These boats operate one of two ways. The usual way is on a first come first served basis. That is, the first to show up at the dock and start the line becomes first to board. The other way is to have specific numbered assignments around the rail of the boat. To some this method is great, because you need not fight the morning queue.
If you have never fished on a party boat, you may wonder why being first to board is so important. After all, everyone is on the same boat, right? Well, you may be on the same boat, but you may be at a disadvantage in a number of circumstances, unless you have a good place on the rail from which to fish. Let's see what I mean.
When the boat reaches the fishing grounds, be that a reef, wreck, or a set of GPS numbers, the Captain will anchor the boat. If the Captain is good, the spot to fish will be right on the stern. If the spot is a shipwreck, or artificial reef, he may anchor a little up current . The idea is to keep the baits out of the wreck, not just because they hate loosing terminal tackle, but also because the better bottom fishing is off the side of the wreck, not in the wreck.
With any current at all, and there is always a current, the lines dropped to the bottom will angle back toward the stern of the boat. If you are fishing a side rail, that means your line will angle back to the left or right. And if there is any boat swing, your line will go left or right and under the side of the boat.
You may think it means little, but when you hook a good fish from the stern, chances are you get the fish in without affecting anyone. Hook a good fish from a side rail, and chances are you bring up the fish, and several lines from people fishing next to you. But take a look at what you can do to help yourself on a party boat.
Check with the captain when you make your reservations. Ask about reserving a spot on the stern. If they don't reserve spots, you will need to arrive very early to get in line. First come - first served.
Most party boats leave the dock at 8AM. Plan to be there to get in line no later than 7AM if you want a good spot on the stern.