How To Get Your Captains License

All fishing guides who take out ‘paying customers’ must have a United States Coast Guard Captain’s License. There are a few exceptions that vary by state, however for the most part if you are taking out customers in exchange for money, you will need it.

Getting your Captain’s License can be a fun process and learning experience. Even the most experienced fisherman or boater can learn a lot during the courses offered. I took the course offered by Sea School. The instruction and format was excellent and prepared me very well, to which I passed the exam on the first try. Sea School had a doctor on hand to do the physical and also recommended the students to the right CPR and First Aid facility. It was kind of like a one stop shop for everything you needed to get your captain’s license. The staff at Sea School also went over the application and all the necessary requirements before sending out to make sure we didn’t miss anything. I actually took mine to the Coast Guard in Miami to ensure it didn’t get lost in the mail. Afterall, it was a lot of work to ensure everything was filled out properly.

The license I went for was called the OUPV (Operator of Uninspected Pas- senger Vessel), commonly referred to as the 6 pack license. In short, this means you are allowed to take up to 6 paying customers on your boat. Of course, your boat must meet Coast Guard regulations also with regards to the amount of people it can safely take out.

Sea School Course Covers (From The Sea School Brocure):

  • Rules of the Road
  • Radio Operations
  • Survival Techniques
  • Distress Signaling
  • Boating Terminology
  • Boat Equipment
  • Use of Flares
  • Techniques of Seamanship
  • Anchoring
  • Aides to Navigation
  • Boat Registration and Documentation
  •  Navigation
  • Marlinspike (Knot Tying)
  • Fire Fighting …and more!
  • Use of Life Jackets
  • Plus video presentations and classroom exercises

OUPV Requirements:

  •  360 Days Of Boating Experience (90 days must be in the last 3 years)
  • Must be at least 18 Years Old.
  • TWIC Card
  • Social Security Card

Requirements To Be Submitted With Your Application:

  • Physical Done Within the last 12 months
  • First Aid and CPR Done Within the last 12 months
  • Random drug testing from within last 6 months
  • Character signatures

How Much Does It All Cost

Expect to dish out around $1,000 when it is all done. The course offered by Sea School is $550, however all the other requirements you must satisfy such as the drug testing, physical, cpr and first aid add up to the $1000. There are also fees associated with submitting your application as well. You didn’t think the Coast Guard would review your application for free did you?


Getting your Captain’s License is an important investment in becoming a fishing guide. Not only is it the legal thing to do for your business, but your customers also have more confidence in you knowing that you went through the captain course and can offer them a safe and fun experience on the water. Don’t forget to renew your license otherwise you may find yourself taking the course over. The renewal is not a walk in the park as you have to show your  360 days on the water again along with current physical and drug test. There are a couple of other ways to renew your license, but this is the easiest for active fishing guides.