Many aspects go into choosing a charter boat. Proximity to you, cost, target fish of that boat on that day, weather, length of trip (1/2 day to overnight), weekday or weekend, near shore/coastal verse offshore, reputation of captain, number of people booked on the trip, if there is a large party booked on the boat, is bait provided, do you need to rent gear and or is gear built into the price that your paying for, how much is parking, what are the fishing regs for the area the charter is located in?
You would be surprised how each one of these factors can impact your cost and experience of the entire trip. I have been on so many charter trips with so many different experiences, I have an example for every one of these that can justify why doing research is worth the effort. From the weekend drunken obnoxious charter group to the weekday retired regular group there are optimal days to go out on a charter.
First step is to find charters in your area and then review their performance on Norcalfishreports.com found on our website. You can also find charter boats on this site as well as all their contact info. BASC resource page also has a list of CHARTER boats by area. Once you find the boat that seems to have a consistent production of fish to anglers, call and speak with the office to ask who captains the boat, where they fish, ask what tackle you need, what parking is like, ect. My suggestion is to take a day off work and go during the week. Why? Charters will go out with a minimum of 6 customers in most cases and this is a DREAM for any fisherman. Weekends charters are maxed out and the experience is terrible. They do this as it's max income for them despite a terrible experience for the customers and they know this. Weekends are usually also people who have little experience and end up causing tons of fishing tangles, so you end up being the casualty of an over loaded boat and half your day you line is out of the water waiting to get untangled. If you do happen to go on an over loaded boat, the very tip of the bow or the very corner of the stern are the only places to be. Unfortunately every seasoned angler knows this and shows up 4 hours early to be first in line just to get that first spot. Why are these 3 spots (corners of the boat) so important? Because they are literally corners that allow you to control a physical space or boundary and also allow you to semi cast (under swing) your line away from the boat far enough to avoid all the other lines around you that keeps you away from tangling lines. When you see guys swinging their lines away from the boat, they are essentially casting them and they are doing that to avoid tangling with lines next to and around them it's that simple. They may be using lighter weights to avoid sinking too fast as well since their lines will be at a greater angle they will want a slower sink to the bottom and an easier chance to lift or jerk their weight out of the structure once they do hit bottom.
If you are a beginner or someone with little experience it's all the more reason to go during the week and to get on a boat with the fewest people you can to have the greatest amount of space around you as well as the most amount of time from the deck hand to assist you if you need help. You can actually call the office up daily, up to the day before the trip to find out how many people are booked on the charter your interested going on. Many charters even have their booking on line you can check too. I absolutely will take advantage of this and when I find a day where there is minimal people booked and the next most important thing great weather, I will call in sick! So regarding weather, there are many great apps you can use like Windfinder and Willy Weather to make sure the weather is going to be great and that is key for prime fishing. You want winds under 8 mph, waves under 5 feet and periods between waves over 10 seconds apart. That combo and the ocean is like a lake for a charter and the fishing will be awesome.
During the week the "regular" retired customers typically fish with the charters - they hate the crowds... If you do your homework you can find out what days they fish on and which boats/captains they fish on/with specifically and if you get in with those groups they get special treatment being the regular customers. They get taken to the "hot spots" and get the treatment because they "support" the business being the regulars. I learned this from fishing with them many times... Insider info from them and the captain. Weekend charters are typically hit or miss as far as a good experience, but weekday trips are almost always guaranteed a great time as long as the weather is good. Ultimately weather and the least amount of people on the boat are the 2 most important factors I have learned impacts a trip for me as far as enjoyment.
I hope you all enjoyed this article. Use the Norcalfishreports.com. It is loaded with info that can really shed light on boats and how they are producing. Don't be afraid to ask questions in our forum too. We have a lot of knowledgeable guys in our club. Tight lines all!