Wanna see some real passion from a fishing-boat owner? Ask said owner about pet peeves when it comes to fishing guests. Might want to have a sphygmomanometer handy, as this question almost guarantees a spike in blood pressure.
Be on time. Determine in advance what your host’s “time” means. Is that when to meet at the boat, or is that when to depart the dock? Don’t show up saying you have to be back by lunchtime because of your daughter’s piano recital. You’ll be on time for the recital, because you’ll be left on the quay.
Things to bring. Bring food and drink? For one or several? Ask ahead of time. As for personal belongings, bring only what you absolutely need, such as rain gear and sunscreen. Ask the owner if you should bring anything else. Then ask where the owner would like you to stow it once you’re aboard.
Things That Cost Money
Food and beer. I’ve gone on trips where I enjoyed a full gourmet meal, but I have also been served a tin of sardines and a stack of Saltines. Some owners will suggest each angler bring his own food and drink, while others will arrange for a box of sandwiches from the deli. Don’t forget that beer, soda, water and ice all cost money too. And not just the ice to keep drinks cold. The fishboxes need to be packed as well to maintain all those prime fish you will no doubt bring home.
Fuel. Unless you happen to be fishing on a mack-daddy 65-footer that gulps 120 gph, be prepared to chip in for gas. Fuel represents the greatest expense for a fishing trip. Even a small center console with an outboard will burn $100 or more in a day. The owner of the 65-footer doesn’t need your money.
Bait. If you happen to use bait for fishing and the owner hasn’t netted it himself, the bait barge can be another expensive stop. Chip in.
Damage and loss. Break a rod or, worse, drop the whole rod/reel combo over the side? Be responsible and replace it. Most times, a reel can be repaired if its guts go haywire. Again, offer to pay for any repairs.
Things That Don’t Cost
No-no. Don’t touch the controls or helm unless asked (no matter your skill or experience level.) Don’t adjust the radio or chartplotter, nor shall you mess with any of the other electronics without being asked. And by no means tell an owner how to fish unless your advice is solicited. It goes without saying that you never tell a professional captain or crew how to fish!
Secrecy. Most successful anglers have a book full of favorite fishing spots, though nowadays such spots are more likely saved as waypoints in a chartplotter. Don’t get caught stealing the coordinates of a spot you like. That’s a great way to kill a friendship.
Washdown. Any owner or crew worth its salt washes the boat down after every outing. That means soap, water and a chamois to dry it. Every inch gets cleaned. Even on a small boat this takes time and energy. A personal pet peeve of mine is getting back to the dock and having everyone say thanks and leave. I then get to spend another couple of hours cleaning. Many hands make light (and fast) work.
Fish cleaning. Every experienced angler who charters a boat will establish the rules regarding who keeps the fish before leaving the dock. The boat or the angler? Likewise, during an outing on a friend’s boat, it’s best to avoid an awkward situation among friends at the end of the day by making sure everyone knows how the fish will be apportioned back in the slip. Which brings us to anther messy, time-consuming job (assuming you have a good day): cleaning the day’s catch. If you’re good at it, offer to do that rather than wash the boat, since it’s skilled vs. unskilled labor. Not everyone possesses filleting skills. You had better know what you’re doing, though, because savaging valuable fillets is a capital offense.
Mal de mer. Do you suffer from sea sickness? Then do your friends a favor and stay at home. Don’t spoil everyone else’s day by going out, getting violently ill and forcing the boat to cancel the fishing day. Personally, I will let you suffer and perhaps even chuckle as your breakfast loudly goes overboard.