Friday, October 31, 2014


gavin boyd


 Do your customers ever look this happy?

The more we look around at our feed back from our FISHING SECTION the more we realize that not everyone uses rods, reals, lures, and boats for "recreation". Of course we have always known that commercial fishermen are part of a large industry producing our "wild caught" labeled seafood. As professional mariners ourselves we've encountered commercial fishermen all over the world. We know that "commercial fisherman" is an occupation that can be lucrative, but also involves back braking hard work, long periods at sea away from home, and no small amount of danger. We have every intention of addressing that occupation at a future date ion our FISHING SECTION, but we are largely focused at the moment on recreational fishing. We have been meticulous in the past in our MERCHANT MARINE SECTION, NAVAL INTERESTS SECTION, ADMIRALTY LAW SECTION, and the VESSEL TRAFFIC SYSTEMS SECTION to address the information needs of maritime professionals. It is only recently that we have realized through reader correspondence that there is a growing corps of professionals surrounding recreational fishing. Being avid recreational fishermen ourselves, frankly we envy the work lives of some of our recent correspondents. We have been to sea in war and peace, but have also manned the offices and cubicles of maritime intelligence and law. We know what the inside of a cube farm, or administrative office looks like. We have all heard the dreaded words from higher command. "Sorry, but its your turn to row a desk". The necessary related shoreside office work of the maritime sectors are the closest we've ever come to the much dreaded "real job". While stuck in temporary assignments of 24 to 36 months on such simulated "real jobs" we often turned to recreational fishing and sailing for relief. We developed strong empathy for the sufferings of all those real job holding tax payers who soldier on daily in the work environments that bored us to tears. It didn't occur to us until recently that some people escape the cube farms every year for professional lives in recreational fishing. 

 The fact that people make a living as "tournament fishermen", fishing guides, fishing writers, bait testers, tackle developers, etc. should give every avid recreational fisherman stuck making a living in an unhappy office or plant situation hope. Here is the best news about professional opportunities in recreational fishing. You generally don't need an advanced degree in ichthyology to break in. For many of the most fun positions you don't need a degree at all.  What you need is proven professional level skill in recreational fishing. Think of it as a little bit like the transition from amatuer golfer to professional. That's what most of the recreational fishing career paths we are becoming familiar with look like, a transition from amature to professional. You prepare for the transition by becoming more involved in your hobby. "More involved means more time spent fishing but in a more organized and documented manner, mostly by participation in tournaments, and hunting that record  individual within a targeted species. Remember all records count; state, tournament, Boone and Crockett. Get better by reading and watching videos on fishing, what better rainy day activity is there besides sex? Get focused. What is the recreational fishing job you are most interested in. If you want to run a guide service you have to earn at least a motorboat operator's license from the national maritime authority (Coast Guard in the U.S.) so some time in navigation and boating safety classes will be required. You will also need to document your underway time on board boats, 365 days of underway time is usually minimal for qualifying for a motorboat operator's license which would allow you top operate a motor boat under 65 feet in length with six of fewer passengers aboard. If you own a boat you are allowed to self certify some times. Keep in mind however that when it comes to self certified boat service time there are heavy penalties for fudging time. Keep a log, be accurate. The Motorboat operator license is the minimal boat operator level of competency that every recreational fisherman who wants to make the transition to professional should obtain. With it you can open your own business with a decent outboard boat. The other skill that you have to have in abundance to be any type of fishing guide is the ability to get your clients on fish and coach them into successfully landing them. This comes under the heading of local knowledge. You have to develop that systematically in your pre professional recreation fishing, again we suggest keeping detailed logs of what you catch, where , when, successful baits, lures, tackle, weather and tide conditions etc.  Of course if your goal is guiding fly fishermen in mountain streams you can probably skip the boat operation part, but you can't if you are going to be a bass fisherman guide on an inland lake. State guide type licenses either for you or your boat vary but mostly involve paying fees, there is rarely any third party competency requirement for these licenses. The thought of most state legislatures and fisheries administrators is that if you can't produce fish for your client reliably and regularly, the market will make short work of you. They are absolutely right.

 Most fishing guides are self employed, but there are paid "Captain's positions" throughout the coastal and Great Lakes states. Some of these are on "Charter boats" that are not owner operated but part of a fleet. Many such charter boats are well under 65 feet and may only lawfully carry six passengers or less and your motorboat operators license ( sometimes called a "six pack") and ability to produce fish will put you in the running for these positions. Then there are the "head boats" larger boats common to major coastal recreational fishing ports that take out more, often many more than six passengers. For those jobs you still need the ability to find fish, but you will also need a 50 or 100 ton "masters license". This occupational license will generally require a minimum of 365 days of underway time but on board larger vessels than what is required for a motor boat operator's license, though often some of your "motor boat time" can be applied to the experience requirements of this license. Fortunately there are "unlicensed mates" jobs available in the head boat industry. These don't pay much but provide the needed higher tonnage service time. 

 So while we are not experts on recreational fishing industry employment we are becoming more knowledgeable every day. We will post everything that we find useful to making the transition from recreational (amatuer) fisherman to professional recreational fisherman in the FISHING SECTION at every opportunity. Check the section often if you are interesting in turning pro. But for the "Guide" type occupations we think the above described basics are pretty well established. We summarize below: 

1. Document your underway time aboard boats strive to get 365 proven underway days at a minimum. 

2. Study coastal navigation and boating safety formally with Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron type courses.

3. Fish in formally organized tournaments as often as possible. In tournaments and out strive for the record fish in any category, any record record all this for your resume. You'll need a resume for either a paid "captain's job"or for a business capital loan to start your own business.

4. Study fishing from books, videos, and mentors. You are not ready for the transition to pro until you have at least a motor boat operator's license and a solid record as a fish finder / lander through at least extensive tournament participation and regular placement. Don't neglect those tournaments with prizes for simply "most fish caught" and "biggest fish caught" regardless of species.

 As for what we can tell you so far about some of the other professional opportunities out there such as sport fishing writer, bait. lure tester, tackle developer there pros evolve their skills somewhat independent of boat operations and tend to have have hobby backgrounds in fly tying and lure making. Fishing writers have to be able to write for publication. An academic degree in English or journalism helps but is often trumped in the job market by superior subject matter knowledge and a portfolio of published but low or unpaid articles in local fishing papers. These papers are often hungry for articles and quite willing to publish a decently prepared article that might not be competitive say for "OUTDOOR LIFE" . Writing takes more than an English degree, you have to have subject matter knowledge. Nothing predicts success in writing to a hiring editor like a portfolio of published articles. A hiring editor also sees in a history of publication something of a following. The new English major can't compete. But you have to pay your dues. Write for those local fishing and boating papers for free. Remember that there is no such thing as good writing only good rewriting. Work at it until those local free papers publish you regularly, then you are ready to canvas for a writing job. Your recreational fishing writer resume should include all of the work that you have done towards becoming a skilled fisherman.

 The transition from amateur fisherman to professional positions in the recreational fishing industry always starts with a modest life change that should not be unpleasant for you if you are truly meant to be a pro. Fish often, fish a lot, fish competitively, keep records and logs. Study navigation and boatmanship as well as fishing techniques. Flee the Cube farm! Escape from the Tyranny of the dreaded "real job".   Turn fishing pro. You don't have to give up your day job right away, its an amateur to pro transition that should be fun. If becomes "work" you probably weren't meant to be a recreational fishing professional. Our two fish who are writers Namazu and Beastie remind you that after that fun game of tug of war with our finny friends return as many alive back to the water as possible. 

Johnas Presbyter, Editor   
American Admiralty Books Safety & Privacy Policies   

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