How I would choose a captain / by Dan Cruchon; charter captain since 1985.
When hiring a charter captain, there is a serious investment in not only money, but also in the safety of your family and friends. Here are some basic guidelines I would follow:
Ask if they have a Coast Guard license, liability insurance, and random drug testing enrollment. What type of safety gear is aboard the vessel? There are some illegal charters in existence, and asking will weed out those individuals. Michigan Charter Boats by law must display a sticker that represents an updated inspection from the DNR.
Ask if they are part of any Associations. The Michigan Charter Boat Association, Thumb Area Charter Captains Association, and many other associations have strict requirements to be a member. This is not critical, but it may eliminate possible problem operators.
If possible, look at the boat. How clean and organized is it? How well maintained does it appear to be? This is a reflection on how serious the captain is about providing a quality trip. The biggest mistake people make is looking for a “big” boat. Depending on the design, some larger boats do not ride well, or fish well. I know some awesome operators with very small boats.
All Michigan captains are required to complete a catch report after every trip. If possible, ask to see this document. This will reveal how busy they really are. There are many “weekender” captains who use charters to pay for their hobby, and many of those part-time captains will offer cut-rate deals. Be very cautious of this. Remember the old saying: “You get what you pay for”. There are some great part-time operators who I frequently recommend, but I feel that a full-time captain is usually more professional and knowledgeable.