How to Become a Charter Fishing Captain in Louisiana

There’s nothing like getting paid to do something you would gladly do for free. If you’re crazy about fishing in this great state, becoming a charter captain yourself is not all that far-fetched.

As a charter captain, you have the freedom to decide what kind of trips you prefer and make your own schedule. You can meet all kinds of people and find your place in a fun, close-knit community. Captaining a fishing boat is anything but dull. On the wild waters of Louisiana, no two days are alike.

This versatile, rewarding career starts with a passion for fish, boats, and people. 

Qualifications for a Charter Boat Career in Louisiana

While passion is a strong indicator that this is the right career for you, it can only get you so far. The truth is, there are some basics that you just can’t proceed without.


Charter fishing captains have been at this for years. They know all about local waters, tidal patterns, and weather conditions. When it comes to local species of fish, they’re walking encyclopedias. They’ve developed sharp instincts for where and when the fish are biting. They can advise customers on everything from initiating their kids to fishing competitively. When the fish aren’t cooperating, seasoned captains fill the time with local history and fishing lore. 

If you’re not quite there yet, spend more time on the water to hone your skills. Many licensed charter captains will be happy to give you pointers.


Licensing is a big deal here in Louisiana. We all want to ensure a safe, successful, and sustainable fishing experience for everyone. The pros at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are your friends. Follow the rules, and everyone will get along and catch lots of fish.

Here’s an overview of the requirements:

  • U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s License:

This will cover you as a transportation worker. It also entails periodic physical exams, CPR and first-aid certifications, and drug testing.

  • Louisiana Charter Boat Fishing Guide License, Louisiana Recreational Fishing License, and possibly a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit

Depending on whether you’ll harvest offshore species, you’ll also need extra licensing for specific waters and species of fish. Examples include offshore fishing for dolphin, mackerel or bluefish and reef fishing.

  • Insurance

There are strict guidelines for the amount and quality of insurance you must carry. Insurance protects both you and your guests.

  • Thorough knowledge of federal and state rules and regulations

There are all kinds of rules pertaining to the boat itself, where you can fish, the number of passengers you can carry, daily catch limits and more.

The rules may seem nitpicky, but they make for better Gulf Coast fishing.

Let’s take a closer look at the Louisiana Charter Boat Fishing Guide License. To get the resident rate, you must prove that you’re a bona fide Louisiana resident:

  • You have a driver’s license or ID card issued by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety.

  • You’ve lived here continuously for 12 months leading up to the date you apply for the license. In short, Louisiana is your home.

  • If you vote, you vote here.

  • If you own a vehicle, it’s registered here.

  • If you earn any money here, you pay Louisiana state income taxes.

You can’t get a resident’s license here if you have one somewhere else. Noncompliance with the “bona fide resident” rules could land you in hot water.

Find more details and information on how to apply on the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website.

Business Mindset

There’s more to captaining a charter boat than a passion for fishing. That’s a great thing to build on, but you also need to know how to run a business. You should consider start-up costs, operating costs, marketing and accounting. You might have to try a few different business models; if you’re a fisherman, then you have the patience to hang in there until you find one that works for you.

Specializing often makes good business sense. Do your homework to find overlooked niches in your area. Maybe you could offer brunch outings on weekends or feature haunted shipwreck cruises. If you’re the local expert on swordfish, by all means market yourself that way.

At LCBA, our charter boat captains benefit from being tied to the LCBA brand — that means any promotions we participate in benefit you, too. 

Quality Equipment

Your chief goal is to ensure that people on your boat catch fish. People who catch fish will rebook with you to catch even more fish. Not only that, but they’ll tell all their friends about their “lucky” charter trip.

“Luck” is often a matter of having up-to-date, well-maintained fishing gear. Investing in quality equipment pays off. You should also be able to help your clients master the latest techniques and decide which equipment is best for which fish. 

Commitment to Customer Service

Finally, from your very first outing, start building a reputation for stellar service. Learn to anticipate needs, share knowledge in a fun, engaging way, maintain a safe boat, and create memorable experiences. Great charter fishing captains treat guests as they would their own family members.

The Charter Captain Network

Every captain here at the LCBA started just where you are. If you’re ready to make your charter captain dreams a reality, drop us a line. We have the history and resources to set you up for success. 


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