Don’t Forget to Use Checklists

As Charter Captains, we are creatures of habit and we have our own routines. We’ve successfully built our charter fishing business by creating repeatable outcomes. Translation: We catch fish on every charter trip. However, we’re all human and can forget to take care of something that may affect the preparation for our trip…or worse. What’s the best way to ensure we don’t forget something important? Use a Checklist.

At one point or another, we’ve all had that moment of terror when we leave the house or the dock and forgot something important. Did I leave the ramp without putting in the plug? Did I charge the trolling motor batteries last night? Did I check the bearings on the trailer?

Why Use A Checklist?

  • They ensure that you didn’t forget anything that you’ll need
  • They save time when dealing with repetitive or recurring tasks
  • They give you peace of mind
  • They free up space in your head to think about other things

For example, anyone who has served in the military or is a trained pilot can tell you all about the widespread use of checklists. If you’ve ever watched a NASA space launch telecast, you are inundated with checklists. These are some of the smartest people that this country has to offer – and THEY need to use checklists. So should we.

To make Checklists useful, you’ll want to include essential items – especially items that can be easily overlooked in your rush to get your boat on the water. Your Checklist needs to be more than just a few items scribbled on a Post-It note.

A useful Checklist should include 8 to 10 items and should be able to be completed in just a few minutes. When captains begin to treat Checklists as unnecessary or superfluous is when they start taking shortcuts or cutting corners. This is when they get into trouble. What’s more is that when your Checklist includes too many items, simply separate the items into multiple Checklists. Maybe one Checklist can be named “Leaving the Dock” and another can be named “Cleaning the Boat.”

Your Checklist should be a constantly evolving document because, as a charter captain, you’re constantly adding or removing items from your routine or even your boat. You may find that you need to revamp your procedures. When you do, revamp your Checklists accordingly.

You should have multiple Checklists that can apply to multiple scenarios or procedures. Examples can include Launching your boat at the ramp, routine boat maintenance, trailer preparation, or also emergency procedures. Checklists, especially during an emergency, can provide you with the focus to stay calm and deliberate in a stressful situation. As pilots will tell you, when things go wrong in midair, checklists are used immediately to ensure that stress and fear can be overcome by process and procedure. Keep in mind that Checklists can be utilized by crew members, mates or even family members should you be unable to perform your duties.

Here is an example of a Checklist when you’re at the staging area of the boat ramp to ensure that you launch safely:

  1. Check to confirm that the plug is in
  2. Remove any straps that secure the boat to the trailer
  3. Ensure that the battery switch is turned on that the motor can tilt/trim
  4. Secure deck lines to the boat so that you can secure the boat to the dock at launching
  5. Ensure key is in the ignition
  6. Remove any safety chains from the bow
  7. Load up rods and tackle
  8. Ensure that Emergency Brake is on after backing down the ramp
  9. Place chocks behind vehicle tires
  10. Pay meter

Digital Checklists

Thanks to the ubiquitous and ever-present smartphone, you have plenty of digital checklist apps available to you. The most well-known might be Google Tasks. Many digital checklist apps are free or nearly free,  including:

  • Todoist
  • Remember The Milk
  • Evernote
  • Wunderlist
  • Microsoft to Do
  • iPhone native Notes app

There really is no excuse to not leverage effective checklists that will make you a more efficient and effective Charter Fishing Captain. Get started today!

Let me know in the Comments section which checklists serve you well.

Tight Lines!

Captain Mike