Trolling for leads: To find a charter boat, find a tackle store

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

A day of fishing during a family trip to the beach doesn’t necessarily require months of research and a ready-made group. A last-minute stop at the seaside town’s local tackle store can hook you up with everything you need.
Fishing across the span of the northern Gulf of Mexico has never been better and, with countless families headed south for a few days of R&R before school resumes, lots of outdoor enthusiasts will be finding themselves temptingly close to one of the best fisheries in the world during the coming weeks.
While many are hesitant to commit funds to a day on the water without a trusted endorsement from friends or a ready-made group to fill out a fishing charter, two of the best ways to locate great, affordable fishing can be found on the spot and only a few days in advance.
Any town that boasts a charter fishing fleet of any size will have a tackle store or two and, inevitably, they’re staffed by people who are avid fishermen themselves; people who know both the fishing and charter captains and can steer you to the best of both.
Good advice:‘Just ask’
“Most people find the smaller boats to go on by coming in here and asking,” Andrew Johnson, of Half Hitch Tackle in Destin, Fla., said. “The captains shop here too. Most of them are guys we know. They talk to us about what’s going on and leave their business cards. That’s how most of the captains running smaller boats inshore connect with customers anyway.
“That’s true here and everywhere else along the Gulf Coast.”
This also allows the fishing enthusiast to craft the trip to their temperament and price range. Someone wanting to take a youngster fishing for a few hours, for example, would want a different trip from a group of hardcore guys who want to haul fish in from daylight to dark.
If the business-card connection isn’t what you’re looking for, the local tackle store staff will also likely know which area charter booking service will best suit your needs. Many of the larger charter boats fill their clientele through the use of booking services, typically situated at a dockside office or booth. Cancellations, vacancies, availabilities on craft of every size and sport fishing purpose can be found through these, providing a great opportunity for a single or a pair of fishing enthusiasts to get on the water on the trip of their choice.
kevin.tate@journalinc.com