Length Of Charter Fishing Trips

Distance Offshore and Your Charter Fishing Trip:

One thing is constant is change.   Each year there are more and more people on the water fishing.  With all of this fishing pressure, we feel it is important that you understand that the distance you fish offshore, will or may have an effect on your fishing charter.   Now, we usually catch fish on every trip, no matter how far we go offshore.

Because we care if you have a good first experience, there are a few things you need to know when deciding on a fishing charter.    I am going to break this page down and talk about budget, distance offshore, your expectations and quality.

No matter which private charter trip you choose, we promise to give you our best.   I just want to make sure that your expectations do not exceed our reality.   That is why I like to explain things beforehand.  This way, there will not be any surprises.

Lines On The Map Means Distance Offshore

I have drawn lines on a map, in order to illustrate the distance you can travel offshore in a certain number of hours and return to the dock on time.  Most charter boats our size, cruise about 10-12 knots.  Some run faster.   We can only go so far on any fishing charter.   Since trip times are based on a dock to dock time, knowing how far you can go on each trip is important.   This will help guide you and set your expectations on which species, quality and quantity you can possibly catch.

A regular 6 hour trip for example, can only get you as far as 15 miles offshore.   We go just about that far on each trip.   We want you fishing as much time as you can.  Within 15 miles of shore, there are quite a few spots or reefs to fish.   After hurricane Sally, there are a few spots that got buried up in the sand or totally lost.

You need to know that the distance offshore you travel can affect the size and quality of the fish you catch.  It is especially true if you are fishing in July around the full moon.  If you want a chance to catch more variety and larger fish, you need to budget for a longer trip.  This is because as seasons progress, we have to go a little farther in order to maintain quality.  In general, the 6 hour trip gives our guests the right amount of riding and fishing.  That is why it is so popular.

Fishing Pressure on artificial reefs

From what we are seeing this year, fishing will be different than any year we have had in the past decade.   What we mean is; fishing for larger fish may be a little tougher on reefs closer to shore.  This is due to excessive fishing pressure on the close in reefs.

The longer the fishing trip you book, means we have the time to get you farther offshore and give you more fishing time.

Federal and State Fishing Regulations

Saltwater fish species like red snapper, triggerfish, grouper and greater amberjack are highly regulated, and the seasons are often short.  Because our federal laws require us to adhere to annual catch limits (ACL’s), there are only so many fish that are available to catch each year.  This is good.  It helps keep fish populations healthy and sustainable.    We encourage our guests to always keep the best and release the rest.  This way, we will have a few fish left in the water and available for future generations of anglers to catch.

How Budget, Time & Quality Affect Your Fishing Charter

There are three aspects to going charter fishing that you need to know about.  They are budget, time and quality.

The first is your budget.  Budget determines the distance offshore, amount of fishing time and the quality of the fish you can expect to catch.    For us, we set our prices to include enough fuel to get our guests far enough offshore so we can realistically give them the best fishing trip for the money invested.  Budget pays for the fuel.

The second factor is time.  The amount time fishing dependent on the length of the trip you choose.  The 6 hour trip for instance gives anglers about 2 hours of riding out, 2 hours of fishing and then a 2 hour ride home.   If you want more time fishing, you need to budget for a longer trip like the 10 hour.   What you need to know is, a full day trip does not quadruple the number of fishing hours.  For instance, a full day trip will approximately require a 3 hour ride offshore, about 3.5 to 4 hours of fishing and then a 3 hour ride home.

The third factor is quality.   Some anglers define quality as catching all big fish.  To us, quality refers to the service one receives, the right amount of fishing and riding ratio, variety of species caught.  That is why we specialize in bent poles and smiling faces®.   We take you fishing and our goal is to catch what is biting.   To us, a quality fish is one that is young, better tasting and is of a species that tastes good.  There is also the aspect of quality that refers to the species of fish.   For instance, catching a wahoo or a dorado (dolphin fish) on a trip, improves the quality of the trip.

How Water May Affect The Quality Of Trolling Fishing Trips

As far as fishing goes, the unknown for us in 2020 is knowing what the water quality (salinity) is going to be.  In 2019, we had record amounts of flooding in the midwest, which ran down to the Gulf of Mexico and muddied up our water all summer.    Water quality has a huge effect on trolling fishing.   In order to have a better year trolling fishing, we need less rain.  The water needs to be clear, salty waters to roll in and stay with us.  This way, we will have more wahoo, mackerel, bonito and mahi mahi in the area.

 6 Hour “Most Popular” Fishing Territory – Out To 15 Miles

A different kind of fishing charter in Orange Beach.

The 6 hour territory is from the beach, out to 15 nautical miles offshore.  During the summer months, we only offer 6 hour trips.  We actually have two trips a day, except on Sunday’s.   We shut down on Sunday to rest, but if we miss a day because of weather, we will try and make up a day.   This area is the most popular zone we fish.  This area has a lot of artificial reefs in it and has a lot of fish on them.  The waters are shallow or usually 100′ or less in depth.  15 miles is about how far we can range out given we only have 6 hours time from dock to dock.   In years past, we have always figured about a 2 hour ride out, 2 hours of bottom/reef fishing and a 2 hour ride home.

High Speed Trolling

Depending on the time of year it is, we almost always pull high speed trolling lures while we are running to and from the fishing grounds.  Spring is usually not that god for high speed trolling because the water temperatures are cooler and the migratory fish that inhabit these waters are not here yet.   High speed trolling gets better beginning in mid to late May and continues to the end of October when gulf waters are warmest.  The purpose of high speed trolling is to maximize hook time in the water and to catch a few bonus fish for supper.   As long as the water is clear or not muddy because of a lot of rain, I think we will have a banner year trolling.

Changes In The Fishery

What has changed in the past 5 years is, fishing for red snapper for instance got real good back in 2012 to 2015.  Everyone could stay within this 6 hour territory and catch large red snapper 8-10 pounders for their customers on just about any spot or reef.  Now, some 6 to 8 years later, most of the larger red snappers have mostly been caught, but there are still a lot of quality, legal size or under sized red snappers still around to keep customers happy.

Since bigger is not always better, we focus more on “quality” than we do on the size of the fish.  To us, a quality red snapper is 16″ barely legal to 17″ in length.  These fish are younger and do not hold high levels of Hg in them like the older fish (over 24″) do.  So, we really mean quality fish when we are talking about red snapper.   We do catch our share of giant, 10-15 pound or larger red snapper.  Because the food quality is not good and they are mostly brood stock, we give our anglers the option to release them or keep them.  We are amazed at how many anglers we take fishing who understand the importance of letting the bigger female fish go.  The parents who choose us, in our opinion, are doing a good job raising their kids to be conservation minded.

Because a majority of those larger fish (over 5 pounds) have been caught in the area we fish, we and our competitors must go 30 to 50 miles offshore to maintain that catch rate of larger or what we call “less quality” fish.  Our customers tell us all the time that they are perfectly fine catching a lot of quality fish that offer an angler a lot of fun and a good fight, and are really good to eat.

Building Our Own Private Reefs

How we do things differently and guarantee our customers catch quality fish, is we build reefs where nobody knows where they are located.  This is what makes us so successful when it comes to giving our customers bent rods and a lot of action.

The Fish We Catch

Most of the reef fish located within 15 nm are red snapper, triggerfish, a few vermilion snapper (beeliners) and some migratory or seasonal trolling fish like king mackerel, spanish mackerel and bonito.   The reef fish are around all year.  The trolling fish are seasonal from mid May to October each year.  The water quality or salinity has an effect on the trolling fish bite.

Abundance and Size of Fish

When you choose our most popular 6 hour fishing trip, you can expect to catch a lot of fish and keep your rods bent.  However, not all of the fish will be as large as they were a few years ago.  For this year, you can expect an abundance of red snapper ranging from 12″ to 17″ in length.   16″ is the minimum size for red snapper if you want to keep them.  They are very tasty and a lot of our customers prefer quality.  As the red snapper season continues into late June and all the way through July, larger fish on 6 hour trips will likely not be as plentiful as they were during the beginning of the season.

You will have a lot of fun on a 6 hour trip.  I guarantee it, or will make it right!

6 Hour Premium Fishing Territory – 15 Miles to 20 Miles Offshore

During the Spring and Fall of the year, we offer an 6 hour premium trip for those who want a few more fish for dinner.  The 6 hour premium territory is from about 16-25 nautical miles offshore.  This area is very popular for those who want to have a chance to catch a few more varieties or species of fish.

99% of the reef fish located in this area are red snapper, triggerfish, vermilion snapper (beeliners), red porgy (white snapper) a very few greater amberjack and some migratory or trolling fish like king mackerel, bonito.

When you choose an 6 hour premium fishing trip, you can expect to catch a lot of fish like you did in the 6 hour range.  However, not all of the fish will be as large as they were a few years ago in this area.  That is because anglers continue to fish farther from shore in order to try and maintain their catch rate and to catch more bigger red snapper.

Red Snapper for instance, a few years ago in the 6 hour premium range, averaged about 5 to 6 pounds each in this area and were about 18-19″ in length.   You can still catch some larger red snapper in this zone during the first half of the red snapper season, but just like the 6 hour territory, fishing pressure will be intense in these areas.

10 Hour Fishing Territory – 25 Miles to 40 Miles Offshore

The full day, 10 hour territory is from about 25 nautical miles offshore to 40 miles.  This area is very popular for those who want to have a chance to catch a cart load of fish and a few more varieties or species of fish.  In the past decade, fishing pressure in this zone has decreased because of the number of people fishing stayed close to shore or in the 6 or 8 hour range who were chasing nice size red snapper.   Now everything has changed in those close areas and mostly over fished.   That is why if you want a chance to catch some really nice fish, you need to book a full day charter.

Most of the reef fish located in this area are red snapper, triggerfish, vermilion snapper (beeliners), red porgy (white snapper) greater amberjack, almaco jacks, gag grouper, scamp grouper,  and some migratory or trolling fish like king mackerel, bonito, possibly some seasonal mahi mahi or wahoo.    There are some white marlin caught on full day trips in the fall of the year, but if you want marlin or tuna, you need to consider an overnight or 30 hour trip or longer.

When you choose a full day  fishing trip, you can expect to catch a lot of the same fish like you did in the 6 .  However, not all of the fish will be as large as they were a few years ago in this area.   The grouper for instance have been fished really hard over the past 10 years.  There are some still out there, but catching some requires a lot of time, patience, weather and a good bite.  You can also expect to ride 3 hours minimum before you ever start fishing in the morning.   The ride home can be as long as 3 to 4 hours, depending on distance you are from land.