GREAT question. Let's see if we can answer it to the best of our ability. When we were younger we spent a good deal of time going on so-called "Party Boats" (also called Head boats) because they were a very cost-effective way for us to go offshore. Offshore fishing is out of the reach of anybody unless they either a) own a boat capable of safely fishing out of sight of land) or b) could afford offshore guides. Even when we were young (around 1904) guides weren't cheap. Offshore guides spend a lot of money to get you out there, and their boats cost a lot to run. Party boats let us go out for four hours, eight hours, or even overnight for a couple of days and reach grouper, snapper, big shark, even tuna and other species we could only read about while we fishing for snook or speckled trout. As good as the inshore is here, offshore is another world - and one you should experience.
This image from Hubbards Marina shows a happy family with a great load of tasty fish.
What to Do to Increase Your Odds on a Party Boat.
We are not magical, but there are a few things you can do that will dramatically improve your odds. First, if you are only going on four hour trips, understand that the shorter the trip the closer to shore the boat is during the adventure. The more time the captains have to get deeper (here in West Central Florida especially) the bigger the fish. The overnight trips produce the biggest fish, the eight hour trips next, and the short four hour trips the smallest. You will catch big fish on short trips for sure, just not as many of them.
The boats offer soda, water, even hamburgers if you're gonna be out more than a few hours. They take care of you, and will include excellent rods and tackle and help you rig them and even help you pull fish up from the depths. So you do not really need anything but sunscreen and a passion to go. But if you're going for more than 4 hours, be ready to spend the entire day and to come back tired and salty.
If you find that fishing these fun boats is something you wanna get into, you are gonna want to buy your own tackle. We've given you some suggestions that you can but right now. But we suggest you spend time trying a few trips before you spend $200 or $2,000 on offshore tackle.
You can fish more than one rod on a party boat - at least two or maybe three or even four. Bring Bungie cords or something (there is VERY cool wire that will hold your rods together or in place and are useful for far more than just party boat fishing) to hold your rods to the rails of the boat. Trust us, you will not hold them all day.
Get your own bait
This is going to sound radical, and is something you probably shouldn't consider doing until you are really addicted, but live bait on a party boat will rule the roost. Fish like live bait more than they do dead bait. A car battery, a garbage bucket, and saltwater loaded with live pinfish will get you winning the pool (for the biggest fish). It's a real pain but the people that fish these boats a lot do it routinely.
Get on the Stern
The stern of the boat is where the captain tries to put the boat. He or She will center it if they can and if the structure's big enough, but unless the boat is really crowded people can get near the back of the boat and near the most dense population of fish is showing on the electronics. Get on the Stern and wherever that boat stops you are gonna catch fish. If there was one secret we had, it's being on the stern of the boat. No question, no doubt.
Otherwise, if you get sick, bring seasickness pills. The work. Meet people, trade emails, and have a blast.
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