In 2012, Dave Lacy founded South Coast Tours, a business that provides a variety of guided tours in several areas along the south coast. SCT offers several types of guided experiences including kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, kayak fishing, and van tours. Along with his team of five other guides, Dave works hard to ensure the safety of his clients and to make sure they walk away smiling, having had a wonderful time on the tour.

When asked why people should choose to take guided tours instead of venturing off into the ocean alone, Dave referenced our specific tour saying, “There’s a lot to learn from somebody who has done it before, so you can show them some of those sea caves you might not notice, or the arch. If you didn’t know the arch was there, you might miss it. There’s that inside knowledge, plus [weather and ocean] conditions.” When asked about the highlight of his job, Dave added, “The best part is hearing you guys laugh and just the stoke you hear out there.”

To experience what it was like to take a guided kayak tour, Dave kindly invited me and my two coworkers to accompany him with three other clients on his Port Orford Ocean Wildlife Viewing Kayak Tour. As part of tour, Dave provided wetsuits, booties, and kayaks to each client. He discussed water safety and explained the basics of kayaking before we launched from the beaches of Port Orford. We paddled through Graveyard Point, Tichenor Cove, Nellies Cove, and through Hell’s Gate and back to the port.

Along the way, Dave was able to point out local seabirds which included brown pelicans, pigeon guillemots, cormorants, black oystercatchers, and common murres, as well as different types of kelp, how to eat them, and their importance to wildlife. We continued into a cove, where we found a group of 20+ harbor seals, many of them young pups. Dave explained how we should keep our distance and make sure we move slowly so that the seals do not get nervous and hurt themselves sliding off of a rock. We paddled around them and even had some come visit our kayaks!

We continued and saw caves and arches, but the water was too rough for us to paddle through; we were able to go through the arch on the way back though. We kept paddling, with Dave pointing out wildlife such as barnacles, mussels, sea stars, and lion’s mane jellyfish. The highlight of our trip was on the return, where Dave spotted a whale’s spout in the port. We slowed down, and it was headed our direction! We took about a half an hour to watch the whale, as it emerged and dove back down right around our kayaks. Dave explained to us that this whale was likely part of the resident pod and feeding on the kelp beds below us. It was the highlight of my week! Dave even had a camera to take photos of us and videos of the wildlife to send to us.

Taking a tour with Dave was a great way to better understand the need for helpful, well-trained guides. During our interview, Dave said that he is always making sure that we are having a great time but is constantly thinking about our safety. He provided high quality equipment, ensured we were comfortable and confident, and was able to identify and teach us all about the local marine wildlife. Without a guide, we would not have had the same experience, especially as people new to the area. South Coast Tours offers wonderful guided experiences that practice sustainable tourism while ensuring happiness and safety to all participants.

With years of fishing experience, a passion for educating others and a lot of flexibility, being a professional charter fishing guide is one of those jobs where work doesn’t feel like work. In the state of Oregon, to become a charter fishing guide one will need to register with the Oregon State Marine Board. The board recognizes these individuals as Outfitter Guides. Along with registering there are a number of minimum requirements they need to meet, such as providing proof of insurance, having basic First Aid and CPR skills and having an updated Passenger Boat Operator’s certification or license. Outfitter Guides have options of choosing [More information can be found at https://www.oregon.gov/osmb/Pages/Guides-Charters.aspx]

 

Betty Kay fishing charter catch
Captain Kurt Smith of Betty Kay Charters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aside from the legal side of what it takes to be a professional charter fishing guide, it is important for Outfitters to be familiar with their local area. Taking groups of people out to sea to catch fish can be more of an experience if the guide is knowledgeable about the local marine wildlife, history and weather patterns of the area.

Fishing charter companies will usually start preparing for the next days tours the night before. Getting the lines and bait ready and checking the National Weather Service are just a few of the things that need to be done before the usual 4am wake up call on the day of a tour. Guides are usually prepared to take one or two tours a day, depending on the season. On the Oregon Coast they can catch Lingcod, Rockfish, Tuna, Salmon, Chinook, Steelhead and Halibut. As unpredictable the weather can be at the Coast, flexibility is important, along with people able to communicate to clients. Think you have what it takes to be a professional charter fishing guide?