COSTS of OFFSHORE FISHING
With gas prices being what they are these days, I thought I'd give a little break-down of the costs of offshore fishing. Guides and Charter boats charge what they do because it really does cost some hefty $$ to play in the ocean.
Gas. For near-shore/beach trips, we fill up 20 gallons of fuel. Offshore is a minimum of 40 gallons when we're talking about running at least 80 miles of distance. So, upfront, we know the gas will be anywhere from $80 to $160 minimum in our fuel-efficient Opti-Max. We have a neighbor that runs over $500 of gas on his big offshore trips. There are a lot of variables between types of engines, water choppiness, wind and weight of supplies on board which can affect your gas miledge. In summer, water is flatter so we burn less fuel. Expect more $$ for diesel or boats paying for gas at the Marinas.
Oil. If there is an outboard engine(s) on board that takes in oil, expect $13/gallon per engine for the trip.
Bait. Bait is variable depending on whatever your fishing. On a cheap day, it can run us under $10 for a few dozen of live shrimp, but if you need sardines, cigar minnows, ballyhoo, squid, you need to head to the ATM for more $$. Expect at least $30-50 in bait for a big offshore day.
Ice. Wow, I never realized how much one would have to spend on ice when we got into fishing. Many charters or professional fishermen own their own ice machines. That may be an option for us in the future but for now, we're still buying ice. We use 40 lb bag of ice in the fish cooler and 2-3 bags of 7 lb ice in the food cooler. That's over 60 lbs of ice for nearly every trip fishing whether it be inshore or offshore. Expect another $10 to fly out of the wallet for frozen water.
Poles. Well, that is the biggest variable. Just know that the bigger the fish you plan to catch, the more you will spend on your tackle and rod/reel combos. Oh and one pole will never do the trick. We keep anywhere between 4-6 poles onboard the FIRST CHOICE. We frequently see boats carrying over 10 rod/reels leaving the port. Cheap is nice when you check out of Bass Pro Shop, but it won't hardly bring the big fish up off the bottom. What you want to look for is QUALITY. Quality means that your pole won't break on the first fish that takes you to the gunnel. Your reel's gears won't fall apart either. Consider this an investment. The better your gear, the less $$ you'll spend in the long run. If you're taking a charter, expect either a rental fee or assume the "you break, you bought" policy. It's only fair to somebody who's just lost out on a couple hundred bucks of gear. Poles sometimes come with warranties so check into that.
Tackle. While tackle can be reused many times, it still needs replacing over time. Offshore fish have TEETH. Their mouth plates are like armor and so hooks & jigs need replacing constantly. Many have gills that will damage line if not cut it entirely. All this needs constant replacing and evaluating. Reels should be respool with new line a minimum of once a year. We're talking hundreds of yards of line per pole, approx $25 + up.
Safety. While many people do not even think about this as an expense, they should. How many $$ would you give to drift in the ocean 10 hours less than the last guy? How about drifting in the complete darkness of night? I don't know about you, but I'd give my home away to never experience being lost at sea if that could be guaranteed. Invest in a top-end EPIRB (personal beacon) with fast position-locking satellites. Invest in heavy-duty vests, not just the cheap orange ones. We have vests meant for holding 200 lb+ men on their back for hours in the water. Make sure the amount of floatation fits the size person it will keep afloat. It will do no good for a man to be counting on a pink, child-size Barbie life-vest to keep him alive should he fall asleep drifting at sea. Buy hand-held GPS, batteries, mirrors, flares, flare guns, horns, whistles, matches, water, food, whatever you need. Keep them in a water-tight case or Abandon ship bag. Expect to spend $600-$1000 decking out your emergency bag. If you charter a boat, make sure you know what equipment is available to you in case of an emergency. When Jack fishes with other friends, he brings along his "ditch" bag along with his poles.
KNOWLEDGE. If you've had a wonderful and safe day out on the water, consider it money well-spent. If you catch fish, all the better. If there are deck-hands who are handling your fish or baiting your poles, tip them. They work very hard for their money. If a Captain puts you all over fish, add more money to the charter costs. It's a reward and they've earned it. If you get skunked, don't sulk. It happens to EVERYBODY who fishes on the water. That's why they call it fishing not catching. A lot of time is spent loading the boat, getting to the spots and looking at every nook and cranny. We don't expect our friends or family to tip us; however, we also don't expect people to complain over splitting costs either.
FOOD. Some Captains and charters/ head boats now provide food with their services. Don't expect Giada in the kitchen. It's probably some guy named Lou with tattoos on his forearms and a cig out his mouth. But, they won't let you starve. Sometimes it is just sandwiches and can drinks. Always ask ahead of time. For us, we usually provide for our family and let our guests pick out their own food at the convenience stores. Our baitshop, Sunrise Marina, happens to make a wonderful sub, packed with deli meats & cheeses. We always bring a big bag of salty snacks too. Pringles are #1. Peanuts are another big hit. I don't know why, but we'd rather munch than eat sandwiches most days. Egg salad sandwiches are great too because they're filled with protein which seems to settle the stomach better. Beef jerky also seems to be popular with the men. Watermelon can be rehydrating, but you may want to skip if it upsets your stomach. We can easily spend $20 in offshore foods for a family of 4, even if most of it comes from home.
MISCELLANEOUS. One thing I'm trying to get better about is bringing Ziploc baggies. Jack will clean whatever fish we get at the cleaning tables, rather then bring them home and have them sit in the garbage cans attracting flies & maggots. It's like oceanic recycling. Crabs & little fish get to pick the carcasses clean and we keep it out of landfills.
Of course, there are expenses to processing a lot of meat. See how-to-process-101-lbs-of-fish-meat .
So to recap, if your friend asks you to go fishing, expect to pay some $$ out of pocket. An offshore trip, this side of the Gulf Stream (26 miles away) will cost roughly $200-400. If you go to "the other side", expect a minimum of $600-800. Something in the river or off the beach, $100 or less.
It really is a bargain when you consider all the fun, memories and fresh meat you'll be eating. Oh and don't forget to bring the camera. It keeps fishermen from lying!!