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How to Start a Fishing Charter Business

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Fishing Charter Business

Fast Facts

Investment range

$39,800 - $69,800

Revenue potential

$115,200 - $230,400 p.a.

Time to build

3-6 months

Profit potential

$69,120 - $192,600 p.a.

Industry trend




Fishing is a popular pastime, whether it’s on a lake or the ocean, but most people don’t have a boat to get to the good spots. If you live near a body of water and have mastered where the fish are, you could start your own fishing charter business to give those people a great fishing experience. The fishing charter industry in the U.S. is worth more than $370 million so there’s money to be made.

But before you get started, you’ll need some business know-how. Luckily, this step-by-step guide details all the information you need to start a lucrative fishing charter business.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons


  • Have fun out on the water
  • Show people a great time
  • Good profit potential


  • Somewhat seasonal and weather dependent
  • Requires living near a good fishing body of water

Fishing charter industry trends

Industry size and growth

Fishing Charter industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

Fishing Charter Industry Trends and Challenges


  • More and more people are booking fishing charter excursions on mobile apps.
  • Fishing charter excursions are becoming more popular as family activities.


  • Fishing charters face liability risks, which means paying more for liability insurance.
  • Fishing charter businesses must make sure that they follow local sustainability laws.

Demand hotspots

Fishing Charter demand hotspots
  • Most popular states – The most popular states for fishing boat captains are Florida, California, and Texas.((https://www.zippia.com/fishing-boat-captain-jobs/))
  • Least popular states – The least popular states for fishing boat captains are South Dakota, Hawaii, and North Dakota. 

What kind of people work in fishing boat charters?

Fishing Charter Industry Demographics

How much does it cost to start a fishing charter business?

Startup costs for a fishing charter business range from $40,000 to $70,000. The largest expense is, of course, the boat itself.

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your fishing charter business, including: 

  • Boat – determine how many boats you’ll have and the size of each.
  • Fishing equipment
  • Safety equipment
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$100 - $500$300
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Website$200 - $1,000$600
Space rental$5,000 - $10,000$7,500
Boat$30,000 - $50,000$40,000
Fishing gear$3,000 - $5,000$4,000
Marketing budget$300 - $500$400
Dock fees$1,000 - $2,000$1,500
Total$39,800 - $69,800$54,800

How much can you earn from a fishing charter business?

Fishing Charter Earnings Forecast

For a half day fishing excursion you should be able to charge about $200 per person. Your profit margin should be about 60%.  

In your first year or two, you could take out six people a day three days a week, for eight months out of the year bringing in around $115,200 in revenue. This would mean $69,120 in profit, assuming that 60% margin. 

As you gain traction, you might acquire another boat, and double your charters. At this stage, you’d hire another captain, reducing your profit margin to about 40%. With annual revenue of $230,400, you’d make a tidy profit of $192,160.

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a fishing charter business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Funding the startup costs
  • Differentiating your fishing charter business from competitors

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a fishing charter business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research could give you the upper hand even if you’ve got the perfect product. Conducting robust market research is crucial, as it will help you better understand your customers, your competitors, and the broader business landscape.

Analyze your competitors 

Research fishing charter businesses in your area and online to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews.

  • Make a list of fishing charter businesses that offer similar services. 
  • Review your competitors’ services – their features, pricing, and quality – and marketing strategies.
  • Check out their online reviews and ratings on Google, Yelp, and Facebook to get an idea of what their customers like and dislike.
  • Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. 

This should identify areas where you can strengthen your business and gain a competitive edge to make better business decisions.

Why? Identify an opportunity

You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a charter boat operator that goes to certain offshore waters, or a fishing charter that offers meals onboard. 

You might consider targeting a niche, such as family fishing excursions.

Here are the common services offered by fishing charters:

  1. Sportfishing Trips: Offer excursions targeting specific game fish, catering to anglers looking for a thrill.
  2. Family Fishing Trips: Design trips suitable for families, focusing on enjoyment and education rather than just big catches.
  3. Tourist Sightseeing Packages: Combine fishing with sightseeing in the region, offering tourists a dual experience.
  4. Corporate Events: Cater to businesses looking for team-building exercises or unique corporate outings.
  5. Fishing Classes: Offer courses for beginners, teaching basics like baiting, casting, and handling fish.
  6. Night Fishing Excursions: Provide nighttime fishing experiences, targeting species active during the evening.
  7. Equipment Rentals: Rent out fishing gear to those who may not have their equipment but want to fish.

In addition to charging for charters, you could sell snacks and beverages on your boat. You could also sell t-shirts or other merchandise.

How much should you charge for fishing charters?

Your prices should depend on market prices in your area, but also you costs for fuel, maintenance, and labor.

Once you know your costs, use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market hinges on the specific services provided and the demographic you aim to serve.

For instance, if you specialize in high-adrenaline deep-sea fishing expeditions, your primary audience might be seasoned anglers and adventure seekers.

On the other hand, if you offer calm, family-friendly fishing outings, you’d cater more to families or tourists looking for a relaxed experience.

To effectively reach these distinct groups, it’s pivotal to tailor your marketing strategies. Seasoned anglers might be best reached through fishing magazines, forums, or trade shows, while families might be more effectively targeted through travel websites, local tourism offices, or family-oriented publications and platforms.

Where? Choose your business premises

Ideally, your premises should be close to popular fishing spots or areas known for good fishing. If your target audience is tourists, being close to hotels, resorts, or popular tourist destinations can also be advantageous.

The location should be near a harbor or dock where you can moor your boats with ease. Think about tide and water level changes, especially if you’re considering a fixed docking station.

The number and size of boats will give you an idea of the space required. Consider space for equipment storage, bait and tackle shops, restrooms, and office spaces.

Fishing Charter Business Idea Rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Fishing Charter Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “fishing charter” or “fishing vessel”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Ocean Ways Adventures” or “AquaRealm Expeditions” over “FlyFish Frontier” or “DeepSea Thrills Charter”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead and reserve your business name with your state, start the trademark registration process, and complete your domain registration and social media account creation. 

Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick a name, reserve it and start with the branding, it’s hard to switch to a new name. So be sure to carefully consider your choice before moving forward. 

Step 4: Create a Fishing Charter Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive Summary: Summarize the essence of your fishing charter business, highlighting key details such as location, target customers, and unique selling points.
  • Business Overview: Provide a brief description of your fishing charter business, including its mission, the types of fishing trips you offer, and any special features like experienced guides or specific fishing locations.
  • Product and Services: Detail the range of fishing trips and services available, specifying the duration, types of fishing (e.g., deep-sea, freshwater), and any additional offerings like equipment rental or catering.
  • Market Analysis: Analyze the local and regional fishing and tourism market, including factors like seasonal demand, customer preferences, and trends in the fishing charter industry.
  • Competitive Analysis: Identify competitors in the fishing charter industry in your area, highlighting their strengths, weaknesses, and what sets your business apart, such as competitive pricing or exceptional customer service.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your strategies for attracting customers, including online marketing, partnerships with local businesses, and strategies for building repeat business.
  • Management Team: Introduce key members of your team responsible for running the fishing charter business, emphasizing their expertise in fishing, boat operation, and customer service.
  • Operations Plan: Describe the day-to-day operations of the business, including boat maintenance, safety protocols, scheduling, and customer communication.
  • Financial Plan: Present financial projections, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, operating expenses, and profit margins for your fishing charter business.
  • Appendix: Include any supporting documents or materials, such as fishing licenses, safety certifications, testimonials from satisfied customers, or photos of your boats and fishing trips.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to fishing charters. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your fishing charter business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts. Here’s how to form an LLC.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation. Read how to start a corporation here.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

Form Your LLC

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

types of business financing
  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a fishing charter business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.  

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a fishing charter business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You’ll need a charter captain’s license, and may need other licenses related to fishing charters from your state or locality. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your fishing charter business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.  

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as HookM or GoDo, to manage your bookings and payments. 


  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Create a website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Your customers are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. 

Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Book Now”. This can sharply increase purchases. 


Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  • Social Media Storytelling: Leverage platforms like Instagram and Facebook to share captivating stories of memorable fishing experiences, showcasing the excitement and adventure your charters offer.
  • Targeted Local SEO: Optimize your online presence for local searches by ensuring your business is accurately listed on Google My Business and other local directories, with a focus on location-specific keywords.
  • Partnerships with Local Businesses: Forge partnerships with local hotels, tourism offices, and bait shops to cross-promote your fishing charters, tapping into their customer base and increasing your reach.
  • Customer Referral Programs: Encourage word-of-mouth marketing by implementing a referral program, offering discounts or additional perks to customers who refer friends or family to your Fishing Charter Business.
  • Seasonal Promotions: Create limited-time promotions and discounts during slower seasons to incentivize bookings, attracting customers with special rates or bundled services.
  • Educational Workshops and Webinars: Position yourself as an expert in the field by hosting workshops or webinars on fishing techniques, safety tips, and local marine life, attracting both novice and experienced anglers to your business.
  • Charity and Community Involvement: Engage with the local community by sponsoring fishing events, supporting marine conservation initiatives, or participating in community festivals, enhancing your business’s visibility and reputation.
  • Engaging Content Marketing: Develop a blog on your website that provides valuable content such as fishing tips, regional fishing reports, and guides, establishing your business as a go-to resource for fishing enthusiasts.
  • Customer Testimonials and Reviews: Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews on platforms like TripAdvisor or Yelp, and feature these testimonials prominently on your marketing materials to build trust with potential customers.
  • Mobile-Friendly Booking App: Invest in a user-friendly mobile app for booking charters, streamlining the reservation process and providing a convenient way for customers to secure their fishing adventure on the go.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your fishing charter business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your fishing charter business could be: 

  • Hit the fishing hot spots on a full day excursion
  • Don’t bring a thing – our charter has you covered
  • Best charter fishing prices by the half or full day


You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a fishing charter business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in fishing charters for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in fishing charters. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a fishing charter business include:

  • Charter Captain – take customers out on charters
  • Marketing Lead – create and implement marketing strategies
  • General Manager – scheduling, accounting

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Fishing Charter – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

If you love fishing, what better business to own than a fishing charter business. You’ll have fun on the water, help people have a great time and catch the lunkers, and make good money. It’s a huge industry, so you should have no shortage of customers if you’re in a good location.

You’ve got some business savvy now, so you’re ready to fire up the boat and get your fishing charter business started!

Fishing Charter Business FAQs

Is a fishing charter business profitable?

Yes, a fishing charter business can be very profitable if you’re in a good location. You should do extensive research, however, before starting your business so that you can be successful.

What is the growth potential of a fishing charter business?

A fishing charter business’ growth has no real limit if you keep purchasing new boats until you have a whole fleet. You could even expand to new locations.

Can you start a fishing charter business on the side?

Yes, you could run a fishing charter business as a weekend side hustle. You could start it on the side and eventually grow it into a full-time business.

What is the market size for fishing charters?

The fishing charter market in the U.S. is worth more than $370 million. It’s projected to keep growing in the coming years.


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How to Start a Fishing Charter Business