The Ultimate Guide On How To Plan The Fishing Trip Of A Lifetime

a man on a boat for a fishing trip

Many families or groups of friends make fishing or camping trips to state parks or lakes an annual event. However, if you want to plan the fishing trip of a lifetime, then you'll need to consider several things and make advanced plans to ensure the trip goes smoothly. By the time you finish reading this information, you should be able to plan your dream fishing excursion.

Create a List

a woman creating her schedule and to do list for her fishing trip

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To keep track of the planning stages, deadlines for buying tickets, getting passports, fishing licenses, etc., compile a checklist or write everything that you do in a planner. Using a planner and making a file for any documentation that you’ll need will help you keep track of the things you've finalized and what is left to do.

It also makes it easier to give everyone updates when they ask about the trip or at the meetings you should hold to go over ideas and plans for it. It is important to let everyone know what is happening with the plans in case they change.

If you or any others in the group like to utilize technology to set up reminders when making plans, you'll find smartphone apps online for planning a fishing getaway. One such app available on Google Play is “Fishing Trip Planner.”  Another one that can help plan both fishing and hunting expeditions are the "Sportsman Exchange.”

Who Is Going? 

graphic illustration of a passport and airline ticket for an overseas fishing trip

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With most elaborate trips, you will want to start planning your outing well in advance if you need to reserve lodging, space in a national park, or get documents like a passport if you want to leave the United States on vacation. 

By making plans at least six months in advance, everyone in the group should be able to get the documentation and money they need to have a great time. Before you get too deep into the plans, you'll need a list of the people who are going on the trip with you. 

Whether you’re planning on going with fishing buddies or extended family members, get everyone together to discuss it and find dates that fit into everyone’s schedule. Then, have those who decide to confirm their plans as soon as possible in case you need to collect money for lodging, airfare, boat rental, or hire a fishing guide. 

Since there may be last minute cancellations due to unforeseen emergencies, have a list of friends or family who may want to go in place of someone who drops out.

What Type of Fishing Does Everyone Want to Do? 

people fishing by the shore

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An important decision for the trip is what type of fishing does the group want to do? What kind of fish does everyone want to catch? Answering these questions will also help you decide on the trip’s destination and the equipment that everyone needs to bring. Some of the fishing techniques that you may wish to try include:

  • Casting
  • Fly-fishing
  • Bottom fishing
  • Bottom bouncing
  • Trolling
  • Offshore fishing
  • Ice fishing

While some of these techniques are available at the same destination, a few of them require going to specific locales to experience them. For instance, fly-fishing and deep-sea fishing don’t take place on the same body of water using the same type of equipment.

Casting

This style of fishing involves using a rod and reel to trick fish into thinking they have found live bait to eat. This technique is done by placing bait on a hook and using a lure like a spinner, plugs, or spinnerbaits, and moving them on a line near the bed of the river or sea bottom, so it seems that the bait is alive. 

The line continually moves as it is cast and reeled in, then cast again.

Fly-Fishing 

This technique involves using a “fly” on the end of a line that is cast in looping motions over the surface of the water to simulate an insect’s movements. When the fish sees it, it jumps at the fly and gets hooked. An expert at fly-fishing often ties their own “flies” for fishing.

Bottom Fishing 

The line is cast, and the hook sits near the bottom of the lake or ocean bed to catch fish that feed on or near the bottom. To ensure the bait and hook remains on the bottom, add a fishing weight to the line.

Bottom Bouncing 

Instead of sitting still, the line is bounced along the bottom of a lake or ocean bed, stirring up debris as it bounces over rocks and the sand, to attract fish to the movements. Then, when the fish goes to strike their “food,” they are caught.

Trolling 

Trolling is similar to casting, but without using a rod and reel. Instead, a line with lure and bait on it is dragged behind a boat to simulate movement. Since the motion can cause the line to rise near the water’s surface, add weights to the line to submerge it.

Offshore Fishing 

Since offshore fishing involves going after larger fish like marlin or sailfish, larger rods, reels, and heavier lines are necessary to fish in deep ocean waters because the fish are much bigger. A Blue Marlin can get as big as 300 pounds.

The lines are thrown into the water from a boat into deep waters, and the line reeled in to simulate movement to attract the fish. Once the fish strikes the line, the battle begins.

Ice Fishing 

Not all fishing takes place when the weather is warmer as it also takes place in frigid temperatures. Ice fishing involves going out onto a frozen river or lake, cutting a hole in the ice, and dropping a line into the water and waiting on fish to take the bait. It is a form of “still fishing” but during the winter.

What Does Everyone Want to Catch? 

freshly caught striped bass fish

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The species of fish that people catch often depends on their level of skill. Someone who is a fishing novice will want to focus on going after fish like:

  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Sunfish
  • Crappie

These fish are among the easiest to catch, so they are suitable for beginners to go after to learn different fishing techniques. Some of the most challenging fish to catch, even for experts, are:

  • Muskellunge or Musky
  • Pike
  • Bonefish
  • Blue Marlin

Most fish can be caught using any of the seven techniques that are listed. However, it helps to know which type of fish stay near the surface of the water, which like deeper water, and which are bottom dwellers. Knowing how fish behave and how that links to choosing tackle to catch them can make fishing excursions more successful.

What is Your Destination? 

a man with his boat and fishing gear during his fishing trip in Wyoming

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Once everyone has input on the trip, and you have the decision about the type of fishing they want to do, you can then plan the destination. The destination will also tell you what kind of fish you may catch.

Some of the best places for fishing around the world are:

  • Alaska: Many people visit the northern state to fish for their many types of salmon, which include king, pink, silver, and chum salmon. Pacific halibut, Pacific red snapper, and ling cod are some of the other species you could catch.
  • Belize: This Central American country is only a few hours by air from the states and has the natural resources for participating in many water activities that people enjoy. You could catch bonefish, tarpon, target marlin or sailfish on or off their shores.
  • Cairns, Australia: This down-under-destination is well-known for its big fish. You can try to catch Black Marlin, which can get up to 1,000 pounds, or reef fishing for smaller species like queenfish, jungle perch, barracuda, barramundi, or grouper.
  • Chesapeake Bay, Virginia or Maryland: Along with fish, this area of these states are the right places for catching seafood. Striped Bass is a popular sport fish in the area, but you may also catch bluegill, bluefish or American shad. Crabs are abundant there too, especially blue crabs.
  • Key West, Florida: If you want to try out several techniques and catch a variety of fish, then Key West may be your group's destination. On the Atlantic Ocean side, anglers can go offshore for sailfish, kingfish, and blackfin tuna. The Gulf side offers tarpon, permit, bonefish, and redfish.
  • Minnesota: The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” is a great place for Walleye fishing any time of year. If ice fishing is on your group’s bucket list, then pack up your winter gear and head up north to try it. Crappie and jumbo perch are some of the other fish you may catch in the winter.
  • Wyoming: To try your hand at fly-fishing, you can go to Wyoming and fish the Snake River at the Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Parks. Jackson Hole is also a good place to cast for brown trout.

How Are You Getting to the Destination? 

After selecting the destination, you need to decide how to get there. If you’re going out of state, then you can either drive or fly. If you’re going to an international destination, then you will need to fly.

If you want to take a favorite fishing rod with you or some lures, check with the airline to find out what equipment you can take on an airplane, and how to pack it to keep it safe. As far as the Transportation Safety Administration, TSA, is concerned, they allow fishing gear as carry-ons or packed in checked luggage.

The best thing to do is pack anything sharp in the checked luggage, such as knives, fishing tools, or large, sharp hooks. Most airlines will allow poles in tubes as checked luggage if they are no more than 115-inches long, and you may be allowed two rods in the container. If you have oversized tubes, call the airline to see if you can take it with you. 

If you’re taking an international flight, then check with the airline that lands in the country where you’re going. The TSA rules apply to only domestic flights, but many times you’ll board airlines from the country of your destination to fly into that country. So, contact the airline to learn their rules for flying with fishing gear.

Where Is the Group Staying? 

a parked RV

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On a fishing expedition, the first instinct you may have is to go camping. However, if the weather is soggy, or if it’s in the winter, you may not want to sleep in a tent. Also, depending on where you are, hotels and bed and breakfasts are likely to be near popular fishing spots. Another consideration for accommodations is staying at a fishing lodge or resort.

RV Rentals 

If everyone wants to stay close to the water, you can rent an RV instead of sleeping in a tent. Rent one that is large enough for your group. Class A recreational vehicles are tour buses, and many Class C motorhomes can sleep up to six adults comfortably. Plus, the group will have access to a kitchen and a restroom while out in the wild.

CruiseAmerica is a national RV rental agency that has 133 locations throughout the US, including Alaska, and Canada. They only rent Class C motorhomes, including those that big enough to sleep, seven people. Everything needed for driving the RV is available at their locations, including free insurance.

National Park Lodge or Cabin Rentals 

a cabin near the lake

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Another option for lodging near your fishing spot is to rent a fishing cabin. Many national parks have cabins for rent within easy walking distance of popular fishing destinations. For instance, if you want to go fly fishing in Yellowstone National Park, they have several camps nearby bodies of water where rooms in lodges are available.

Anytime you are going to a national park, you should begin planning several months, if not a year, before the trip. Reservations for both campgrounds, cabins, and lodges quickly fill up many months in advance in most of these places around the country.

If you wait until just a few weeks ahead of the trip to make reservations, there may not be any left, and you'll need to scramble for a backcountry camping spot. The backcountry spots are usually first come, first serve, so there is no guarantee one will be available.

The National Park Service website is a useful resource for planning trips. Guests can check for reservations, book camping sites or lodging, check the current weather, and find out what other events are taking place in the park during the time you'll be visiting. 

Many state parks also have campgrounds, cabins, or lodges where you can rent space or rooms. Check the state park websites for more information about what is available near where you’re going and how to make reservations.

Private Cabin or Lodge Rentals 

a private cabin

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Fishing enthusiasts will also find many private fishing cabin and lodge rentals in and around popular fishing areas. For instance, if you're going fishing in Montana, search for “fishing lodges Montana” or “fishing cabins Montana” on a web browser.

Cabins or lodges can be anything from spartan accommodations to luxurious all-inclusive resorts. It depends on how much you’re willing to spend and their locations. If you don’t want to spend hours online looking for the accommodations that you want, speak with a travel agent about what you’re looking for and they can help you find them.

Travel agents earn commissions from the airlines, hotels, or resorts they book customers for, so clients do not pay them. Agents can usually supply you with information on rentals for lodging, travel accommodations, area restaurants, and places where fishing equipment is available for rent. 

All-inclusive Lodges or Resorts

Many resorts and lodges at popular fishing destinations have packages for individuals, couples, and groups. The packages are often all-inclusive, so you get lodging, meals, and sometimes a fishing guide to take you on trips to find the fishing hot spots or the fishing holes only local anglers know.

As an example, a private fishing lodge in Kenai, Alaska offers all-inclusive packages that include:
  • Fully appointed rooms with comfortable beds
  • Communal areas for watching television and meeting other guests
  • All meals, beverages, and snacks, which the resort’s chef customizes to your dietary needs or preferences
  • Each room has a bathroom
  • All the necessary fishing gear is available
  • They provide the required fishing licenses and stamps
  • They can take guests halibut fishing or out to the river or lake to fish
  • Fly-out trips to search for bears and other wildlife
a buck, one of the animals you may find during your trip in Yellowstone National Park

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All-inclusive resorts can be expensive, and the prices are contingent on the activities the group is doing, the number of guests, the time of year, and the location of the resort. For instance, the Kenai lodge offers in-season packages, which is June 18th through September 10th, for up to $5,200 per person for seven nights or six nights for $4,800 per person.

Both options include six guided fishing trips while you’re staying at the lodge, which includes salmon, halibut, and multi-species fishing. Other lodges or resorts offer all-inclusive packages that include free airfare, so search for those as well to outset some of the expense of the trip.

Most recreational activities in the 49th state are going to be expensive in most cases because it is a popular vacation area for Americans and Canadians. If you’re going fishing within the contiguous states, you should find several resorts close to your destination.

For instance, if the trip is to the Chesapeake Bay, there are several inclusive packages available in Virginia and Maryland. Some of the resorts are right on or near the bay, so you can walk out of the resort, get on a boat, and go out onto the water to fish.

Do You Need Help? 

people on a boat holding a fishing rod while they are on a fishing boat

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If your group is trying new fishing techniques or venturing to places they’ve never been, such as the Alaska wilderness, then hiring a fishing guide, outfitter, or a charter may be the best option for having a successful fishing adventure.

Hiring a guide or an outfitter makes sense if you’re going somewhere with which you’re unfamiliar. If you’re going to be out in the wild on your own, then you’ll want someone familiar with the territory, so they show you how to find the best fishing and not run into bears or other dangerous animals.

They can also help you learn new techniques like fly fishing, or how to find fish in the rivers or lakes. They can advise what type of tackle, rods, and reels to bring with you as well. A good guide or outfitter will also prevent your group from getting lost in the mountains, on hiking trails, and find good camping sites for the duration for the trip.

How to Hire a Good Guide 

When you start researching fishing guides for your destination, there will probably be dozens of listings. It can be a competitive business because many people want to get paid for something they love, which includes recreational activities like fishing.

To avoid having a bad experience, look for guides with:

  • Experience with both fishing and guiding
  • Good personalities
  • Someone who prepares with backup plans
  • Knowledge in a variety of fishing techniques and fish behaviors
  • References

Avoid guides who oversell their abilities, will not make time for an interview, and who price their services too low. That’s a good indicator they are new and trying to break into the business, or they may not have the knowledge necessary to be a good guide.

What Does a Good Guide Cost? 

a man giving money as payment to the outfitter for the services during their fishing trip

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Most guides will charge by the hour or by the day, and they may charge a group rate or add on fee for each extra person. For instance, a guide for Lake Okeechobee, Florida may charge $300 for four hours, the second person may be free, and the $100 for each additional person. Other guides have other rates, but most of them are within the same price structure.

Hiring a Charter 

captain of the boat during a fishing trip

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If your goal is to go offshore fishing for big sports fish like tuna, marlin, or sailfish, then you’ll need to hire a charter to take your group out into deep waters. Areas that offer deep-sea fishing, such as the Florida coast, Mexico, and Australia, will have dozens of companies vying for business. The same rules apply about hiring guides can apply to charter owners too.

Find someone with a good personality who loves taking people out on charters and teaching them to sports fish. Otherwise, the trip could be disappointing if you go out on a boat with someone who is surly, doesn’t give people advice, and doesn’t seem to want to be there. Some other tips for hiring charters include:

  • Hire a company and captain with experience
  • Hire a larger boat because it can prevent seasickness and you’ll have more fun
  • Ask to see their charter license
  • Ask the captain to see his or her license, and it should be from the Coast Guide
  • Check to make sure their insurance fully covers every on aboard in case of an accident
  • Look to see if they have all the proper safety equipment on board
  • Ask about the last time the boat was maintained and look it over carefully if the boat is clean, doesn't have damage, and looks taken care of, then it's probably well-maintained mechanically too
  • Make sure that all the equipment you’ll need for fishing is part of the charter

You cannot be too picky or too careful when it comes to hiring a charter boat. You’re putting your life, and those of your party, in the hands of a stranger out at sea. If the charter company or captain gets irritated at your questions, hire another boat.

How Much Does a Fishing Charter Cost? 

fishing charter boat

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Most companies charge per day, half-days, or for the type of charter that you want to go on. For instance, if you're going to catch Yellowfin tuna in Florida, then it will cost more to charter a boat. They may also charter boats for tournament fishing or scattering someone's ashes out to sea.

An all-day charter on a small boat can cost $1,000 to $1,200, and a half-day is about $800. To fish for tuna, you can pay as much as $3,400, tournament fishing will cost $800 to $1000, and charters may charge $400 for scattering ashes.

Charter companies usually charge deposits as well, which can be $500 to $1,000 or more. The price on the charter depends on how long your group is going out, the destination, and the size of the boat.

What to Take with You? 

If you’re going on a charter boat or buying all-inclusive fishing packages, then you usually don’t need to take anything but yourself and the rest of the group. They will provide the rods, reels, tackle, bait, and even the waders you need for your fishing excursion.

However, if you’re going to rough it by yourselves, pack food, fresh water, rods, reels, and tackle you need for the type of catch that you want. If passports are necessary for crossing a border or taking an international flight, make sure that those who need one apply for it right away, even if the trip is 12 months away. It can take months for passports to get approval and arrive in the mail.

By carefully planning every detail, you and your group are less likely to forget something important, and more likely to experience a fishing trip that everyone will talk about for years.

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