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What Is Needed to Become a Texas Fishing Guide & Get a Captain's License?

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While the idea of chucking your day job to fish for a living may sound appealing, there are serious issues to consider before you make the leap.


The best fishing guides are gregarious, outgoing and have a knack for dealing with all sorts of personalities. If you’re drawn to fishing by the promise of spending a peaceful day on the water, this may not be the career for you.


How good are you at finding fish on a consistent basis? Since there's no shortage of fishing guides in Texas; you'll need to separate yourself from the pack. Even if you are a master angler, many of your clients won’t be. In addition to fishing skills, you need considerable patience and coaching skills.

Up-Front Costs

You’ll need a boat, fishing gear, a truck and liability insurance for starters.


A freshwater fishing guide license from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is required to guide trips on inland lakes and rivers. An all-water fishing guide license is required for salt water.

To be a saltwater guide, you must have a Coast Guard-approved captain’s license (a captain’s license isn’t required for freshwater). There are many types of captain’s licenses based on the size of the boat (or ship) and where you’ll be operating it among other things. But the basic license required for a saltwater fishing guide is the Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels or OUPV license. It allows you to host up to six clients on a vessel weighing less than 100 gross tons. Applicants must be at least 18 and have a minimum of 360 days’ experience on salt water.

The four portions of the exam cover rules, course plotting, general navigation procedures and safety. The only official Coast Guard Regional Examination Center in Texas is located in Houston. However, you can also get your license by taking Coast Guard-approved classes at a number of other locations.

Ongoing Expenses

An unexpected increase in the cost of fuel alone can turn a profitable trip into a money loser. Other ongoing expenses include bait, equipment repair and replacement, boat maintenance, license renewals and advertising.

Nature’s Whims

The biggest unknown in the guiding business is Mother Nature. Bad weather often causes last-minute cancellations. Even a slight change in weather can alter fish behavior and send them into deeper or shallower water. Tropical storms and hurricanes along the coast can damage or destroy your boat or other equipment. Major weather events can also cause fishkills or decimate breeding habitat. Threats to an area’s fish population – from weather, pollution or overfishing – may cause state or federal agencies to severely restrict or ban fishing in affected areas.


Ed Garcia has worked as a writer and editor since 1988. He served as deputy managing editor of "Hispanic Business Magazine" and now covers nature travel, green living, wildlife and pets for various publications. Garcia earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas.

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Daniel Grill/Tetra Images/Tetra images/GettyImages