also want to hire a first mate who can help customers while fishing, clean fish and wipe down the boat at the end of the day.

Note that this person can be hired when the demand requires another set of hands (and the revenue supports an employee).

The Service Delivery Process of the Business

Note that a lot of business owners in this industry start their day by getting fuel, bait and ice. While getting these supplies, captains often discuss the current weather and fishing conditions with other fishing charter captains and the marina owner.

(Ice is used to keep fish fresh. In some setups, fish can be kept in water tanks that are built into a boat, and ice isn’t necessary.)

Also note that clients usually meet the captain at the marina. Everyone boards the boat, and the captain goes over any pertinent safety information and the day’s plan. Most of the day is spent driving to the fishing destination, fishing and driving back.

While fishing, the captain helps customers bait their lines, use proper technique and reel in fish. Then immediately they get back at the dock, the fish are cleaned and the boat is wiped down for the next day. This may be done by the captain or an employee.

Also you should also take out time to write a professional business plan on how you want your Charter fishing business to look like. The benefits of having a professional business plan are very huge because an angel investor or a financial institution that wishes to grant you a business loan will request for your business plan.

Also note that the document will be able to provide answers to issues like; the capital estimate required to float the business, how you wish to raise the capital, how the business structure will look like, and the estimated price you will collect per trip from your clients, et al.

Note that the ongoing fees for a fishing charter business are significant, but they aren’t as high as the upfront expenses. They may include;

  • captain’s fees (or salary), $150 per day
  • fuel and oil, $32.50 per day
  • Bait and ice, $30.00 per day
  • Tackle, $10.00 per day
  • Dockage, $7,200 per year
  • Insurance, $2,500 per year
  • Business and fishing licenses
  • Utilities, accounting, advertising, management and legal costs
  • Boat maintenance, $1,000 per year (for a new boat under warranty)
  • Boat depreciation, $6,000 per year

16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies

A lot of fishing charter businesses’ first years are slow as it takes time to build up a customer base. A lot of business comes from customer referrals and via repeat customers, thus providing a solid customer base once customers have taken one trip – but it takes time to initially attract customers.

To speed up the process, you can partner with travel agents and give talks at local sports clubs. Also, offering travel agents’ commissions for customers they refer can help attract tourists, while giving presentations to local groups can help attract nearby residents. Ways to market your charter fishing business may include;

  • Investing in a great website
  • Starting a blog
  • Be Social
  • Claim your profiles
  • Advertising on the Internet

17. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

Have it in mind that your brand is not your product, your logo, your website, or your name. Your brand is much more than that – it is the stuff that feels intangible. A fishing charter business can add another revenue stream by offering other types of trips.

Depending on its location, a charter boat may be used for snorkeling, scuba diving, wildlife tours or sightseeing. But to help you understand what many marketers consider more of an art and less of a science, here are few ways to boost brand awareness and create a corporate identity in the Charter Fishing Business;

  • Give your clients Purpose
  • Consistency
  • Show Emotions
  • Be flexible
  • Make use of the internet
  • Competitive Awareness
  • Loyalty