I’ve been fishing (and catching stripers) for more than two weeks now. I love the early season, when fish first start to return to their summer haunts and we get to experience what we’ve been dreaming about for months and months and months. The fish are here about two weeks earlier than last year—a pleasant surprise to be sure. Being a migratory species, we really can’t say exactly when they will first be here in catchable numbers in Maine so I am careful to not book any charters before June 1—it’s one thing to get skunked when there are fish around to potentially catch, but I certainly wouldn’t feel right about taking someone’s money when the fish aren’t even here yet. So preseason fish are a bonus for me and my friends, if there are fish in May, great. If not, that’s okay too.
With the cool spring we have been having in southern Maine I was a big slower than usual getting the boat cleaned up and ready for the season (again with the June 1 deadline for clients) and one of the most important part that process is making sure that we are on a good page with the local Coast Guard prevention specialists and Coast Guard Auxiliary. As a professional mariner using my boat with “for hire” persons on board, I have to abide by more stringent safety regulations than a normal recreational boaters. Most guide boats in Maine are known to the Coast Guard as UPVs: Uninspected Passenger Vessels. That is, boats that can carry only up to 6 passengers. If you want to have more than 6 passengers, you need a more comprehensive Merchant Mariner Credential, “captain’s license” in laypeople talk, and the boat has to undergo very strict inspections and stability tests. While the size of my boat doesn’t warrant an inspection, I still make sure that all my ducks are in a row by getting a UPV Safety Examination by the local Coast Guard. They decided to use my boat as a training opportunity for new personnel and more than a couple Coast Guard Auxiliary members showed up too. The examination includes going going through all my life jackets, flares, documents, drug test results, lights, navigation equipment, etc. to make sure my charter operation and vessel are both up to snuff on all the legal requirements to have paying customers out on the water.
Having passed my examination with flying colors, I was given a sticker to display on my windshield. Although this won’t guarantee that I won’t get a random boarding by local law enforcement this summer, it does mean that from a distance they will be able to tell that I take my operation and the safety of my clients seriously and am proactive about keeping it that way!