Whether it’s your first time fishing on a new boat, or a tenth trip out with close friends, all it takes is a bit of planning to ensure a fun and fruitful adventure.
From your gear and your boat, to your license and safety equipment, there’s a lot to know before you go. Keep this list handy and review it before every saltwater fishing trip to make sure you don’t forget to check, maintain, or pack anything important.
Study Your Fishing Spot
Select the area you plan to fish and study it well in advance of your trip.
Check tide charts to choose the best time to fish, decide on what you’re targeting, and find out what bait the fish are eating. Learn what the migratory patterns are during different seasons and what your best chances are to catch prized fish. Look up the local guides and study their blogs and Facebook pages. Join a community, such as Salt Strong, and get tips from local experts.
Research the best boat ramps and bait shops in the area and plan your morning or evening around your stops. Pick up a local fishing map at any bait shop and choose some places you’d like to check out.
Have a game plan for bad weather and don’t forget to check it every day leading up to your trip, including the day of. Weather can change quickly and it’s always better to scrap a trip in advance than to find yourself in a bad situation on the water.
Make Sleeping Arrangements
Are you staying local or traveling to fish? If you’re venturing out far from home, decide if you’re camping or booking a room. When camping, look for campgrounds with boat ramps or proximity to a boat ramp. Some anglers like to camp directly on or near the very islands they’ll be fishing by. If you’re boat camping, make sure you have all the gear you’ll need for any situation.
When booking a room, make sure to call the hotel in advance and confirm that boat and trailer parking is allowed and available. Sometimes the best lodging option, if you’re pulling a trailer, is to get an Airbnb. Don’t forget to message hosts before booking to confirm parking arrangements.
Update Your License
Before you go, make sure your license is up to date and covers all the species of fish you’ll be targeting. If you’re visiting another state, check local regulations and purchase the correct license for the number of days you’ll be fishing.
Many states require special permits to visit restricted areas during certain times of the year. Other places require different licenses for different species.
Check Your Boat
It goes without saying that you should always check your boat before every fishing trip. This is doubly important when you plan on being out for several days or are traveling to a new area.
Check that everything on your boat is working as expected and service if necessary. Make sure your trailer is in good, operable condition. Ensure that the lights are working, no connections are corroded, and all tires are properly inflated, including the spare. Pack an extra set of boat, trailer, and truck keys.
Make sure you have the necessary safety equipment: GPS, whistle, bow and stern lights, ropes, first aid kit, and a personal flotation device for every person on the boat.
Prepare Your Fishing Gear
After you’ve researched your destination and made sure your boat is in order, it’s time for some fun: setting up your gear.
First, make sure you have the proper rods and reels for the fish you’re targeting. Then test that your reel is working smoothly and your line isn’t kinked or damaged.
You’ve done the research to learn what fish are biting, so make sure to feed them what they want. If you’re fishing with live bait, check that your live well is working properly or bring extra batteries for your bubble box.
Clean, organize and restock jigs and lures. Pack a variety of lures and colors for the best chances to catch fish. Bring several types of artificial and try different ones until you figure out what works in the new area.
When packing a boat, less is more. You want to bring everything you need and nothing that you don’t. Here’s a list of things you might like to bring, along with a few creature comforts:
- Bug spray
- Extra towels
- Ice and ice packs
- Filet knife
- Utility knife
- Sunglasses and leash
- Light jacket for dusk and dawn rides
- Sun-protective clothing
- Rain gear
- Drinks and snacks
- Dry bag/box
- Baby wipes
- Boat registration and fishing license
Before you leave for your trip, make sure to tell someone where you’re going and when you plan on returning. But most importantly, have fun! While it’s important to have a solid plan, don’t be attached to it. Whether you’re fishing or catching, be okay with the plan changing, and enjoy the adventure.
Have any questions or thoughts? Leave a comment below!