Making the right choice
  |  First Published: July 2003

USING a charter guide is a simple and successful way to investigate new locations and new techniques in your local area, but it’s important to be able to tell the difference between a good guide and a ‘cowboy’ operator. Some readers have asked me how to make the right choice, and this month I’ll try to clear that up.


First, ring all the guides that operate in the area that you intend to fish. As well as asking each operator if they’re available on the dates you want, try to cover a number of other issues now, rather than waiting until you’re on the water. Here are some good questions to ask:

1) Do you specialise in my style of fishing?

It’s important for a guide to be able to put you onto fish using your preferred style. If you want to explore flyfishing in the area you won’t get much satisfaction from a trip to a creek where the multitude of mangroves only allow for bait fishing.

2) What options do we have if the weather turns nasty?

This should indicate whether the guide has a good knowledge of the area, giving them the ability to put you onto fish in most conditions. Of course, in especially in the north, we do give allowances to guides when they are faced with an impending cyclone.

3) How many people usually go on each charter?

This can be helpful when you’re looking at the guide’s charges, with some guides offering concessions for group bookings. It’s also important to note that some guides are not equipped to handle large groups due to lack of equipment or experience (or both).

4) What’s biting now (at the time of your call), and what species can I expect to target and catch at the time of the charter?

Getting the guide to review what’s biting now and what to expect on the date(s) you’d like to fish gives you a broader idea of what that particular are has to offer. It can also indicate the extent of the guide’s knowledge (or lack thereof) in the area.

5) What vessel will we be fishing out of?

Requesting information on the vessel you’ll be fishing out of for up to 12 hours can come down simply to your comfort. Although the internet can provide pictures of boats they are usually in the background of some wonderful fishy conquests, so it’s good to ask for more information.

6) What’s the guide’s policy on catch and release, and do they set any personal bag limits?

When asking this, you may also like to indicate your personal preferences towards catch and release. Most guides set personal size and bag limits to protect future stocks, and a good guide should indicate this up front so that it doesn’t become an issue on the day.

Another advantage of asking a number of questions is that it lets you get a better idea of the guide’s personality. You’re going to sharing a boat with them for a while, so you want to be confident that you’ll feel relaxed and enjoy your experience.

I hope this information will encourage readers to ask more questions and get more information from prospective guides to in turn result in a better days fishing.


In the local Townsville area, mackerel are the big buzz at the moment. The Inaugural Predator Competition was held at the end of June and did a great job in showing just what anglers in the know are capable of. Obtaining the knowledge to make consistent captures like this isn’t easy, but it is possible.

Always be prepared to try something new when you’re trolling or floating. You can always add a twist by adding a berley trail to your floating baits of pilchard or gar. Try fishing with live baits such as greenback herring, scads, yakka, yellowtail or wolf herring. Have a go at covering more area by drifting over mackerel grounds. This can be effective by enabling you to cover the whole water column by fishing different weights and getting baits down deeper, covering the whole shoal to find the fish.

Remember to always watch your sounder for schools of fish and, even more importantly, schools of bait. I have had more success with finding bait schools and trolling around and through them rather than just trolling drop-offs on ledges. Give it a go!

A parting note regarding the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s rezoning of the park. If you haven’t seen RAP, get into your local tackle store or contact the authority to get some information sent out. Most importantly, if you don’t agree the proposals, do something about it NOW! Don’t just assume someone else will fix it. Without support in the form of pure numbers, GBRMPA will be able to dictate the reef closures with minimal contact with the largest user group. This is your final chance!

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