Laws of Etiquette on a Deep-Sea Party Boat

A late-minute decision to take off work and head down the shore to jump on a Party Boat is a great idea when the fish are killing it. The only problem is until you sail, you won’t know the code of behavior for some of the people that will be sharing the boat trip with you. What are the Laws of Etiquette for a Saltwater Party Boat?

Party Boat Etiquette starts with the Captain by boarding on time, bringing enough food & drink, the right equipment, cash for tipping & pools, being courteous & respectful, sharing good spots, not casting over lines & paying attention to your own.

When you charter your own boat you do so with family and friends who like you already know the rules of being civil and probably already have met the Captain who is anxious to please you for that next trip down the road.


For you beginners out there who have never been on a fishing charter there are a few rules you need to be aware of. If you go fishing for the full or 3/4 day trips out on the ocean, you will get hungry. Nothing makes somebody more hungry than a day out on the ocean. The fresh air and sun make you want to pack a picnic lunch. So pack a picnic lunch. Use a cooler so it stays cold and takes a couple of hoagies or subs or whatever you call them where you live. Aside from the food make sure you bring something cold to drink. 

Be on time for the trip most of the boats will leave without you but if your buddies make an effort the Captain will wait. Don’t take advantage of this. Be on Time.  Be courteous to the Captain. Everyone wants to get going and get out on the water. Sometimes Captains may have to chase fish 20 or 30 miles out. That means there is more travel time. So be early Don’t make the rest of the people on the boat wait.

This is an absolute. The salt air and normally high temperatures on the water make you very thirsty. Stop early and pick up a big bag of ice and use that for the fish you catch, the beer you’ll drink and the food you’ll eat.

 I bring a Cooler maybe two. One for fish and one for food. If you catch fish and don’t have an extra cooler for fish, you will need a bag of some kind. I used to use a Burlap bag that kept fish from drying out. Burlap works well because it stays wet and lets air through and helps keep the fish fresh.

One thing that really gets under my skin is when people don’t bring the right kind of tackle. Before you get on a Party boat in New Jersey, everyone goes to the Tackle and Bait Shop on the Docks. They sell coffee, donuts, or something to drink and the exact lures, bait, and jigs that the fish are biting on.

You need to bring the proper equipment. I’ve seen guys take rods on board that is the size of surf rods. It’s kind of ridiculous that someone is fishing from a boat with 50 other people and they think they need to bring a 12-foot Surf pole with them. It won’t get in the way.  I don’t get it, but it happens on Party Boats.

Before you get on the boat you need to know what the fish are biting on. Are they biting on red or orange color and what size weight is holding the bottom? The folks at the Bait Shop on the Docks before you get on your Charter or before you get on a Party Boat will know how rough the seas are 20 miles out.

The proper lures or Jigs are exactly what you need to catch fish that day. They do cost a few bucks but you need them to be successful.  It’s all at the Bait Shop at the Docks right before you get on board the ship. Buy the right Lures and Bait What you need and a few extra in case, cause you lose one or two, you definitely will.

If you fishing for Blues they will break your line especially if you are not using a steel leader and tie the lures directly to your line which is how they do it in New Jersey for Bluefish or Weakfish. But buy what you need and a few more.

Then there is the subject of beer. It’s a day trip most guys and gals on a Party Boat drink beer so Bring enough Beer so you don’t run out. Or-So I don’t run out Please. There is no take-out store on the boat well for most boats. If you run out of smokes or cigars, buy a couple of packs, and don’t mooch smokes off other passengers.

The 12 o’clock sun on the Ocean is brutal. Everyone knows this. You need a hat or something to keep the sun off you. There is one thing to pack away with the hoagies and the beer and that is Sunblock, Bring Sunblock cause everybody sooner or later needs some sunblock on the boat. The Bait Shop sells all those kinds of things that you could have picked up when you got your coffee and the lures this morning. It is bad etiquette to borrow things that other people may need, later on in the day, and won’t have any place to buy them.

 Deep-Sea Party Boat Fishing


The number one pet peeve for the fisherman on a Party Boat or a Charter Boat is the person that forgets to bring cash for tipping and pool money for the biggest fish on the boat contest that every Charter and Party Boat has on every trip out.

It’s no secret. The first Mates filet fish for the passengers on the boat. They will gaff fish to bring them on board or untangle lines. It is normally the Captain’s kid or nephew but they work hard and deserve to be paid. So make sure you bring some cash for the pools and the tips. They normally are college-age and younger and this is their job for the summer. They work hard and are yelled at by a bunch of smelly old guys who are drinking cans of Bud and can be quite the idiots.

There are unwritten rules for etiquette when fishing on a Party Boat with complete strangers. Most people are nice but as the sun gets hotter, maybe the fishing Gods are not in favor of them having a successful day. There may be some tempers that show up, especially after a bunch of guys have few and still, have empty fish coolers.

One rule most Captains in Jersey have that I agree with is not to bring Hard Liquor on the Party Boat. I mean why would anybody want to get whiskey-drunk in the 95-degree temperatures of the Ocean? There is too much that can happen within the confines of a small ship on the Ocean.

Party Boats / Charter Boats and Rentals — Belmar Manutti Marina Most people I’ve met fishing, especially from the Jersey Shore are great and just want, what you want, a cooler full of fish and a story to tell about it. There always is one person that doesn’t want to play by the rules.

Then there is the one guy who hugs the rail at the stern and doesn’t move. It’s an unwritten rule on a Party Boat that you  Don’t hug the rail or corner spot at the Stern. It’s the best spot on the boat and where all the water is. This is a preferable spot that a lot of guys will take so they can cast out even if you are using it at the time, you could lose it unless you open your mouth. 

If you have a fish online like a Bluefish on a crowded boat walk the fish along the boat rail to a spot where you can pull him on board. Using courtesy to the people that have their lines out. You want to walk your line underneath theirs if you can. Do this in a Courteous way by saying “Fish On”. People will move and help you out. Being courteous goes a long way.

Do not cast over other people’s lines. Drop your line straight out in front of you. Don’t cast to the side. Also, be aware of what side of the boat the drift is. Once you are anchored the boat will spin and you won’t even be aware that it’s happening.

When you throw your line out be aware if your side of the boat is moving into the drift. Your line will end up under the boat. Eventually, your line will end up on the other side of the boat. If this happens you could be tangled up with someone on the other side. Pay Attention to drift when fishing on a boat on the ocean.

If you are one of those guys that can’t take a fish off the line then learn.  Do not keep asking someone to take the fish off your line for you. Watch them do it then do it for the remaining part of the trip.

If you are one of those guys then you are probably one of those guys that keep Birdnesting his line because he doesn’t know how to use an open deep sea reel. You must understand that you can’t expect the first mate or someone else to keep trying to fix that mess. it will take forever when it happens. Just Cut It! Please!

Please Do Not be one of those guys that put his rod down and claim his Spot on the boat usually on the Stern corner spot. Everyone on the boat should be moving whether you are on the anchor or the drift. Fish the whole Stern so everyone gets to fish the back of the boat.

Cast out to the side off the stern and let the current take your bait back and around the others. The currents moving, and you should be moving too. If you try to stay in the same spot you’ll cause tangles. The two biggest reasons people get tangles on Head Boats are that people have slacklines or are trying to stay in one spot on the boat, which is almost impossible on an Ocean drift.

Fishing Charter Tips


There is something strange that happens when you put 50 guys on smelly boat miles out in the Ocean, drinking a few and catching fish in hot temperatures. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it can be bad. It all depends on who the other guys are. Some guys like to cuss and scream and some guys like to drink and complain and other guys catch fish no matter where they are on the boat.

Everybody can be skunked and have given up for the day and there is always one guy who drops a beer can overboard and catches the biggest Bluefish you ever saw. He’s the guy who was late, and forgot to bring his cash but wins the boat pool. The guy who smokes cigars upwind from everyone and tells everybody stories so that everyone on the boat can hear. Maybe he’ll read this.

With Charter Boat Fishing most people know each other, unlike Party Boat Fishing. If you don’t understand this can make the world of difference.

  • So, when the Captain toots his horn or buzzes his buzzer to let the party know the spot is fished out and we are going to move the boat. Pull up your rod, like everyone else. Don’t wait another couple of minutes so he has to do it again.
  • Tip the mates that’s how they make their money
  • Pay attention to your line and the drift or you’ll end up on the other side of the boat tangling everyone up.
  • Don’t let a seagull take your bait. It’s a nightmare. Don’t be the guy who lets his bait or lure sit on top of the water too long so that the seagull who’s been following the boat since we left the dock, decides to pick it up, cause then we really got a problem.
  • If you get sick don’t throw up in the galley. Throw up downwind over the rail. It’s self-explanatory 

The main Rule about Party Boat Deep Sea Fishing is to treat other people like you would want other people to treat you. Respect, Civility, and Courtesy go a long way on the open seas and everywhere else.

Charter Boat Fishing or Party Boat Fishing we all have one thing in common, we are just a bunch of guys who spent maybe $200.00 plus, for a ticket on a smelly boat in 90-plus degrees to try and catch a bloody smelly bluefish, that we could have bought on the way home for $10.00. It must be the thrill of the Sport. It Is!



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