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Party Boats

Party boats, also called head boats or open boats, are large sea-going craft that are designed to allow a large number of anglers to fish simultaneously. Averaging from 60 feet to more than 125 feet in length, and capable of holding from 60 to 140 anglers, all sides of party boats have open decks where anglers stand and drop their lures or baits in the water. Most all party boats dock at large marinas in protected bays or rivers. They specialize in fishing for prevalent species in nearby waters.

Party boats sail on a regular basissometimes every day during the fishing season. They leave port and return at predetermined times. Some party boats fish all day; others make two half-day trips, say from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and again from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Yet others will sail at night, departing in the evening and not returning until after midnight.

Typically you don't need to reserve a spot on a party boat. All you have to do is show up at the dock before the departure time and get on board. On a weekend morning during the height of the fishing season, however, you may have to arrive an hour or two early to ensure getting a spot. The fare averages $25 to $30 but may be more or less depending on the location, the length of the trip, and the species involved.

And it's almost always a bargain. Party boat captains are highly experienced fishermen, and you're paying for that knowledge. It's their job to know where the fish might be on any given day during the season. They also have to know the best baits, lures, and techniques to take the fish. They must be able to calculate the influences of the tides, the weather, fishing pressure, and many other variables to find fish, day after day. And they have to position the boat just so to give all anglers the best possible shot at the fish. Your job is simply to show up on time.

Party boats provide bait for their passengers and will chum if necessary for some species. Both are included in the cost of boarding. If you don't own the proper rod and reel, you can rent an outfit for a small fee; usually $5 plus a deposit. Party boats also have toilets and a roofed cabin with cushioned benches. Most also have a galley (kitchen), where snacks, soft drinks, and sometimes warm food can be purchased.

Party boats advertise in newspapers (usually in the sports section) and in state and local outdoor magazines and circulars. These ads usually give the name and size of the boat, where it docks, what species the boat is currently fishing for, and the times it leaves port. It's always wise to call the phone number listed and verify that information.

Also be sure to ask questions when you call: the boarding cost, how the fishing has been recently, what kind of tackle you need, how much it costs to rent tackle if you don't own the right kind, how early you should arrive at the dock, and so on.

Fish Recipes

Fish Recipes

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