Why Do Charters and Guides Need a License
USCG Licenses are required in order to legally carry passengers for hire in navigable waters. This includes charters for fishing, sightseeing, diving, transportation, teaching or any use which is considered a “passenger for hire” situation.
This license is properly termed “Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels” (OUPV) and is commonly referred to as the “6-pack” or “Charterboat Captain’s License”. The word “uninspected”, means that the equipment required and the design of the boat are less regulated than that of inspected vessels. Choosing to fish on an inspected vessel, does not mean you will have a better experience. It just means the vessel is allowed to take more than 6 passengers each trip. Keep in mind that most OUPV charter operators and river guides meet or exceed the inspected vessel requirements for operation.
“6-pack” refers to the 6 passenger limitation placed on the license. OUPV licenses are issued with a particular route or area for operation. The OUPV license may be upgraded to a Master license, with an “Inland” or “Near Coastal” designation.
A Master license is only required if the captain operates an “inspected” vessel”. Inspected vessels are allowed to carry more than 6 passengers. Captains with a Masters License have attended additional formal training, than that of an OUPV license holder.
To become Inspected, the vessel must be built and inspected in accordance with strict USCG Commercial Vessel Inspection standards. The majority of Captains who maintain a Masters license, do not carry more than 6 passengers. Captains who hold a Masters License are cognizant of issues which other captains of lesser experience or qualification may not consider.
There are certain ocean boundaries which the captain must operate for a specified amount of hours within a 5 year period that allows them to qualify for a Near Coastal rating. If you have a Captain that qualifies for a “Near Coastal” rating they should have more experience in open water, which is different than an inland rating. What does this mean? Typically more experience, and more training. If a captain is listed as “USCG OUPV Masters (Near Coastal) License”, they have a OUPV Near Coastal Master captains license and can operate offshore.
Inland Masters rating is the most common masters rating the US Coast Guard issues. Captains must document their sea service on inland waters for a 5 year period to gain an inland rating. If a captain is listed as “USCG OUPV Masters License”, they have a OUPV Inland Master captains license and can operate on inland waters.
All USCG licenses must be renewed every 5 years.
The US Coast Guard issues and monitors all Captain Licenses.
**This page is informational only. It can change without notice because the United States Coat Guard controls these regulations and rules.**
Washington State & Oregon State Licensing Information
WASL – WA State Licensed Guide – This is required to guide in WA.
WASCL – Washington Salmon Charter License – This is required to operate salmon charters in the saltwater in Washington State.
IN – Insured for charter operations – All licensed guides should be insured.
FF – Foodfish (Salmon fishing in WA) Foodfish license allow river guides to take you salmon fishing in the rivers (freshwater)
GF – Gamefish (Steelhead, Trout, Bass, etc… In WA) Gamefish license allows guides to take you fishing for Steelhead, Trout, Bass.. or anything that is not salmon or in the saltwater.
ORC – Oregon Charter License
ORG – Oregon Guide