Most people do not have any idea how important hiring a properly licensed guide and an inspected vessel is to their overall safety. Each guide must take a written exam, pass a physical, take an approved water safety course and be certified in First Aid and CPR. Once these items are completed, you are then issued a photo ID and badge from the DEC.
Well done, but not completely. The next step is to take the test for a Joint Pilot and Engineers License and have your vessel inspected by the NYS Parks Dept. July 2, 2014 the NYS Parks Department arrived at my home for the annual boat inspection. The inspection is very thorough and any deficiencies found must be corrected before the vessel is used to take customers fishing.
These rules cover people guiding on inland lakes. What is considered an inland lake? Honeoye, Conesus, Keuka, Canandaigua are examples of inland lakes, where you launch a boat and can not navigate to the ocean. Lakes such as Cayuga and Seneca have canals which eventually connect them to the ocean, so they fall under a different set of rules. A guide on these waters must possess a USCG Captain's License and must be enrolled in a random drug testing program. These rules also apply to the Great Lakes and Inland Rivers, such as Lake Ontario and Oneida Lake. The St. Lawrence River and Hudson River also require a USCG license.
Where does this leave YOU, the customer? Instead of the usual first question, which is how much a guide service charges, you should ask if they are properly licensed and inspected for the waters you want to fish. Your safety should be the most important item on the "to do list" when booking a fishing trip. When things go wrong on the water, they can be both swift and fatal.
Take the time to check your guide's credentials and make sure they are in full compliance, so you can expect a safe trip. If you book a trip on an inland lake, look for the letters PV located at the bow area next to the registration numbers. This PV indicates that it is a "public vessel" used for hire.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and have a safe trip.