Tipping for a fishing trip has the same general rule as tipping the waiter, with 10-20% being a common practice. It's a good idea to start with 15% and go up or down depending on how satisfied you are with the trip. Keep in mind that guides spend hours preparing for a trip. In general, your tip for a fishing guide should be based on the total experience of the trip.
There are days when the fish doesn't stop biting and days when you work as hard as possible and don't take anything for the efforts. The amount of tip should be based on how the guide controls all variables, not the number of fish caught. I think most self-respecting guides would agree. As a guide, I have the privilege of sharing very special moments with clients.
My clients work hard to make money and I work hard to provide them with the best overall experience in return. The typical tip of a guide for our equipment service is 15-20%. That, more or less, has become an industry standard. Regardless of the amount of the tip, the effort is the same on my part and I am incredibly grateful for any tips on the guided day trip.
This same principle carries over to charter captains, fishing guides and first officers who provide services during their fishing experience. Typically, customers will add between 15% and 20% gratuity to the price of the trip, depending on the quality of the service. Although not required, there is a certain label to show your appreciation. If you think the Captain or Guide didn't deserve to be appreciated, maybe just a 5% tip is justified; but we'll get into what is good service in a moment.
Often, the tip you give goes directly to the first officer (if applicable). In some cases, tipping is the only compensation a first officer receives, since they are mostly interns learning their trade. If you think both the Captain and the First Officer deserve a tip, you can offer cash to both. The Captain can still give all or part of his part to the First Officer, but the gesture is noticeable and appreciated.
Certainly, if you are catching a lot of fish, the captain and his partner are working very hard to get the fish in, bait new lines and fillet it back on the dock. For me, being able to keep customers engaged, have fun and learn when fishing is slow is a crucial skill set for a fishing guide. If you don't catch a lot of fish and are considering a proper tip, consider how far the crew went to try to find the fish or entertain you in other ways. Whether it's a fly fishing trip near Alaska, or, we'll partner you with a professional fishing guide or captain.
In a group setting, anglers can split tips, but they help your fishing partner with advanced knowledge to prevent them from feeling embarrassed at the end of the fishing day. Unfortunately, there are days when fish just don't bite and that's why they call it sport fishing and no catch, it's not always the fault of the crews. If you've asked the captain for a specific fish in a specific area, and those fish don't bite, there's not much the captain can do. The charter fee covers the trip for the wear and tear of the boat, the gas, the equipment (its rods, reels and flies), the knowledge, the license, the convenience of fishing in a new area and having someone stand on a boat and push or row it all day long.
Matt Reilly is a freelance writer, outdoor columnist and fly fishing guide who specializes in float trips for predatory game fish based in Southwest Virginia. Charter boat fishing captains reported that they generally receive tips of 10 to 20% of the trip cost.