Orange Beach Charter Fishing Definitions and Terms

There are many of you who like to read and educate yourselves. This fishing definitions page will define everything we can think you need to know about fishing charters in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama. You may also read our Frequently Asked Questions about Charter Fishing.

Charter Fishing Boat –

Is a boat that operates for hire and charges a fee to carry people fishing.

Orange Beach Deep Sea Fishing –

In Alabama, deep sea fishing is commonly known as trolling fishing, bottom fishing or reef fishing. Deep sea fshing means going away from land to the “deep sea” and fishing. Any federally permitted charter boat can carry you deep sea fishing. Most of the time, because of comfort, the larger boats (41 feet or larger) like 6 passenger or Multi-passenger boats are more popular choices.  They usually offer comfort, air conditioned cabins and restrooms. Most deep sea fishing charters use heavy tackle and 40 pound test line or larger to catch fish. There is one deep sea fishing charter in Orange Beach that uses light tackle for reef fishing. That boat is the Distraction. Distraction is known for great customer service and makes fishing fun for the entire family.   The best deep sea fishing charters depart from Orange Beach.

Inshore Fishing or Back Bay Fishing –

Inshore fishing means fishing near the shore line, in the bays, on the flats, in the marsh, under piers, under bridges, near the jetties. It does not mean going out in the Gulf of Mexico. That is called near shore fishing. Inshore fishing in Orange Beach, is a style of fishing that usually encompasses ultra light tackle or light tackle, and our Inshore Fishing Charter fishes for species like Speckled Trout, Flounder, Sheepshead, Pompano, Redfish and Black Drum. Most of the boats that fish inshore are 20 to 25 feet in length. Most are center consoles and do not have a restroom onboard.

The best inshore or bay fishing charters occur in Mobile Bay.  They depart from Gulf Shores Marina area at Fort Morgan.  Orange Beach has a lot of inshore boats, but because there are so many of them, the fishing pressures is greater or less productive than Mobile Bay.   Many inshore boats in Orange Beach tend to stay at the bridge or Jetties.  The better inshore boats venture out from Orange Beach and up in Perdido Bay, Wolf Bay, Etc. 

Six Pack Charter Fishing Boat

This is a charter boat that can carry a maximum of 6 passengers for hire. It does not mean that the boat is small or little by any means. All inshore fishing charters are 6 passenger boats.   Most offshore fishing boats that operate as 6 pack boats. Most 6 passenger inshore boats are generally 20 to 25 ft in length.  The best offshore six passenger boats are 40 to 46 ft. 6 passenger charter boats can go up to 100 miles from shor.  The Distraction 6 passenger charter is one of the most requested 6 passenger fishing charters operating in the Gulf of Mexico.

Multi-Passenger Charter Fishing Boat –

Multi-passenger boat is a charter boat that can carry the number of people that the US Coast Guard says it can carry. Some larger boats like party boats can carry up to 90 passengers at a time. Most of offshore, multi passenger fishing charters, take anywhere from 12 to 20 people at a time, fishing. Most have enough rail space to fit 12 to 15 people beside each other without getting tangled up all the time. Most multi passenger boats are 40 to 65 ft long in Orange Beach. Most multi passenger fishing boast are also able to go up to 100 miles from land, to fish for legal sized reef fish species like Grouper and Amberjack. There are some multi passenger boast that have a coastwise limitation (defined below). The Intimidator is your only choice for overnight fishing charters or if you have a large group.


Private Fishing Charter –

Private fishing charters are where everyone on the boat is from the same group for one fee or price. These trips are not priced as a per person rate like walk on fishing charters are. Only you and your family and friends are on the boat. You are paying for the entire boat to take you fishing. 6 passenger and Multi passenger boats offer private fishing charters.

Shared Expense Fishing Charter –

A shared expense fishing charter is where you join others or other small groups until the charter boat is at maximum capacity or have a minimum number of people to go. Most multi passenger charters have a minimum of 10 people before they will go fishing. Six passenger boat have a minimum of 6 people before they will go. The cost of the charter is divided as a per person fee with a minimum number of people. Shared expense charters are a great place to find an economical fishing charter without having to invest in a premium charter.

Party Boat and Head Boat Fishing Charter –

A party boat is a multi passenger fishing charter that carries people for hire for a per person fee. Party boats usually have a minimum 20 people signed up to go before they will take you fishing. The cost is from $49 to $85 per person, plus tip and fish cleaning. Most party boats only go for 4 or 6 hour fishing trips. Privately booked party boats will go for as long as you are willing to pay the fee. Party boats in Orange Beach are mostly larger boats of 57 feet up to 70 feet. They can carry up to 50 to 90 people, depending on how many people the coast guard allows them on their certificate of inspection. There are some of them that have a coastwise limitation of 20 miles. Most can go up to 100 miles offshore. You can charter them for private trips but most of the time, they take large groups of people and put them together for a walk on fishing charter. Party boats take you out deep sea fishing and everyone holds a pole and fishes at the same time. This is called reef fishing or bottom fishing. Party boats run every day during the tourist season in Spring Break and from June 1 to August 15. The key to getting on a party boat is them having enough people signed up to make the trip possible.

Reef Fishing or Deep Sea Fishing –

This is where the charter boat goes offshore to a natural or artificial reef. The captain does not usually anchor the boat. He figures out the hold up and he holds the boat or hovers over the reef while you fish. Everyone on the charter boat, baits their hook with either live bait or cut bait and drops their lines below the boat. When a fish hits your bait, you fight him and reel him in. The most common fish you can catch while deep sea fishing are: Red Snapper, Vermilion Snapper, White Snapper (Red Porgy), Lane Snapper, Triggerfish, Grouper, Amberjack, Almaco Jack, Ruby Lips, Scamp Grouper, Tile Fish and more.

Charter Boat Hold Up –

Hold up is a maneuver where the deep sea charter boat captain positions the boat to where he can hover over the fishing reef and not drift of the spot while you are bottom fishing. Charter Captains have to point the nose of the boat into the wind and take into consideration current and tidal movement. Failure to hold the charter boat still will result in your fishing lines going underneath the boat and your fishing line getting caught in the propellers. Hold up can be easy or difficult. Some captains are good at it, but some of them continue to spin out and drift off the spot and tangle up your lines. Your captain or mate will instruct you to reel up and re-drop when he thinks he is in position and has the hold up figured out again.

Trolling Fishing Charter-

Trolling is where you place the rods and reels in the rod holder on the charter boat keeps moving and drags lures behind the charter boat until you get a strike. Not everyone fishes at the same time. You have to take turns reeling them in. We commonly go through a school of fish where we catch more than one fish at a time. It is hectic and fun trying to fight the fish without getting them tangled up by crossing the lines. Fish we commonly catch trolling are: King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, Jack Crevalle, Bonita, Wahoo, Dorado (Mahi-Mahi), Yellowfin Tuna, White Marlin, Blue Marlin and and Bonita.

Near Shore Fishing Charter –

Near Shore fishing is a fishing charter that keeps you near land or near the shore but out in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of these fishing trips are done by larger charter boats because of comfort and restrooms on board. Near Shore fishing charters mostly do trolling fishing trips because there are no reefs near the shore. Near Shore fishing charters fish for Spanish Mackerel, King Mackerel, Bluefish, Bonita, Bull Redfish and Jack Crevalle. Sometimes during the Winter you can sight fish for Bull Redfish. In the Spring, we sight fish for Cobia. Cobia fishing is like a guided Turkey hunt. It is trophy fishing and is not for everyone. It is a lot of riding and when you see one swimming, you can cast on him. Cobia weigh from 15 to 100 lbs each and are always swimming to the west, right off the beach. It is best during late March to late April each year.

Sight Fishing Charter –

Sight Fishing in Alabama is where you use your sight to spot the fish. We do have some inshore fishing areas and flats where an angler can see fish swimming on the surface and cast a lure or bait to them in hopes of them biting it. Sight fishing is also good during the Spring Cobia fish run where we ride east and west along the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach and look for these fish swimming just underneath the surface.  When you see one, you can cast your lure or bait to them in hopes of getting a bite.

Garbone or Gar (funny) –

A Gar or Garbone is referred to by captains and deckhand as the “mentality of a person who has really high expectations of killing fish for a cheap price.” Historically, a Garbone was a person who showed up for a walk-on fishing charter with a plastic garbage can filled with fishing gear and would expect to leave the boat with the garbage can full of fish. The word gar originated from all of the people bringing GARbage cans on the boat with them. If you want to see an older more competitve captain or deckhand squirm, just tell him that you want to kill a lot of fish and big ones on a short trip. Tell him you used to catch big ones on the last trip. He will think you are a GAR. It is comical and you can have some fun if you are with the right captain. If you get the wrong captain or deckhand, you can ruin their day if you tell them you want Grouper or Amberjack on a 8 hour or shorter fishing trip. As silly as it is, it really gets to some people.

Our captains are professionals and will laugh with you if you “place your order.” We give you honest expectations of the day ahead. We don’t promise you something that we can’t deliver. If you want big fish, you need to plan on a longer fishing trip and specifically fish for a species in order to have a chance to catch them. If you want Grouper or Amberjack, you need to plan on a 10 or 12 hour trip to reasonably have a chance to catch them. Remember fishing pressure close to shore for Grouper or Amberjack is intense. You have to go to reefs further offshore to have a chance to catch legal sized fish like these. In Orange Beach, the most abundant fish is the Red Snapper. They can be caught on 6 hour trips easily.

Charter Boat Rotation – How Marina’s Book Charters!

If you don’t really know which fishing charter you would to book, you may go to a marina charter office.  They will help you decide which type of fishing charter you would like and then offer you a boat.   What you need to know is, the boat they offer you is next up on their rotation schedule.   Marinas that have charter offices, book trips for all their boats.  after a boat is booked, that boat moves to the bottom of the rotation board.  As other boats are booked, the rotation continues until every boat is booked.  Then the process starts over again.  This is why booking a charter direct may be a better choice for you.

Charter Boat Brokers

Charter boat brokers are simply those companies, marina charter offices or individuals who make a commission off consumers for using their services .   Before the internet took over, most people booked fishing trips using word of mouth or referrals.     Most marina’s have charter offices on premises where walk up or just in time fishing trips could be booked.   The primary source for consumers to book fishing charters today is to book direct.  However, there are many online brokers paying sponsored ads on search engines like google, bing, yahoo, etc.   Because they make so much money off unsuspecting anglers, many pay big bucks in advertising to lure you in.  Brokers provide a much needed service for those new charter boats to get a little business while they are trying to get established and have their own customer base.   Examples of online brokers are:,,, and

Why Fishing Charter Brokers Are Not Good For Consumers –

For those of us who have been in business for some time, we understand how hard it is to make a living as a charter fishing guide.   Since brokers take 15% to 30% of the price of a fishing charter off the top, fishing guides don’t have the revenue to provide you with the best fishing trip.  The profit in charter fishing ranges from 5% to 10% based on gross sales.   When a charter boat has a broker skimming 15% to 25% off the top, the charter boat ends up working for no profit.   For every 4 trips a charter boat runs, the 5th one they run for free.  Nobody can make a living for very long when you are fishing for free.  After charter boats pay a broker, they don’t have the money to pay for the fuel it takes to get you far enough offshore to where the big fish are.  These boats have to run slow and can only fish areas that see a lot of fishing pressure.  This means their customers don’t get the quality they deserve.