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So You Want to be a Guide

What it Takes to Obtain a Coast Guard Captains License


Lots of us who fish are very good at what we do. We fish enough days to keep track of where the fish are located, and we can consistently put ourselves on fish. If we considered how many trips a week or month we fish, the reason for our success may become evident. The fact that we catch fish so regularly is because we fish so regularly. Heck, the majority of anglers have mastered the actual mechanics of fishing. The trick to catching fish is not so much in the mechanics as it is in knowing where the fish are located and what kind of food they are pursuing. Being on the water consistently provides us that knowledge.

Why Don't You Become a Guide?

Like a lot of us who consistently bring back fish or fish pictures, you have probably been asked why you don’t get into the guiding side of fishing. And, like a lot of us, you probably thought about the prestige and glamour that would magically be bestowed upon you when the word captain precedes your name.

I remember my first encounters with fishing guides. They fished out of Flamingo in Everglades National Park. Some were better than others, but all of them had one thing in common – that title in front of their name embroidered on a tan khaki long sleeve shirt.

Fishing with the Expert

I remember one captain in particular, Captain Walter Mann. Captain Mann probably caught more fish than most of the other guides put together back in the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s. Rumor has it that he fished alone every day for two straight years and kept a log of every one of his trips. Weather, tide, and time of day were just some of the items he logged. He fished in every type of weather, the rumor goes, and as a result could consult his log to help him find cooperative fish in most any circumstance. My Dad and I fished with him on our boat one trip. We ran all the way to Rogers River on the north end of the park. Then we sat and waited another forty-five minutes before we caught a fish. Captain Mann had said it was too early to put a bait in the water, but I dropped one back behind the boat anyway. Needless to say, he was right. After about forty-five minutes, he picked up a rod and told us we would start catching trout. Within fifteen minutes we were catching trout, and we continued to catch them for another two hours. At the end of those two hours, he said we were about finished, and as if on queue, the trout stopped eating! Obviously he was fishing a tide run and knew the fish would be there, but to a high school boy, his easy-going way of proving his knowledge was almost god-like.

Lots of Competition

So, now you decide that you want to be a captain; you want to be a guide. You want to have that title before your name, that title that says you actually know something about fishing. Well, based on the number of anglers who annually obtain that title, you are among a very large and growing group.

The Six Pack License

Over the past ten years the applications for a captains license have doubled each year. The popular OUPV (Operator of Un-inspected Passenger Vehicle) license permits the captain to carry up to six passenger (hence the term “six-pack”) plus crew and is the easiest to obtain. A number of professional schools exempt you from taking the Coast Guard exam if you take their course. Courses run anywhere from $500 to well over $1,000 for the six-pack course.
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