Typical Roles at a Fishing Charter Business

Fishing charters are typically small operations, consisting of a captain (who may own the business and boat) and a first mate if the boat is large enough to warrant one.

Fly fishing charters may not involve a motorized boat, and employ a sole fishing guide with a small river raft or canoe. Guests usually pay a fixed rate for a day of fishing, and the captain uses that money to cover his pay, the first mate’s pay, and all the material expenses and overhead associated with running a fishing charter. Guests commonly tip the guides as well.

The captain runs the show, choosing where to go and helping the guests bait lines and land fish. They also serve as the “Master of Ceremonies” for a trip, making sure guests are entertained with stories and jokes throughout the day. A key to being a successful fishing charter captain is to be extremely friendly with an agreeable personality, as this goes a long way in ensuring guests have a memorable fishing trip.

A first mate assists the captain, and may handle solely the navigation or may take a more active role in helping the guests throughout the day.


The captain plans out the day’s fishing locations and helps guests bait lines and ultimately land fish.

Typical Salary: $150/day

What Does This Role Entail?

  • Helping others fish with a variety of bait and lures
  • Ensuring the safety of the crew
  • Planning out a day’s fishing
  • Frequently cleans and guts fish once dockside

Who to Look For:

  • Extensive experience fishing and boating
  • Agreeable personality

First Mate

The first mate assists the captain throughout the trip, performing jobs such as navigation, baiting lines, or reeling in fish as necessary.

Typical Salary: $100/day

What Does This Role Entail?

  • Piloting boat
  • Helping guests fish
  • Assisting the captain

Who to Look For:

  • Skilled boat pilots
  • Competent fishermen

Administrative Assistant

An administrative assistant serves as a sort of manager, handling the logistics of running a fleet of fishing charter boats.

Typical Salary: $12/hr

What Does This Role Entail?

  • Take reservations and answer customer questions
  • Sorting logistics of clients, boats, and crews
  • Accounting, payroll, accepting customer payments

Who to Look For:

  • Strong multitasker
  • Knowledge of office and payroll programs

Fishing Charter Business Hiring Tips

Hiring employees can seem like a nerve-wracking process, but it doesn't have to be. We break the process down into four basic steps: (1) Planning; (2) Recruiting; (3) Interviewing; and (4) Completing the Hire. Here are some tips for each phase of the process

Plan to Staff Your Business

Most fishing charter owners are also the captains of their boats. A first mate is an optional employee, but they are a big help to the captain. A first mate takes care of the maintenance tasks associated with fishing: navigating the boat to new locations, tracking fish with sonar, and helping the captain out when the fishing picks up. A first mate also frees up the captain to ensure guests are enjoying themselves, an essential part of a captain’s duties.

Very few fishing charter operations involve multiple boats, as most are owner-operator businesses. If your company does expand to run multiple boats, you’ll need to hire administrative staff to handle logistics, reservations, boat maintenance and licensing, etc.

Develop a Recruiting Strategy

Charter fishing is a customer-oriented business: patience and an agreeable personality are just as important as fishing ability. If you hire a first mate, a cooperative personality is just as important as experience. You’ll be spending many hours on end, every day, with this person in a small space so it is important that you work well together.

If you are looking for a first mate, or another captain, make inroads at local boating or fishing charter clubs to find potential hires.

Interview with Confidence

If you take your time during the planning and recruiting phases of the process, you will likely end up with many qualified candidates.

Nonetheless, it is natural for a new business owner to be a bit anxious the first time hiring employees. Don’t forget that the interview is just a chance to get to know an applicant and to give them an opportunity to learn more about the role and the business. Also, it might help to remember that they are probably even more nervous than you are!

Throughout the interview process, it may help to keep in mind that most fishing charters look for employees who are:

  • Reliable and dependable
  • Experienced fishers
  • Friendly and patient

Here are some sample interview questions that will help you learn more about the character of your interviewees:

  • Describe one of the best fishing trips you’ve ever taken.
  • Why do you want to be a fishing guide?
  • What types of fishing are you familiar with? What associated equipment and methods?
  • From the guest’s point of view, what do you think they value most importantly about a fishing trip?

Be Familiar with Hiring Laws

After selecting a job candidate, there are certain steps you will need to follow to complete the hiring process. Check out our Hiring Compliance Checklist for a step-by-step guide to the legal aspects of hiring employees.

One of the most important steps is to classify your new hire as an employee or an independent contractor. Become familiar with IRS guidelines on this matter, as there are serious consequences for misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor.

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

For more details, please refer to our guide on the topic, Contractors vs. Employees: What You Need to Know. We also provide templates for the essential hiring forms you will need.

Set Up Payroll

Once you have a growing team of employees, it's time to set up your payroll. Using a payroll service provider saves you time for running your business, and also helps ensure that you comply with important federal requirements such as employee tax withholding.

To help our readers save money and grow their business, we negotiated a 20% discount for you with payroll provider ADP, the most popular small business provider in the country.

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

Try ADP and get 20% off payroll services for your business.

Get Started