Here is how to get the most for your money on your fishing trip.
Everyone loves a good fishing trip, but not everyone likes paying for it. Maybe you're on a budget or maybe you just don't want to drop big money on your next big fishing expedition. Whatever the case, we have you covered. Here are several ways to save money on your next fishing trip.
The more the merrier! This may seem like an obvious solution, but it's amazing how much money you can save on any trip just by bringing your friends along and splitting the costs. If you're driving to your destination, take turns paying for gas. I've gone on long road trips with as many as six people. In some cases, each of us only had to pay for gas once on the whole trip! It makes a huge difference if you're traveling 1,000 miles or more, especially if you're hauling a boat trailer. Just be ready for a cramped vehicle, but it can be a small price to pay for the money you'll save in return.
You don't need to stay at a five-start hotel for a fishing trip. In fact, that would probably take away from the experience, right?
This is another situation where bringing a lot of friends can pay off. I made a trip to Cincinnati back over Memorial Day weekend where a dozen of us rented a three-story Airbnb just north of downtown. The house was quite comfortable, as it had plenty of room and beds for all of us. We ended up getting four days for a total cost of $110 a person. And, that wasn't a per-night cost. That was for the whole four days on a holiday weekend!
That wasn't a fishing trip, but it does go to show how much you can save on lodging in a usually expensive location with a group. If you want to cut costs even more, go camping.
If you're just using a tent and don't need electricity, you'll find campgrounds usually have significantly cheaper rates than hotels or rental properties. The more you rough it, the more money you'll save. Tent sites with no facilities can be surprisingly cheap. I also recommend staying at state or national campgrounds. They're usually less than privately owned ones and are much nicer, too.
Many of these campgrounds also allow you to book online. Michigan has an excellent online registration system where you can actually pick your campsites off a map and see a picture of it before you book. Check reservation options when booking, though. Sometimes there are deals to be had, depending on the time of year and the type of equipment you bring along. Just watch out, however, as sometimes these reservations are non-refundable if you cancel on short notice.
Sometimes you may be able to find camping for free, depending on where you're going. Do plenty of research on where you'll be fishing ahead of time. You may be surprised to see what lodging options there are and how much money you can save.
Food and drink
This one seems obvious, but there are several ways to save on food and drink costs while on a fishing trip.
The easiest one, and this goes hand-in-hand with camping, is to bring your own. Skip the expensive local restaurants and bars. Instead, buy all your food supplies ahead of time and prepare your own meals.
I've saved a lot of money on trips by simply buying my snacks ahead of time. Gas stations and convenience stores can be expensive. Get all your extra snacks in bulk ahead of time from somewhere like Sam's Club. Unless you want to sample the local brews, do you really need to buy all your beer when you arrive at your destination, especially when you can probably get it cheaper at home?
Even better, you're on a fishing trip, so try to catch all your meals! Even if you're on a trip for a fish that isn't usually used for food, what's to stop you from taking along some light tackle to catch a mess of bluegills or perch for dinner at the end of the day?
Guides and Equipment
If you're typically a largemouth bass fisherman and are planning a deep-sea fishing trip for bluefin tuna, you're likely going to be enlisting the services of a guide or a charter boat. Depending on what kind of game fish you're after, you may or may not need a guide, although you may need to alter your tactics.
Now, if you're just going a few states over to seek out a species you're familiar with in a new place, a guide may not be necessary. It may take a little more work to find the fish, but it'll also make finding them a lot more rewarding. Luckily, the internet is a wealth of resources for stuff like this. You'd be surprised at what local secrets some people reveal online.
Another thing to do is to make sure you have all the equipment you need before you leave on your trip. Do your research and plan accordingly, you don't want to travel 1,000 miles away only to find the walleyes are hitting white jerkbaits and you only brought red.
If a lure is particularly hot in an area, you might even have a hard time finding it locally if you wait to buy until you arrive. If you're in a particularly remote area, some tackle shops also gouge on the prices if they're the only place around to buy lures.
Shop months in advance and take advantage of sales and online deals to get the equipment you'll need. That includes fishing licenses. A surprising number of them can be bought online now, too. It also makes for one less stop you'll have to make when you reach your destination.
You'll be glad you planned ahead when your buddy gets ripped off on tackle essentials by the local tackle shop upon your arrival.
A Day Trip as an Alternative
A fishing trip doesn't always have to be a huge, multi-day adventure to Mexico or some other exotic locale. It doesn't even have to be an overnight trip out of the United States. A simple day trip or even a half-day trip within your own state can be a lot of fun and a lot easier on your bank account.
If you live in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan or Wisconsin, you're likely within a few-hour drive of any of the Great Lakes. It can be fun to just go out with a charter for a day. Their rates can be expensive, but if you can get a group of five or six friends together to chip in, the cost goes down significantly. Party boat fishing can be a great alternative to a much longer and more expensive overnight trip. And, you can bring home your catch for dinner!
Do you live near Dallas? You're only a few hours from the big-bass factory of Lake Fork. Are you close to Los Angeles? You might only be an hour from Castaic Lake. If you're lucky enough to be in Minneapolis, you're only an hour and a half away from Mille Lacs. Be creative and don't be afraid to explore; you'll likely find you're within driving distance of at least one legendary fishing spot.
Even something as simple as getting an early start and driving 100 miles away to a random lake you've never been to before can make for a cheap and memorable fishing trip. And who knows? You might even find a new hotspot to check out on a trip down the road.