1. Wannabe Captains… Hear me out. There are a ton of beautiful boats down here, many well north of $250k and most of them bought by a rich uncle so his nephew can play captain in Key West (and of course the tax write off.) These captains only have a handful of generic spots that came with their GPS to go to and do not know where or why to fish those spots. You will end up on a trial-and-error trip with excuses as to why your day on the water was slow. It was slow because your captain had no idea what they were doing!
What you want is a guide with verifiable commercial AND Charter experience as the foundation of their background. These are guides that understand what “good water” is, fish migrations, spawns and how to read the conditions.
These are guides that are part of a team that all share information at the end of the day and before each trip.
2. Hourly Pay Captains… When your new to the business and can’t afford your own boat, you end up as an hourly “on the clock” captain. Most of these captains are simply going through the motions, waiting for their “shift” to be done, so they can hit the bar early. Sorry, but that’s the majority of what I have seen for many years.
3. Part-time Discount Captains… These are captains that really want to be good but have no experience. Many are retired and their dream is to be a Key West guide. That is all well and fine, but to take peoples hard earned money, under the guise of knowing what you’re doing is false advertising and fraud. Beware of low-ball trips that tell you they can discount the trip a few hundred dollars.
Example: Say the rate is $1200 for a full day and some yahoo says they can discount the trip a few hundred bucks, are you saving a few hundred or wasting the $800?
4. Mega Booking Sites… Please beware of the Mega WORLDWIDE websites like Fishing Booker and Fish Anywhere. These companies are not based here in Key West, list more than 30,000 captains in close to 2,000 cities in 120 countries. They are strictly commission driven charging captains from 20% to 30% for your reservation. They sell you to the highest bidder!
There is no vested interest in your safety or satisfaction, only your money. Would you find it disturbing that these booking sites never meet the captains represented? These “online mega sites” know zero about a captain’s background, talents, skill sets, or people skills. They have no inkling if the captain is dependable or reputable. They have done nothing more than posted a picture of the boat and copied the information which was provided by the captain on their site. There are never any real “guarantees of the captain or vessels”. No real knowledge of who or what they are representing to you. They cannot possibly know anything about the intricacies of such a diverse fishery as Key West.