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How To Choose Your Next Lake Erie Fishing Charter

Choosing a Lake Erie Walleye charter  

Lake Erie has such a diverse selection of fish that many charter services now focus only on one species. If you happen to charter with a salmon guide when you want to troll for big walleye you could be very disappointed when you arrive at the docks for your trip. The majority of guides and captains are simply dedicated business people intent on providing the best time on the water you've ever had. But what it means to have a great time fishing can mean different things to different folks. Save yourself some time and disappointment on your next Lake Erie fishing trip by doing some "ground" work ahead of time.

What Type of Fish do You Want to Catch?

If you want big Lake Erie walleyes, make that clear to your captain ahead of arriving. If you'd like king salmon, say so and do it more than once. Be sure that you politely grill the guide or captain on what fish they spend the bulk of their time angling for. When business is slow a guide service may say, yes, they do fish for walleye, even though they focus on bass. Hey, most everyone on Lake Erie fishes for walleye at some point and the charter captain in question may be very good at catching walleye, but a conscientious guide will always be up front with you about their expertise.

What Fishing Method Do You Want to Use?

A fishermen who likes to drift deep baits for Lake Erie walleye could be miserable spending his day on the water listening to the drone of outboards trolling lures for walleye. Again, asking questions about how a charter service fishes is critical. Try to be as specific as possible when describing what kind of fishing you'd like to do. Both you and the charter captain could end up frustrated if you keep asking to shut down and drift when he's more confident covering more water by trolling. Same as everywhere else, the best Lake Erie guides and charters are flexible and try to adapt quickly to the desires of their clients. But don't forget that catching lots of fish is most often the bottom line by which charter services are judged. If you tell your friends what a great guy this captain is but that you didn't catch many fish, the captain knows most anglers hearing this story will look for someone else who puts fish in the boat. Word of mouth, after all, is the number one means of advertising and referrals for the vast majority of charters.

How Much Will it Cost?

Be sure to explain how many people will be going on the charter and how long you'd like to fish. Most captains and guides book half day or full day trips and price accordingly. Don't bite off more than you can chew - unless you fish many days a year and are used to being out in the elements in a rocking boat for hours on end, you should consider a half day charter, which usually last 3-5 hours. The trip may be over too soon but you leave feeling charged up and not worn out by a long day on the water.

Though charter trips often run more than $200/angler, sports should expect to tip your Lake Erie charter captain a minimum of $30 (mates a little less) to express your appreciation of how hard he or she worked to make your trip a success. Notice I didn't say you should tip because you caught lots of fish - the tip is for recognition of your guide's effort, attention to details, flexibility, and safe boatmanship. A bad guide may not deserve a tip and if that is how you feel, then politely explain why and be on your way. And if you can't afford a tip, that's just the way things are; but keep in mind a handshake and smile won't keep the captain's family warm in winter when the lake is iced over.

Other Important Factors to Consider

What kind of food and beverages, if any, will the charter service provide? Do you need to bring your own rain gear, sunscreen, or motion sickness pills? Be sure to bring your own camera to record the good times. Does the boat have a private head (bathroom)? What is the departure time exactly? Be ready to go, it's your own time and money you'll be wasting by arriving late.

While no Lake Erie charter captain likes people getting drunk onboard, some don't mind sports having a beer or two; some forbid alcohol of any kind, so ask in advance if you like cracking a cold one after landing a big walleye.

And be certain to find out in advance what the guide's cancellation policy is. There are only so many days of fishing season and each one is very important to charter services so don't leave them hanging by backing out at the last second because you don't feel like going anymore. It's bad manners and you might not get your money back. On the other hand, places like Lake Erie can get pretty nasty in foul weather and no guide or captain should demand their sports endure unpleasant conditions just to make a buck.

For most people, hiring a charter captain to lead you to a trophy walleye, salmon, bass, or steelhead is a rare treat. Following the steps outlined above will go a long way toward making your Lake Erie walleye charter, or any fishing charter, the trip of lifetime.





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