How To:

Get A Job As A Mate On An Offshore Charter Boat & Beyond

Author: Bullbuster Team

How To Get A Job On A Fishing Charter Boat & The Trajectory Of A Career In Fishing

So you want to be a mate on charter boat? You’ve come to the right place.  Below we will outline some strategies to get a job on the charter boat of your dreams, or just your first charter boat job. Below we talk about getting the job and what it entails.

  1. Go To The Dock & Ask Around — This is the good old fashioned way to get started.  Head over to the dock and talk to each charter boat.  Get a feel for which one you would like to work with.    * Try to talk to the Captain Directly when possible. 
  2. Message The Charter Boat Via Social Media-  Nowadays referral books work for some charter boats, but many get a majority of their business through social media and are always checking their messages.   ** Make sure you say something that catches their attention and tells them a little bit about you.  Be sure to be honest about your experience level, they are going to find out soon when you step on the boat. 
  3. Check The Local Regulations & Try To Have What You Need Checked Off before stepping on the boat as a mate. ** Skills that may come in handy, mechanical experience, customer service experience, first aid, etc. 
  4. Get To Know The Local Fishing Community — Most serious fishermen are in regular contact with at least one charter boat.  If you are new to the area, try just going fishing with people, think of it it as networking. 


The Process 

Below we outline the typical fishing career from start to finish.  Not everyone follows these exact steps, some start at different levels, some skip levels.  What you will find below is a typical trajectory of a career in fishing. 

Level 1) The Apprenticeship

If you are going to become a professional fishermen and you don’t have your own boat to start with, get ready for your apprenticeship. 

Get Ready To Work For Free Up Front

If you are getting started working on a charter boat, you may start by working for free, making a little bit of money on the side through tips of generous clients (this makes for great practice of your customer service skills). 

The crew of the charter boat is going to feel you out, as well as to train you on their style of fishing, maintenance, as well as customer service. 

On most boats you will be supervised by a first mate as well as the Captain.  They will feel you out to see what you can and not do and train you on how they want things to be done. 

The Pay:  This really depends on the boat, and the customer, you could make anywhere from $0 - A Few Hundred Dollars Per Trip

Figure Out If You Like The Fishing Style Of The Boat You Are On

Every boat has its own style of fishing, its own personalities.  You need to figure out what you feel most comfortable with.  Its your life, and if you choose this path this will be your day to day.  

Some Captains yell, some are quite, you need to figure out what you like best. 

Some mates are able to delegate some want to do everything themselves. Some will send you on tasks you have no idea what to do with very little direction.  You need to know your style of learning.  

Figure Out The Boats Dynamics

Understand that a charter operation is like any small business.  When you first step on the  boat, you may be tested by the your co-workers.  Some will feel threatened by your presence, some will open you with open arms.  

Some boats ultimate goal is to catch the most possible fish, some boats goals are to make the customer as comfortable as possible. Figure out what you like, you will learn different skills in each type of boat. 

Learn What You Will Be Responsible For

Being a mate on a charter boat isn’t just fishing, a lot of is tackle prep, boat maintenance, and random projects that are required to keep the business afloat.   

If you are working with and older Captain, you may be their modern marketing department working out the kinks of social media, taking pictures, posting on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat you name it. 

Some mates may be responsible for blogging, and even booking.  You never know, figure out what you want as you are going in. 

Level 2) Backup Mate 

Once you have proven yourself with your apprenticeship and not only the Captain but the crew trusts you, get ready for random phone calls to go fishing.   

Most boats have at least one or two steady full-time to semi full time mates.  However, SH&*$ happens, one is sick, hurt, on vacation, you’ve passed all the tests you are now the go to guy.  

Make sure you are available and by your phone.  Don’t miss to many trips like this, give yourself the reputation as the reliable guy to call.  With this reputation you are going to get more calls (don’t be surprised how fast this can happen). 

The Pay:  Depending on the boat and the customer, you can make between $50 and $300 on a trip. 

Level 3) Full Time Mate

Assuming that you are still working on the same boat, and you get along with the captain or the crew (or the charter company you are working for has enough boats that this doesn’t matter). The time will come where you are the senior guy, you know the one who is going on every trip, the one who knows exactly how things are run on the boat (depending on the boat, you may get to start defining this). You are now the guy who is training the apprentice, and calling the backup mate. 

Pay:  Depending on the boat and the customer you can make anywhere between $75 and $500 per trip 

Level 4) Tournament Mate  

Alright, so we all know your dependable, but your also getting damn good at what you do.  The Captain has noticed.  Whether your boat is booked specifically or the captain has been hired to run  a private boat, you are now the go to tournament guy.   

The captain wants the best mate he’s  got to fish the tournaments with him.  Not only because it will impress the clients, but there is money in the game!

Level 4 (b) ) Get a gig as a tournament mate on private boats on your own.  This is one you may have to think about long and hard because it may  put some tension in the your relationship with your current employer.

Pay:  Depending on the captain, the customer, the tournament, and how you place you can make anywhere from $0- $250,000

Level 5) Get Your Captains License Already

Sometimes the Captain or Boat Owner has other responsibilities. Its good to have  a trustworthy guy to help him run the boat.  Get your Arse to sea school he says.   

Life in the pit may be more exciting, but if you are going to do this for a living you better start running the boat. 

Pay:  Time to study, not much pay here, other than on regular mating gigs. 

Level 6)  Half Captain Half Mate 

Ok so you have your captains license now, but the captain still runs the boat at least most of the time.  You find yourself in an in between land between captain and mate. You still get the excitement of mating in the pitt, but you get the guaranteed pay of running a charter as the Captain now as well.  

Pay:  Pay varies between mating and captain rates and depends on both the boat and the customer. 

Level 6) Captain

Ok you have a few kids now, maybe its time to take some responsibility and be a captain full time.  Depending on the size of your charter companies fleet, this may mean working full time on the operations boats, or freelancing between multiple charter captaining when the owner or captain is out of town or unable to operate a charter.  

At this stage in the game your reputation is everything, the owner is putting one of their largest assets in your hands. 

Pay : Depending the operation and the customer you can make between $150 - $500 per trip.

Level 7  (a) ) Start Your Own Charter Operation 

At this level its time to become your own boss.  You’ve save up some money to buy a vessel, inherited one, borrowed some, who knows. But you’re ready to take the leap. 

If you’ve been in the business for a while you may know to some extent what is coming.  Your about to find out why some days your captain was grumpy and grumbling.  With power comes great responsibility.  You are going to work hard here, but hey you are your own man (or woman). 

If you are starting at this level, get ready for the steepap learning curve, also the competitive nature of the charter industry.  You’ve got this!  

(You may need a crash course on boat maintenance, internet marketing for charter operations, hiring procedures, cash flow management, book keeping, and a crash course on liabilities and insurance for this type of business).  ** This may also be true for those who are getting into the game from within the industry as well. 

Pay:  This is up to you it could be Negative $X or much more depending on how you run your business.  A well run charter operation can bring in the Captain good income as well as tax benefits that come with owning your own business.  

Make sure to set some money aside for  maintenance and emergencies.  Also GET INSURANCE!

Level 7 (b) )  Become  A Full Time Private Captain

This job definitely has its perks.  Perks like insurance, travel, and luxuries you might not usually have access to.  In this situation you are definitely not your own man, but hey who cares when you get to travel the world right?  

Be ready to be on call like a brain surgeon, brush up your people skills, your baby sitter skills, your vendor management skills.  

In this job, you are responsible for your maintaining your bosses assets, getting the boat ready to fish tournaments, or take clients to a dinner party. You name it.  You may even be throwing their kids birthday party.  Get ready to come to work everyday with a smile, your job depends on it. 

If you end up going this route, be sure to maintain your network, because trouble in the boss’s life can spell trouble for yours.  A divorce, a bankruptcy, a change of hobbies can put you out of work and out of work fast.  Don’t burn any bridges and enjoy every day you have. 

Pay: Depending on the boat pay can be anywhere from $40,000 - well over $100,000 per year with excellent benefits. 

We Help Millions Of Anglers Spend More Time Fishing

We hope that you enjoyed this article on the Magazine.  It is our mission to help millions of anglers spend more time fishing and that starts with YOU!

Tour Our Factory Below

Buy Your Fishing Line Brand Direct Online Now!