How Much Do Fishing Guides Make in 2020?

April 5, 2020

How Much Do Fishing Guides Make in 2020?

If you’re an avid fisherman you’ve probably wondered what it would be like to be a professional fishing guide. Getting to spend your day out on the water doing something you love sounds like a sweet deal. With many trips costing $500 to over $1,000 for a whole day trip, guides seem to have it pretty good. But how much do fishing guides really make in 2020?

Keep reading to find out!

We started by reaching out to various guides we know. Lucky for us, we have a friend who is a retired professional salmon fishing guide. He gave us all the details on how much fishing guides can make in 2020. He also highlighted other interesting details of life on the water.

First, we wanted to be clear that we’re talking with a professional salmon fishing guide – not a deep-sea trawling fisherman or a more dangerous Alaskan crab fisherman. Those more intense jobs can bring in much more money (at the expense of serious job hazards). Alaskan crab fisherman reportedly bring in $50,000 to $60,000 over a single season which is only three months. This is also with no overhead or capital investment.

The guide we spoke to gave us an overview of his operation. There were a few things he mentioned from the get-go that need to be considered when determining how much you could make as a guide.

  1. Most fish are seasonal; there will be times of the year when business is booming, and times when it’s really slow. So your income won’t be steady throughout the entire year.
  2. There are some substantial upfront costs to being a guide. You need to buy a boat that can accompany the number of people you plan on taking on guided trips, as well as for the type of water you plan on fishing. This can easily cost you upwards of $50,000.
  3. You’ll need to be quite good at catching fish. If your guests don’t think you’re doing your job well, you’ll likely lose out on a tip and future business.
  4. Catching fish is only half the job – you also have to entertain your guests and enjoy interacting with people from all walks of life. If you don’t like making small talk for hours on end, you probably won’t enjoy being a guide.

If those points don’t discourage you, then becoming a guide could be a good move. We next asked our friend how much he made on a good year. He charged $400 for a half-day and $800 for a full day, if the guests tipped well he was usually bringing in close to $1,000 a day. Sounds pretty good for doing what he loves, right?

This didn’t include expenses, which depending on where they went on the water varied. Gas usually cost around $50 for the whole day, with bait and lures another $20 on average. If he lost more lures than normal that expense would go up. If he included wear and tear on his boat/trailer, the expense for each day was around $100. This meant he made around $900 a day for a full day of fishing. 

Now we have to consider how many full days a year he got in. Considering there’s really only four months a year salmon fishing is worth getting a guide, we can estimate his total number of days to be around 48. This is an average of 4 days a week for 12 weeks. 

This brings his total to a little over $43,000 a year. Not bad considering he didn’t guide 8 months out of the year. 

Final Thoughts

There you have it – that’s how much fishing guides make in 2020. If you’re retired or can live frugally, becoming a fishing guide could be a viable option for you. An income of $43,000 is definitely enough to live off of if you’ve saved up and aren’t making payments on other assets (like a home or vehicles). If you take the plunge and start your own guiding business, let us know in the comments!

Happy Hunting!

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