Twenty-five years ago, a relatively small number of guides worked the Galveston Bay Complex. Today, there are so many that it is almost impossible to keep track of the number of licensed guides working this area.
A fishing guide, one that carries passengers for hire in a boat, has to have two basic licenses. One is a U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s License and the other a license issued by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Offshore guides are required to have additional licenses and permits to fish the Federal and State Waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, let’s get back to the point of this article, which is choosing a fishing guide.
In addition to recommendations from friends, sports writers and advertisements, bait camps are excellent sources. Bait camps are probably the best source if you are looking for a guide to fish a particular area such as the jetties or a particular bay.
Guides generally launch their boats at a convenient spot for fishing a given area. For jetty guides, the Galveston Yacht Basin is one of the better spots and for West Bay, Fatboy’s or Galveston Bait and Tackle attract the guides. For East Bay, Stingaree Marina at Crystal Beach and for Mid-Galveston Bay including parts of Trinity and East Bays, Eagle Point and April Fools Point camps are good.
All of those bait camps have lists of fishing guides that operate out of their location.
Before contacting a prospective guide you should be prepared to give certain information about your fishing skills and experience and that of others who may join you. If you prefer to fish only a certain location, then the guides you solicit should be experienced in that area.
Many guides like to wade-fish, especially in the fall and spring. If that is not what you want, it should be mentioned early on in the conversation. Obviously if you want to fish either inshore (bays, jetties or beachfront) or offshore, that is one of the first items to consider. Only a few guides offer both as options.
If you do not plan to use your own equipment, that is rod, reel and tackle, it should be confirmed that the guide has suitable equipment to loan out.
One of the more frequent complaints from readers concerns cancellation policies. The complaints run from “the weather was not good for fishing and the trip should have been cancelled” to “I got sick and had to cancel out and my deposit was not returned.” One of the major items to address is the cancellation policy and on what basis trips are cancelled due to poor conditions.
Many guides do not offer refunds if a trip is cancelled but offer a rescheduled trip instead, if sufficient notice is given. That is fine for anglers living in the area; however, it does not help someone visiting on vacation from several hundred miles away. It is best to check this beforehand.
For offshore trips, seasickness causes many trips to return to the dock early. Most guides do not offer any concessions for such events. If you are prone to motion sickness try taking Bonine or Dramamine before leaving the dock. It could salvage your trip.
Be aware of guaranteed catches. Complaints have been received citing poor fishing; however, a few hardheads were caught and that was considered a catch.
Now, after addressing all of those issues, what should you expect from a fishing guide? Basically, his experience and expertise to take you to spots where he has found fish, showing you the right baits and techniques to use and in general offering a fun trip.
The more references you have for a guide the better able you will be to determine if he or she is the best choice. Check on insurance. Full time guides normally carry liability insurance while those operating only on holidays and weekends often do not spring for the expense of insurance.
Another frequent question is in regard to tipping. Unless other arrangements are made, such as with corporate guest trips, your guide should be tipped if he or she worked hard at making the trip productive and enjoyable. This does not necessarily mean catching a lot of fish, just that good effort was made. Tips should be in the area of 10% for a minimal trip to 20% or more if the guide made special efforts, such as extra time on the water and cleaning and packaging your catch.
Hiring a guide is a good investment in your future fishing success!