A Day in the Life of a Charter Boat CaptainItís 5:30 am and the alarm is blaring, I roll out of bed to shut if off and lie back down. I start thinking about the day ahead. I get dressed, make lunch then make my way out to the boat. I have a big smile on my face. With calm wind, the sun is starting to peak over the horizon. Another day of fishing, I canít wait to get moving, but the morning isnít over yet.
I have to prepare for the day ahead. I grab some bait from my freezer. A flat of manhaden and a 4 gallon bucket of chum, bloodworms, squid, and 12 pounds of ice. It feels heavy this morning. The sun is up over the horizon now and I hop onto my boat, a 48í bay build, loaded with all of the fishing, navigational, and safety accessories. I check to make sure I have all the tackle I need for my clients. There are six bottom fishing rods, six chumming rods, 12 heavy duty trolling rods, six light tackle trolling rods, and six jigging rods. I load up the boat and check the engine, all fluids are fine.
All I need is for the party to show up on time. They come strolling down the dock at 7:05 am, only five minutes late for a 7:00 departure. They get on board, and I go over Coast Guard safety requirements and boat rules.
I unhook the lines and I am on my way. The sun is up, the wind is picking up to about 8 knots SW. The weather for the day calls for 10 to 15 knots SW with a one foot chop. I maneuver the boat out of the harbor then crank her wide open as I pass the 6 knot buoy at Fort McHenry. The party is as excited as I am to reel in the first fish of the day. On the way to the fishing grounds the VHF radio starts to crackle with life. The crabbers are talking on channel 80. Some are slow, some are doing well. I head out to Seven Foot Knoll.
This morning we are going to start by trolling for the first hour and see what we hit. I set out six of the light tackle trolling rods, drop the rigs, and wait. For me, this is the moment of truth. I need this first fish. We get a hit, I yell, ďFISH ON!Ē Everyone jumps to life. The rod is bent. Itís a Rockfish (Striped Bass), I can tell by the way it hits. I run back to pick up the rod and hand it off to the angler. Then itís quickly back to the other lines I still have out. I see the leader and run back to the stern again. I went to grab the leader but couldnít reach it. I grab again, got it. I net the fish; itís a small 17Ē Rockfish, just an inch under the size limit. The size limit is two per person 18Ē or larger.
Just then my deep rod goes off. This is a good one. The fish fights for a while and comes to the top. Itís a nice Rockfish. Itís not in the boat yet. I reel in a line to keep it from getting tangled with the fish. I call out to the angler, ďReel. Reel, keep your rod tip up.Ē I see the leader. Itís all me now. My adrenaline is pumping as I pull in the leader. The fish is right off the stern. It looks to be about 30 inches. With one hand on the leader and one hand with the net, I scoop it up and flop it in the boat to a crows of cheers and high fives. And get back to the lumps where I just caught the last fish. I show the anglers how to hold the fish by its lips and let the party take pictures. I need more fish in the boat. I set all of the lines back out again, stopping every once in a while to steer the boat. We catch three more fish. Two of them are keepers. The bite slows down. I think to myself about where to go next.
Itís time to go chumming. On the way to the Swan Point chumming grounds I am thinking I have three in the box and have six anglers on board. I need twelve Rockfish in all, just nine more to go. As we reach Swan Point, I check with the other Charter Boat captains, itís slow but the tide is slack. I look around to find a good spot. I mark a school of fish on my fish finder and drop the anchor. I pull out the chumming rods and get to work. I start by slinging chum off the back of the boat and get the anglers set up. I explain to them how the reels work, then move handlers on the reels for the righties and the lefties. The tide is slack, and I need it to turn for the bite to turn on. The boat starts to swing, the tide is turning. The bite comes on. We catch some throwbacks to start. In the next two hours w catch about 50 fish and get our nine keepers, all between 12 and 20 inches. We still have time left in the day. Itís time to go bottom fishing. I mop up the deck, chumming can be messy, stow the chumming tackle, and pull the anchor. We are on our way to Man of War to go bottom fishing.
On my way over to Man of War, I am thinking, ďI hop the bite is on. So far, so good today.Ē When we get to Man of War, I pull out the bloodworms and squid. We drift for White Perch, Spot, and Croakers. We move a couple of times to get on the fish. We hit them. The fish are coming over the gunwale faster than I can take them off the hook. I have a 5-gallon bucket in the middle of the deck and am tossing the fish in it. They are flopping around like crazy. I think to myself, ďThis is the life. There is no where I would rather be right now.Ē
One of the anglers hooks up with a good fish. It bends the rod nicely and gives a good fight. I see if flash toward the top. ďItís a Croaker,Ē I yell! I coach the angler to get it in the boat and it starts to croak. Jokes and cheers are all around the boat. What a day.
Itís time to go back to the dock. On the ride back to the dock, some of the anglers are talking, some are worshiping the sun, and one is sleeping. I get back to the dock and tie up the boat. There are fish to be cleaned. I say goodbye to todayís party, itís all over for them but not for me. I clean the boat, wash all the rods we used today, and re-rig all lines that need it. When I am finished, I run up to the tackle shop to puck up bait for tomorrow. I bring the bait back to the freezer by the boat. Finally, there is a chance to sit down on the dock. Looking over the boat I think to myself, ďThereís nothing like being a Charter Boat Captain, I canít wait Ďtil tomorrow.Ē
- Capt. Don Marani is a full time Charter Boat Captain and is
the owner/operator of Baltimore Fishing Adventures.
A Day in the Life of a Charter Boat Captain