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So You Want to be a Guide

What it Takes to Obtain a Coast Guard Captains License

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The Masters License

The next license up is the 100-ton Masters license, which allows you to pilot a vessel for hire up to 100 tons with more than six passengers. This includes most of the charter boats and party boats in business today. The cost for the Master ticket course runs from $900 to over $2000 and the course itself runs eighty or more classroom hours.

Still interested?

Let’s assume you want the venerable six-pack OUPV license. Somewhere in the back of your mind you see yourself guiding a landlocked tourist to a wall trophy, or being mentioned in an well known angling publication.

Requirements

Once you have passed the course and had someone sign as a witness to your time on the water – 360 days, 90 of which have to be within the last year – you will need to apply for your license. There is an additional license fee of $150 that will go in with your application. You will also need a CPR/First aid card, completed physical, eye exam, and a drug test. Figure another $200 for these, and you are up to $1150 to get your license.

Now comes the part that most anglers fail to consider. If you really do want to try to make any money as a captain or guide, be prepared to shell out even more money.

More Costs

We’ll use Florida as an example. First and foremost the state requires a commercial vessel license. The annual cost for carrying less than 10 people is $401.50. Next you must register your boat as a commercial vessel, a cost of around $100 per year. Each county regulates differently, but expect a county license to do business as a for-hire guide to be around $100 annually. Add $1,000,000 of liability insurance at a cost of about $1000 a year, and we are up to almost $2800 just to start taking people fishing.

Providing Tackle

The tackle situation will have you shelling out even more money. Established guides often get tackle gratis from manufacturer representatives, but for the average person starting out, you can figure on around $200 per rod and reel combo, and you will need a number of sizes and configurations. My local contacts tell me they spend about $1000 a year on tackle replacements and upgrades.

The Final Estimate

And so now, here we are. We have spent the better part of two months getting licensed, documented and equipped at a cost of close to $4000. To a lot of anglers, that doesn’t sound like much money. To most of my contacts, that is a bundle of change to spend to get the word captain in front of your name. Probably more important than anything else we have covered is the final question.

Can you Make Money as a Guide?

I checked the listings in Florida for OUPV Coast Guard licensed guides. There are over 5,000 registered that I can find. Just how many catch fish is up for another discussion, but the point is, there is an awful lot of competition out there. Public records do not reveal how many of these folks simply wanted the moniker and really don’t guide, and certainly don’t reveal their income. Just how many of them are as good as old Captain Mann remains to be seen.

So What's the Point?

I guess the point in all of this is that somewhere along the line, the large numbers of people who just want some prestige are masking the public’s access to the guides who have made a living full time taking people fishing. How’s a fella from out of state to know which guide is real and which in Memorex? Maybe we need another classification from the Coast Guard. Maybe a “name only” captain’s license will take the burden off the guys that really work for a living.

How about you? Have you ever thought about being a guide? Tell us about it on our Reader Submission Page, or on our Saltwater Fishing Forum!

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