STARTING YOUR FISHING CHARTER
Turning a passion into a livelihood is everyone’s dream. When it comes to fishos, what could be more exhilarating than breaking the nine to five mould and starting your own fishing charter?
The market can seem saturated. Hundreds of charters have sprung up in recent years, catering for tourists from all over Australia and beyond and chasing every species imaginable. But there is still a lot of money to be made in the industry, providing you do your homework before you invest too much time and money. If you really love fishing, as long as you can earn a living, a running a fishing charter would have to be one of the best small businesses in the world.
Tourist arrivals to Australia have increased over the last five years and show no sign of letting up in the near future. This means that the charter market is still growing and expanding.
To get an edge, look at what countries the arrivals are coming from. For example, the strengthening of the Chinese currency has caused a lot of Chinese tourists to flock to our shores. Fishing charters in Western Australia around the Abrolhos Islands are cashing in on this surge in Chinese tourism. Look at where your local arrivals are coming from and find out what they like doing on their holidays. If they have a specific species they like to go for, you are in luck; there is your opportunity.
Large infrastructure projects in the pipeline are also a good indicator of where the future opportunities could spring up. Sydney, Melbourne and Hamilton Island, for example, are receiving considerable investment into their tourism sector. There will likely be more hotels in the regions in the next couple of years, which mean will more tourists and the capability to support more fishing charters. Similar things are happening around Gold Coast, Moreton Bay, Port Phillip Bay and Airlie Beach.
Find out what people look for in a fishing charter. You have probably been on enough charters to know some of the things that sit well with clients and some of the things that don’t. Talk to people in your area, give out surveys, talk to tourists, go on online forums (ask the OnDeck community), try to get as much information as possible about how you will operate your charter. Just from looking through the forums, I notice a lot of people like skippers that care about if the clients are catching fish or not, communication from the skipper on what to expect from the day, the plan of action and what they will do if plan A doesn’t work. They also like charters where the operators are forthcoming with their expertise and knowledge. After all, the operators know the region much better than anyone else.
GET CERTIFIED AND LICENSED
You will need a charter boat that is certified for commercial operations and either a 1E or 1D license that allows you to carry passengers in smooth or partially smooth waters. You will also need a license if you plan to skipper the boat yourself. For boats under 12 metres you can get a grade 1NC Coxswains license but for anything over that, you will need the full commercial skipper’s license. Starting with a boat under 12 metres is the best way to go.
Each state and territory has its own licensing regulations. Here are some links that will help you get started.
- Queensland (https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industries/farms-fishing-forestry/fisheries/licences/charter-fishing-licence)
- Western Australia (http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Fishing-and-Aquaculture/Recreational-Fishing/Pages/Charter-Boats.aspx)
- New South Wales (https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/recreational/resources/charter)
- Northern Territory (https://nt.gov.au/marine/commercial-fishing/fishing-tour-operator-licence)
- Victoria (https://transportsafety.vic.gov.au/maritime-safety/recreational-vessel-operators/charter-vessels)
WORK OUT YOUR PROFIT/LOSS
Work out how large your overheads will be in the first year and how much revenue you could stand to make. Owners will commonly undertake tasks like cleaning the boat after tours and skippering the boat themselves for the first year to save on overheads. You will also need to begin researching booking agencies and find out how much their fees are likely to be and the impact they will have on revenue.
PLAN A LAUNCH PARTY
You have your boat, you are certified and licensed and you know what your first-year financial projections are. Now you should think about planning a launch party. This is a great way of getting some free marketing.
Invite local booking agents, friends and family and put on a bit of a spread with some champagne. It will give the agents a chance to look around the boat and get it on their radar. This way, you should be able to start getting bookings immediately without investing anything in marketing.
Now your boat is ready for action. The initial launch party should land you some early clients from the booking agents but you should look to invest some money into a strong marketing campaign to get your name out there.
Now you have done the easy part, you have started a fishing charter. The hard work starts now, ensuring its continued success. It isn’t easy but when things get tough, think about the old nine to five office job. Even the worst day at the fishing charter beats the best day in the office or makes for an excellent retirement plan – that’s where my head is at.
Do you have any suggestions you can add to this piece? Share your experience through the comments section below.