The A to Z of picking a boat excursion
Captain Shaun Chute, Six Chuter Charters
If you are like I am, when I travel, I like to see
everything about the place Iím visiting,
especially if there is fishing involved.
Everything here, in Southwest Florida,
revolves around the water. There are so
many choices you can pick from, such as
fishing, sightseeing, shelling and sailing.
Some trips will even do a combination of the
I will tell you about the fishing aspect. Letís
start with offshore (into the Gulf of Mexico).
This involves fishing in waters from 30-75
feet, which is relatively shallow compared to
most fishing on the eastern seaboard. In the
Gulf, we fish mainly live bait (big eye shiners,
thread herring, blue runners and shrimp).
The structures we fish are wrecks, artificial
reefs and some natural coral rock bottom.
Types of fish include: Grouper, Snapper,
Cobia, Permit, Shark, King Mackerel and
Spanish Mackerel. The time of year can
have an effect on what species we fish,
since many migrate with the bait and water
Boats carry up to 6 passengers and are
mainly 25 feet and larger. The waters can
get a little rough when the wind is blowing,
so if your captain tells you that it might be to
rough believe him. 4-6 feet seas on the Gulf
of Mexico are rougher than 4-6 feet seas on
If offshore fishing is a little bit too rough, try
inshore which is also called backwater
fishing. The boats are usually 22-26 feet and
are very versatile. They can do offshore as
well as backwater. They are open boats
(usually center consoles with t-tops), which
can take a good wave, but can also run in a
foot or more of water.
Backwaters are mainly the 10,000 Islands,
which Marco is the northern tip of. This area
starts on the edge of the Gulf, in the passes
and around shoals and sandbars, then
proceeds back into the mangrove islands.
These islands have channels, which wind
back miles into endless bays and tributary
creeks. This area is the same as it was
thousands of years ago. In some areas we
fish, you can still see some of the shell
mounds which the Indians built upon. These
protected waters are always calm and
beautiful, even when the seas are rough
offshore. Catches include: Snook, Tarpon,
Redfish, Snapper, Pompano, Spanish
Mackerel and others.
All tackle is light spinning gear, which
provides a great fight and is easy to handle
for adults and children. There is a fair
amount of casting, which is an easy skill to
master. Baits consist of: big eye shiners,
thread fin herring, and shrimp, and artificial
such as bucktail jigs.
Flats and fly fishing is just a little different
than backwater. These boats are a little
smaller, usually 16-21 feet and carry up to
2-3 passengers. These boats are built low to
the water and can travel often in 6-8 inches
of water. Often they are used for spin
casting and fly fishing, which is a growing
sport today. The captain usually runs a
trolling motor or pushes the boat from a high
platform in the stern (rear end to you land
lovers) with a long pole.
Baits range from shrimp, shiners, to artificial
plugs and artificial flies. One thing to
remember is these boats have no cover
whatsoever, so bring a big hat and lots of
Sightseeing and shelling around Marco can
be fun. There are lots of shells to pick from
on the beaches, especially after a good
storm. As you travel around, you will see
dolphins, manatees and thousand of birds.
Some very popular ones are the ABC
Also, popular places to visit are the marinas
and docks where charter boats dock. There
you can walk the docks and see the catches
brought in, visit the shrimp tanks and see
the hundreds of fish that feed on the dayís
scraps of shrimp and fish.
As far as picking a boat excursion, I always
follow a few rules.
- Pick a full time business or captain.
- Ask lots of questions to make sure
what size your boat will be and which
type of fishing you will be doing
(offshore, backwater, flats).
- Ask around about the captain, pick a
patient and friendly one.
- If you are at the docks glance at the
boats and gear. If this is kept in good
shape, the captain probably cares
enough to work hard for you on your
- If you have a good time let the captain
know or tell someone else that might
want to go.