Do you want to start a fishing guide service? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a fishing guide service business with NO money and no experience. If you love fishing and have a wide range of knowledge on how to teach others to fish, then you might need to consider becoming a fishing guide. As a fishing guide, you must not only be able to fish but to also talk about fishing for a living.

Asides from talking about fishing to those who are interested but do not have an idea of how to fish, you also would need to be on the water for the better part of the year. While this might look like an easy enough business for you to start, it isn’t so as there are certain things you would have to do to become a fishing guide.

Before you can lay claims to becoming a fishing guide, you must first learn about the water you intend to use in guiding others. You have to know what kind of fish is in the water and what spots are the best to catch these fish, especially as you would be aiming to be a guide to others.

You must also know the specific guidelines required to become a fishing guide as different states have different qualifying criteria and so you must know what your state wants. Once you have been able to get this out of the way, you can then secure and pay for a business license.

You will also need to obtain a Coast Guard or a Merchant Mariner License. The license is important as it enables you to take passengers out on a motorized boat. Also, with the license, you will be able to move paying customers on waterways that are considered ‘federally navigable’.

If these are not in place, it could result in you not being able to run your business legally. Also, as a fishing guide, you must be certified in CPR as well as in first aid as this is a requirement by most states in the united states of America.

Even though starting this business might look like you won’t need much cash, getting the required insurance will push the start-up capital up. Obtaining insurance for your fishing guide business is very important as not only is it mandatory but not having the right insurance policies might lead to you having to deal with unforeseen circumstances from your pocket personally.

17 Steps to Starting a Fishing Guide Service Business

1. Understand the Industry

According to IBISWorld, there are no major fishing guide companies that have a market share that is dominant in the industry, even though the industry generates $320 million and has a growth percentage of more than 2 percent between 2011 and 2016.

There are more than 2,600 fishing guides in the United States of America employing more than 4,500 people. The growth experienced by the industry can be said to be from the positive growth experienced by the economy which has caused an increase in the incomes of consumers which has led to a rise in the demand for the industry.

This however has not always been so as the fishing guide industry is one that has had its recent struggle due to the bad economy and was just recovering like almost every other industry. However, as the economy itself has improved, so have the fortunes of the industry as consumers are now earning enough to spend on activities that are considered recreational in nature.

Reports have also stated that while the growing economy has caused an increase in demand for services in this industry, the fragile condition of the industry has however caused consumers to not want to pay for items that are discretionary in nature such as paying for charters, which has therefore caused a serious impact on the revenue generated by the industry.

However, the industry’s revenue has been predicted to surpass the pre-recession level in the coming five years as it is expected that incomes will continue to rise especially as small and medium-scale businesses will continue to improve over these five years.

According to IBISWorld, it is not going to be all the rosy for the industry in these five years because even though rising income should enable the industry to generate more revenue, it is expected that other forms of recreation will come up, thereby offering the industry stiff and intense competition and threatening demand for services in this industry.

A thorough SWOT analysis of this industry has pegged its life cycle to be in the mature phase. Between 2011 to 2022, the value of the industry to the economy is expected to increase to nearly 4 percent annually. In comparison, the country’s GDP is expected to increase by more than 2 percent annually.

Due to the fact that fishing is a very popular recreational activity for consumers, it is easy to say that the fortunes of the industry will continue to improve. However, it is important to note that the industry is facing challenging times as more recreational activities pop up, slowly causing a decrease in demand for the industry’s service.

The fishing guide service industry also falls under the hunting industry in the United States and is regarded as a popular pastime. In this industry, participants can either stay in their state to hunt or travel to another part of the country or acquire the necessary license that will allow them to hunt.

According to a statistical report by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2011, nearly 14 million people were engaged in hunting activities all over the country. This led to participants in this industry spending up to $33.7 billion on the products and services in the industry, with more than $14 billion spent on products that were used for fishing and hunting.

One of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the United States of America has been fishing, and even though the number of people that participated in this sport has decreased over the years, in 2015, nearly 46 million Americans still partook in fishing trips.

While the Millenials are struggling with seeing this as a pastime as most prefer running and biking, it is the baby boomers that have been the major participants in this industry; this is as more than 10 million young people between the ages of 6 and 17 took part in a fishing expedition in the year 2014.

As at 2015, the number of those who went on fishing expeditions, caused a majority of the fishing guide services to go on trips from 4 to at most 11 times, while a tiny percentage of fishing guide services went on outings that were more than 104 in number.

Asides from the opportunity to hunt fish, most of those who go out fishing use that opportunity to enjoy nature and escape from the hustle and bustle of demands that life brings. Consumers in 2014 spent more than $1.5 billion on purchasing fishing equipment especially as a fishing reel cost an average of $60. Fishing licenses in the United States as of 2015 cost more than $686 million.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

The demographic and psychographic composition of those who require the services of a fishing guide must not be limited to only those who love to fish but also to those who are looking to learn a new activity or those who are trying to show others a new outdoor recreational activity. This, therefore, means that rather than restrict your demographic to just the middle-aged or elderly people, you could add in the young ones from age 10 to 17 as well.

If you are therefore looking to start a fishing guide service business, you should be open to expecting all kinds of customers as there are varying reasons – personal, educational, research purposes, and others – why someone might be looking to hire a fishing guide.

3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On

A niche idea is a specialty that enables you to have an edge in your fishing guide service and allows you to stand out from others offering the same service in the industry. Even though there aren’t several niches that exist in the fishing guide service industry, there are still a few niche areas that can make clients prefer patronizing your business to that of other competitors.

Before you choose a niche for your business, ensure that the niche will be profitable so that you do not end up in a niche where there will be very few or no customers. Also, it is vital to note that you may not be able to offer all the niche services if you are starting out with a budget constraint; therefore it is advisable to stick to just a few niches whilst starting out and then offer more as the business grows.

Below are some of the niche ideas that you can choose from whilst starting your fishing guide service business;

  • Coastal Fishing
  • Offshore Fishing
  • Tournament Fishing
  • Commercial Fishing
The Level of Competition in the Industry

The level of competition in the fishing guide service industry is one that depends on the location of the fishing guide service. This is because you will need to meet with your clients in order to teach and show them how to fish and pass along any other knowledge you might deem necessary.

The outdoor recreation industry is one that is a popular pastime among those living in the United States of America as people are willing to spend more on these recreational activities such as fishing than buy household utilities or gasoline, according to statistics. The increase in demand has therefore led to competition in the industry as fishing guides strive to gain the attention of potential clients while striving to keep their existing clients.

There are many fishing locations all over the United States of America and many fishing guide services as well; therefore if you are looking to start your own fishing guide service, you must keep in mind that you will be competing with already established fishing guide services. Therefore, you might need to consider integrating services that will give you an edge over your competitors.

4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry

In every industry, there are brands that stand out due to varying reasons and strategies that they might be deploying and the fishing guide service industry is no different. Even though the industry is a fragmented one with no clear market leaders, there are still brands who due to their publicity and advertising strategies, quality of service, and the kind of services they offer, have been able to stand out amongst others in the industry.

Some of the well-known fishing guide service businesses in the United States of America include;

  • Mitchell’s Guide Service
  • Walleyedan Guide Service
  • iFishAlaska Guide Service
  • Perch Patrol Guide Service
  • Mcquids Guide Service
  • Minnesota Guide Service
Economic Analysis

The fishing guide service industry is one that has thrived due to Americans spending on fishing equipment and tools, licenses and trips, renting of boats, and paying for fishing guides and outfitters. This causes the economy to grow as small business owners are being patronized. Outdoor recreation, in general, generates $646 billion and thereby causes the different tiers of government to gain $80 billion while creating more than 6.1 million jobs directly.

Even though the recent recession caused a radical change in how consumers spent especially as unemployment levels reached one of their highest levels in many decades, there were still more than 140 million Americans for whom outdoor recreation remained a priority, thereby helping put more than $646 billion back into the economy which then resulted into more than 6 million jobs for Americans.

Outdoor recreation which fishing is among is seen as a sector of the economy that is growing and will lead to the creation of successful communities. This is because outdoor recreational activities are seen as a must-do activity due to the many benefits that can be gotten from them – health, social and economic.

The only two segments in the economy that surpasses the revenue spent in the outdoor recreation industry are the financial services and insurance as well as outpatient health care. Others like pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, household utilities, and gasoline have less revenue annually.

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

Starting a business from scratch or buying a franchise depends on the set goals and objectives that the entrepreneur has in mind regarding the business. Each of the options has its pros and cons and so an entrepreneur must take care to thoroughly research which of the option will best serve the needs of the business in the long run.

In buying a franchise, the entrepreneur must endeavor to conduct research about the franchises available, their capability, and how they would become the best fit for the business. However, because this industry is a fragmented one, there are no franchise opportunities available except for consolidations. This, therefore, means that you will need to start your business from the scratch.

In starting your business from the scratch, you should be aware that if you aren’t careful, your business could fail before it even starts and this is because there are several aspects of the business that needs to be taken into cognizance so that you can run your business without much challenge.

Asides from seeking funds for your fishing guide service business, you also need to ensure that you will start generating revenue when you should as your start-up funds cannot be used to run the business forever. You also must seek the best way to attract the customers you will need for your business and how you should offer your services in order that you may have an edge over your competitors.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

As an entrepreneur just starting out, one thing you need to expect that you will face when starting or whilst running your business are threats and challenges. No entrepreneur expects a smooth sail in the life cycle of the business; therefore, you must be prepared for any challenges and threats that might crop up and have laid down plans to tackle them. It is imperative to note that not all threats can be handled and during these periods, it is best to be optimistic.

Some of the threats and challenges that you are going to be facing when starting or running your fishing guide service business include; weather challenges, competition from already existing fishing guide businesses as well as from new entrants, a downturn in the economy, and industry trends, and regulations.

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

There are several factors to consider when picking a legal entity for your business and they are; how flexible the legal entity is. Asides from flexibility, other factors you would have to look out for are how easy it is to set up the legal entity, the liability involved, the cost of taxation, and the ease of ownership and control.

These factors are very important, have their pros and cons, and vary from state to state, which is why you must consult with an attorney or an accountant to point out which legal entity would be best for your fishing guide service business.

To this end, there are four basic legal entities in existence for entrepreneurs looking to start the fishing guide service business and they are sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). In the LLC kind of legal entity, the business is also regarded as a separate entity from the business. One good thing about this kind of legal entity is that the owners are taxed on their personal income returns.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name

When intending to start a new business, having to choose names that are suitable for the business can be hard; especially as your business name must be memorable, unique, and reflective of the industry you are in. Choosing a business name can be difficult especially if the name you intend to choose has been taken by another.

Below, therefore, are some of the business names that are suitable for a fishing guide service;

  • Bob’s Guide Service
  • Alaska’s Best Guiders
  • Best Fishing Hole Guiders
  • IFish Guide Service
  • Trouts and Trust Guide Service
  • Reels and Lines Guide Service

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

Choosing appropriate insurance policies for your fishing guide business is very important as this is a business that is very risky and not having insurance means you will have to pay for any incident that occurs out of your own pocket which will be very expensive and might leave you broke.

Having insurance policies as a business is one of the criteria for starting a business in the United States of America and so it is mandatory to get one. While knowing what insurance policies you would need to pick for your business can be confusing, asking an insurance agent or broker which policies would be best for your fishing guide service business is the way to go and will help you know how much you would need to set aside in getting insurance.

Below are some of the basic insurance policies that you would need to purchase in order to start your fishing guide service business in the United States of America;

  • Shoreside Liability
  • Charter Legal Liability
  • Wade Fishing Liability
  • Protection and Indemnity Liability
  • Pollution Liability
  • Professional Angler Liability Coverage
  • Dockside Liability Coverage
  • Replacement Vessel Liability Coverage
  • Workers’ Compensation Liability

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

The fishing guide service business is one that basically deals with the impact of knowledge on those looking to be guided on how to fish and does not in any way require any sort of intellectual protection especially in carrying out its activities.

However, due to the fact that intellectual property protection can be applied to even abstract concepts, as an entrepreneur, you can choose to apply for intellectual property protection for your company’s logo, name, or any other concept materials through an attorney or lawyer who understands the sector well. However, not all entrepreneurs in this sector are bothered with getting an IPP.

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

The fishing guide business is one that can be started by any fisherman who has the knowledge as regards the best locations to fish, how to fish, and other such knowledge and is also ready to impart this knowledge to others for a fee. There are no professional certifications of whatever kind required from anyone looking to start this business, there are however specific guidelines that must be followed before one can become a fishing guide.

The certifications below might not be regarded as professional certifications; they are however important ones that must be gotten before starting the business legally and they are;

  • CPR Certification
  • First Aid

The above certifications are very necessary especially as they involve knowing what to do with your clients should there be any difficulty during the course of running the business.

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

When starting any business in the United States of America, it is expected that you have all the documentation needed to make your business legal. Not having all the legal documentation could lead you into trouble with the law and could get you not only financially penalized but you could be banned from running the business either in the state or all over the country.

Therefore, it is important that you make a thorough research about all you would need to legally start your fishing guide service; if you aren’t sure of all you would need, it is best to seek the services of an attorney with experience in this sector to help you list out all that would be required of you legally.

Below, therefore, are some of the legal documents that you would need in order to be able to run your fishing guide service legally;

  • Coast Guard License
  • Merchant Mariner License
  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Operating Agreement
  • Insurance Policies
  • Business Plan
  • Business License And Certification
  • Business Permit
  • Federal Tax Identification Number
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)

13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

While you might have an idea of how you intend to run your fishing guide service and make it known by all stakeholders in the industry, if you do not have the necessary finance at hand, your idea will not ever materialize. You need money to not only start a business but to promote the business till it starts to generate revenue for itself and also to pay your employees in the first few months of business.

This is why having a business plan is very important because once you have a comprehensive document that shows a clear plan on how you intend to run the business and generate revenue, it will be able to convince others to invest in your business.

Below are some of the financing options that you might need to explore when sourcing capital for your fishing guide business;

  • Raising money from part of your savings or sale of personal stock
  • Sourcing for soft loans from friends and family members
  • Applying for a loan from the bank
  • Raising capital from investors and business partners

14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

The location where you choose to run your business from is very important as it can make or mar your business. Ideally, in running a fishing guide service, you should ensure that you are not too far from the water especially as most customers will approach the first fishing guide service they see and might not wait to find out if their service is the best one or not.

Some entrepreneurs who run this as a side business usually operate this business from their homes and from their boats. This means that they keep all the important documentation in their homes while staying on their boats especially when it is the season for outdoor recreational activities. This, therefore, enables them to be close by to customers and yet not spend much on overhead expenses.

If you are however part of those who intend to run the business professionally and on a large scale, then it would be best for you to lease or rent a facility that will serve as a professional front for your business. This means that customers can call to make inquiries or to place bookings for their next outdoor recreational activities.

15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

Even though it looks like this might be a simple enough business to start up, it is not for those who do not have the passion or the money to start and run the business. There are several areas that would require more money than necessary and these are in getting equipment, insurance as well as promoting and advertising the business.

Locating the business in a suitable and appropriate place is necessary especially if you are looking to start on a large scale and would need to employ several hands that will help achieve your intended goals and objectives.

In getting the necessary equipment you would need to run your business successfully, you should know that some of the tools and equipment can be gotten fairly used, while some would have to be brand new. For example, if you are starting on a strained budget, you can buy a boat from a fisherman, but you would need to make sure that the boat is in a good shape and will just need minor repairs. Some of the other tools and equipment you would need asides from a boat are fishing equipment and gear, office supplies, and stationary.

The number of people you would need to employ for your fishing guide business includes; a chief executive officer, office manager, fishing guides, front desk officer, accountant, and marketing officers. Therefore in order to run your fishing guide business successfully, you would need at least 7 key staff.

The Service Delivery Process of the Business

This is a service-oriented business and as such there are really no huge processes involved in running the business. Once you have decided to start this business, you will need to ensure that you have all the knowledge required and all the legal requirements.

Then you would need to procure the necessary finance needed to help you start off the business. You might start with your funds and borrow the rest from either the bank or private investors. Once you have gotten the boat you will need, you can then outfit it as you want, then look for means to attract clients to your business.

16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies

Your market research will not only enable you to know who your target market is, but it would also enable you to identify their defining characteristics and know what to expect from them and what they are likely to expect from you. Also, it would allow you to identify the weaknesses of your competitors with regard to how they conduct their own marketing.

Most entrepreneurs usually hire the services of a marketing consultant who is best in this sector to help them in marketing their business to their intended target market in line with their corporate goals and objectives. If you however don’t have the required funds with which to hire a marketing consultant, you can empower your in-house marketing executives to ensure that you attain your set marketing goals and objectives.

Below, therefore, are some of the marketing ideas and strategies that you can deploy for your fishing guide service;

  • Ensure that you place adverts in newspapers, and magazines as well as on radio and television stations
  • Make use of your social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube in advertising your fishing guide business
  • Ensure that your business is listed on yellow pages and in online directories
  • Empower your marketing executives to carry out physical marketing
  • Ask your satisfied customers to help spread the word about your business
  • Install a billboard or a flexi banner in strategic locations

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

The importance of publicity is why businesses do not mind spending a fortune annually in order to promote their business and they do this because they know that the increased awareness would convert to sales and allow them to generate the revenue they need.

If your aim is to be a small-town fishing guide service, then you might not need to bother with boosting the awareness of your brand. If however, your intention is to become well known and have a lot of customers from beyond your state, then it is absolutely necessary to engage in activities that would boost the awareness of your brand.

The internet has made it possible for entrepreneurs to explore cheap and yet effective ways by which they can promote and boost the awareness of their brand. Below are some of the platforms you can use in boosting awareness for your fishing guide service;

  • Create an interactive website and use this to promote the business
  • Join a local association and use this opportunity to network with other members
  • Create a distinct logo and slogan for your business
  • Use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to boost the awareness of your brand
  • Advertise your business in popular blogs and online forums in order to create the publicity you would need for your business

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Do You Start a Fishing Guide?

The possible ways to start a fishing guide are the following;

  • Get to understand the industry
  • Choose a catchy business name
  • Raise the needed startup capital
  • Decide which niche to concentrate on
  • Know your major competitors in the industry
  • Get the necessary professional certification
  • Find a suitable location for your business
  • Conduct marketing research and feasibility studies
  • Employ workers for your technical and manpower needs
  • Know the possible threats and challenges you will face
  • Decide whether to buy a franchise or start from Scratch
  • Choose the most suitable legal entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
  • Discuss with an agent to know the best insurance policies for you
  • Get your intellectual property protected with trademarks, copyrights, and patents
2. Can You Make A Living As A Fishing Guide?

Yes! Fishing Guides makes between $28,872 and $32,236, with the top 86% making $39,410.

3. Do Fishing Guides Make Good Money?

The average annual salary of a fly fishing guide can get up to $59,000. It is not uncommon for top guides to make up to $85,000.

4. How Much Does A Fish Guide Make?

The salaries of fishing guides in the US range from $17,790 to $39,410, with the median salary being around $28,862. The middle 57% of fishing guides makes between $28,872 and $32,236, with the top 86% making $39,410.

5. How Much Do Fly Fishing Guides Make?

The average annual pay of a fly fishing guide in the United States is about $35,365 a year.

6. Can A Fishing Guide Be Successful As A Business?

Yes! If your number-one passion in life is fishing, then being a fishing guide is certainly the ultimate occupation for you, and you certainly be successful in it.

7. Can A Game Fish Guide License Holder Offer Guide Services For Salmon Or Other Food Fish?

The short answer is No!

8. To Become A Guide On The Trinity River From A Drift Boat Do You Need A Uscg License?

Yes, you need a license to become a guide on the Trinity River from a drift boat.

9. Is Being A Fishing Guide Worth It?

Yes! Being a fishing guide is the greatest summer job in the world; it sure as heck beats flipping burgers, mowing lawns, or working at the mall.

10. How Do You Become A Licensed Fishing Guide In Indiana?

Some guidelines on how to become a licensed fishing guide in Indiana are listed below;

  • Learn first aid and CPR
  • Decide what type of fishing you want to do and what type of fish you want to catch
  • Hire a fishing guide to show you all the prime fishing spots in your area
  • Obtain all necessary fishing permits and licenses