How To Identify Legal and Illegal Fishing Charters In Alabama?

Over the past few years, there have been an increasing number of news articles about how the U.S. Coast Guard, state and local harbor authorities have been catching and shutting down illegal charter operations in the Gulf of Mexico.  What you need to know as a consumer to protect yourself, is to know how to tell the difference between a boat that is running legally and avoid one that is running illegally.

The Internet Creates A Lot of Confusion About The Legality of Fishing Charters

Just because you see a boat with a website or a boat on some super fish booking website, that does not make them legal.  What you need to know is the Internet is filled with both legal and illegal charters.  Our job is to help you identify them and help you make a better decision in choosing a legal fishing charter. 

Many of the illegal charters we find, run out from lesser known marinas (marinas without charter offices), private docks, public boat launches and some very reputable marinas.  The City of Orange Beach for instance does not allow any charter to run from public boat launches, but there are a few charter boats every day picking up customers from public boat ramps.  The city will not issue a business license to a charter boat that does not have a primary marina to pick up passengers from.   To our knowledge, there has been little or no enforcement of this ordinance.  However, over near Ft. Morgan and Mobile Bay, public boat ramps are commonly used by charter boats because of a lack of marina’s that serve the area.

Legal Fishing Charters Must Have All Of These Licenses, Documents, Memberships and Permits.

  • A US Coast Guard Licensed Captain or Merchant Mariners Document On Board While Operating The Vessel that is appropriate for the vessel size they are operating.  (6 pack OUPV) or (Masters License 100 Ton or larger)

  • Must have a current and unexpired US Coast Guard Physical card in their possession.

  • They can’t operate more than 12 hours in a day without having a second captain and crew on board.

  • They must have a current CPR, First Aid and AED Training from an appropriate organization such as American Heart Association.

  • They must be a current member of an Approved Random Alchohol and Drug Testing Program and has not failed or refused to test within the past 180 days.   The USCG requires an annual renewal of such membership.

  • They must have appropriate State Commercial Party Boat and or Fishing Licenses.

  • They must have appropriate Federal Fishing Permits if fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

  • Although its not a law, You would be best served if the captain had Commerical Charter Boat Insurance, not just a policy that protects the boat owner or lienholder in case of loss.  Many captains are running charters and don’t have any insurance at all.

Before you book any fishing charter, you need to ask the captain or the person you are booking your trip with, DO YOU HAVE ALL OF THESE REQUIRED DOCUMENTS?  Don’t assume that those big fishing super websites have proof from the captains listed on their websites that they are in compliance with these requirements.   If they don’t have proof, you might need to re think your decision about booking with them.   Also, there is a loophole where some captains get their random drug testing certification and then cancel their memberships so they won’t be called in for a random drug test.  Reputable and legal charters keep their drug consortium memberships current as required by law.