The Orange Beach Charter Fishing Travel Guide - How to choose the best fishing charters in Alabama

Orange Beach, Alabama – For years, restaurants, lodging and spas have all had a STAR Ratings to describe the kind of service and experience consumers will have at their establishments. The rating system ranges from one to five. One being the lowest ranking score and anything four or above is something you would expect only the wealthy could afford. We have all heard about Four Star and Five Star ratings but most of you don’t really know what that means. When it comes to the charter fishing industry, there is no set standard to follow until we came along.

Old times are gone but hardly forgotten

Not too many years ago, before the internet came along, charter fishermen’s only method of marketing was, word of mouth and laying the day’s catch out on the dock for people to see. It was simple. A good captain got oday’s fishing trip based on what he caught yesterday.

When we were kids, we would come to the Alabama Gulf Coast and spend most of the day in the water, swimming or driving or mom nuts. In the afternoon’s before we went out to our favorite seafood restaurant, dad saw that our mom needed a break. He would take us kids down to the charter boat marinas in Orange Beach to watch the fishermen come in and unload what they caught that day. It sure was exciting to think that we could charter one of those boats and go out and catch that many fish, in a single day. We looked for the charter boats that caught the biggest fish and the most of them, to help us decide who we would charter the next day. There was always a bunch of people at the docks to cheer the captains on as they unloaded their catch. It was a major ego trip for the captains to have a crowd watching him unload his catch each day. The ooh’s and aah’s of the crowd determined which captain ran a fishing trip and who didn’t. Big fish and a lot of them, meant big bucks in future charters to the captain who brought them to the dock.

We did not even think about good service, but we did think about price. The captains that caught the biggest fish and the most of them could name his price. Price was not an issue for those captains who caught a lot of fish. The rule of supply and demand prevailed at the charter docks. Catching a lot of fish and unloading them at the docks created the demand for the good captains to produced fish so they could compete with the highliners. A highliner is usually the best captain in an area and produced the biggest fish and the most fish each day. There was no negotiating of price when it came to getting a captain who could catch you the fish you wanted. We could put up with a cussing, fussing, rip roaring, rude or crude captain and a hungover, chain smoking deckhand as long as we got our fish. We expected a lot of the captains to act like Capt. Quint from the Jaws movie. We never expected to see Captain Kangaroo. It was the way it was back then. Boy, how times have changed.

Federal Fishing Laws have changed everything - overfishing had to end by 2011

Since the Magnuson-Stevens Act was reauthorized in 2006, the Federal Government has stepped in and started managing the fisheries by mandating the use of annual catch limits and accountability measures in an attempt to stop over fishing. The law is pushing for widespread market-based fishery managem tools like the limited access privilege program. Because of the law, species like the Gulf Red Snapper can no longer be fished for like they used too. No longer can charter boat captains and private recreational anglers go out and over harvest the species. This has put hundreds of charter fishing guides out of or almost out of business. The tough economy of 2008, 2009 and 2010, combined with short federal fishing seasons and restrictive bag limits has removed the meat hunters from the fishery.

In spite of the restrictive regulations and a poor economy, there are a lot of groups and families that will come to the Alabama coast this year and enjoy a fishing charter and the chance of catching a few fish for supper. The federal fishing laws now only allow for sustainable harvests of certain species. They just don’t allow for over harvesting an overfished species anymore like Red Snapper, Grouper and Amberjack. The fishing is great in 2011, you just can’t keep all you catch anymore.

Fishing Charters and Great Service - How to get the best fishing charters

We want consumers to understand the difference between fishing charters, so they can make an informed decision about which guide and charter is best for them. The program we created is only a guide to go by and is intended to enlighten you on what to look for in a fishing charter before you book one and end up dissapointed. The restrictive bag limits and short seasons has forced charter boats to either step up to the plate and offer great service to stay in business or stay status quo and go out of business. Those who fail to offer great service in today’s economy are often sitting in a slip and being tied to a piling. Some of the charter boats that made BP money have invested in their boats and are making an effort to improve the quality of their boat and fishing gear. No matter how some charters try, you can’t just give good service unless you know what good service is. Some charters now have a chance to change their ways and step up to and offer great service and quality fishing charters.

We have found that the most important factor when people are searching for fishing charters ” price or rates.” For the average consumer, price is the single most important factor when deciding to purchase a goods or services. The Charter Price determines whether or not the person goes on a cheap, dirty boat or an exclusive private charter that offers premium service. The problem with using price as the single most determining factor while choosing a fishing charter is, it’s the wrong approach. It would be fine if a fishing charter was like an electronic device made by one manufacuter and was sold by a hundred different retailers. You would know what you were getting. Fishing charters in Orange Beach, Alabama are as different as fingerprints on people. Let me explain it this way. If you were looking for a memorable fishing experience, virtually flawless service and the finest of amenities you would not expect a cheap or inexpensive charter to be able to meet your expectations. It’s kind of like expecting to find Walmart Stores selling “Prime or Certified Angus that didn’t allow for up to a 20 percent water solution to be added.” Everyone knows that if you want the best cuts of meat, you go to a shop that specializes in “Quality Meats” instead of one that used to say, “We sell for less.”

If you expect a certain level of service, a friendly crew and the boat and fishing gear to be in excellent working order, then you need to do a little research about your fishing charter. Safety is often overlooked but is very important to consumers. You must first understand that searching for a great fishing charter at a cheap price could be setting yourself up for a miserable fishing experience that could make you never want to go fishing again. Not all fishing charters are the same so why should their prices be. You can’t just look on the internet and search for “alabama fishing charters cheapest price” and reasonably expect to find a reputable charter that will meet or exceed your needs or expectations. You would certainly not expect to get the most polite and professional charter fishing crew and guide.

In the fishing world, there are those who sell price and those who sell service. There are the elite fishing charters that sell great service and offer value to their customers. There is no such thing as Great Service at a cheap price. Have you ever been in a Publix Grocery Store in the South? Their prices are 10 to 15 percent higher than other stores in the area but you will find the best products, highest quality meats and a person on almost every isle waiting to help you. Have you ever tried to find someone to help you at Walmart, Home Depot or Lowes? Now you know what I mean. The best fishing charters sell service first because of the expectation the consumer has when deciding to take a private fishing charter. The best fishing charters can also produce quality fish and a unique experience while on the water. Those who sell price are usually the ones who are only one season away from going out of business or their boats sinking in the harbor. From the old worn out tackle to the appearance of the boat, cheap fishing charters fail to measure up when it comes to great customer service. Anyone can sell price but not everyone can sell service in the fishing world.

Orange Beach Charter Fishing Rating System - Setting the new standard in charter fishing

We have decided to help consumers understand what you should expect when it comes to choosing the best saltwater fishing guide services and charters. We will explain charter fishing to you in simple terms so you will fully understand what to expect when deciding which charter is best for you. Instead of stars, we will call our ratings, FISH. The more fish a charter has, the better the charter. One fish rating will be the least and five fish will be the best. We will also break it down into categories for you. Some of these ratings accurately reflect how charter boats have acted in the past and are not intended to personally attack or demean any one particular charter captain or deckhand. They are for entertainment purposes only, but can be used to help determine how to tell the difference between good and bad charter fishing experiences.

The New Charter Boat Fishing Ratings System - How to rate a charter fishing boat

Five Star Rating – These charters offer exceptional properties and provide a memorable experience through almost flawless customer service, finest fishing gear and are located at a marina that offers the same.

  • Captains and crews are professionally dressed and are family friendly in every way.

  • Would call you ahead of time and tell you he does not recommend going fishing because the seas forecast was going to be horrible and you should not go.

  • Never takes a deposit on short trips.  A simple credit card number will hold your spot.

  • Will never make you pay in advance for the charter.  You can pay after you return to port.

  • Their boats are superbly cared for and well maintained. 

  • Their fishing tackle is new or almost new condition and in excellent working order.

  • The price of the charter reflects the service expected and the experience guests will have.

  • These charters care more about the experience one will have while fishing and producing quality fish.

Four Fish Rating – These charters offer distinctive properties and provide settings that guests will find interesting and inviting elements to enjoy while on the fishing charter or trip. 

  • The captain and crew are professionally dressed and are family friendly.

  • Would not even consider taking you fishing in rough seas. 

  • Never takes a deposit on short trips.  A simple credit card number will hold your spot.

  • Will not make you pay for the charter in advance.  You may pay after returning to port. 

  • Their boats are in extremely good shape and well cared for.

  • Their fishing tackle is almost new and in great working order with no missing guides or parts.

  • They take pride in catering to their charters’ specific needs while out fishing.

  • The price of the charter reflects the service expected.

  • These charters care more about the experience one will have while fishing and producing good sized fish.

Three Fish Rating – These charters offer average properties and provide common settings that guests will find “usual or expected.” 

  • The captain and crew are nice but are often distant acting and do not interact with guests very well.

  • Will not take you out in rough seas.  Is very safety conscious.

  • They will not make you pay a deposit for your charter.  A credit card number can be used to hold the trip.

  • You may pay the captain after the fishing charter.

  • The deckhand will not lie about how many pounds of fish you caught in order to get more money out of you for fish cleaning.  

  • Their fishing gear is old, worn out parts, wobbling and has some missing parts. 

  • Their charter boat is in need of obvious paint and repair. 

  • The captain spends more time on the radio, running his mouth to other captains instead of tending to his charter.

  • These charters care about you having a good experience and catching some fish.

Two Fish Rating –  These charters offer below average prices but look for ways to get extra money out of you through inflated fish cleaning fees and demanding a big tip for the captain and deckhand.  They provide below average settings that guests will find unnacceptable after they pay their money and get on the charter boat. 

  • The captain has to have your money up front for a short fishing trip as a deposit in order to keep your spot.

  • The restroom is often inoperable or stinks.

  • Don’t worry about the seas being rough.  The captains checkbook is empty and you have to get on the boat and go fishing because his checkbook said so. 

  • The captain and deckhand are often poorly dressed, hung over or often arrive just in time to make the boat themselves before departure.  

  • Their fishing tackle is old worn out junk and the boat is in need of cosmetic and structural repair. 

  • The customer service is usually poor.

  • The deckhand will tell you caught more pounds of fish than you did, so he can get more money out of you for fish cleaning.

  • The deckhand and captain will expect a big tip after providing horrible service.

  • Will take you out in rough seas because the captain needs a paycheck. 

  • You get fussed at or talked down too if you hold your pole incorrectly or heaven forbid, hit a lead on the hull.

  • These charters care about themselves and don’t care if you get seasick or have a miserable time.  They know your not coming back anyway.

One Fish Rating – Are you sure you want to even go there?  These charters offer cheap prices and provide no service at all. 

  • The captain needs that deposit to live on because he ran cheap last year.

  • If you get on the boat, you can’t get off.  You have to go in rough seas even if the captain has to take you fishing in the bay or under the bridge to get your money.

  • The captain needs the rest of your money to purchase fuel before you depart because the marina has him on a cash only basis.

  • The time the captain spends trying to get his engine started counts toward your fishing trip.

  • The captain and crew look at you like a nuisance and they are doing you a favor to even take you fishing on their boat.

  • You paid a cheap price and expect a great fishing trip, no way.  Your getting a boat ride and might get to touch the fishing pole after the deckhand sets the hook and fights the fish almost to the boat.  

  • They offer no interaction other than telling you what not to do and yell at you if you do something wrong.

  • These charters got you on the boat and have your money up front.  You will have to reschedule your charter instead of getting a refund.  Why?  The captain does not have the deposit to give back to you.  He spent it already.

  • The captain and crew have the nerve to ask you if you had a good time after the charter. 

 We hope you enjoyed the new charter fishing rating system.  Deep sea fishing is a wonderful activity for families and friends.  We hope you find the charter trip of your dreams.