MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. — A charter fishing boat captain who passengers say went on a drunken, drugged-up tirade before shooting off a gun did not have a valid charter captain boat license.
According to Florida Fish and Wildlife, 36-year-old Mark Bailey was operating with an expired FWC charter captain license.
The state-issued license is required to carry paying passengers for recreational fishing. The license covers passengers who are not required to obtain their own recreational saltwater fishing licenses if aboard a charter vessel.
Dylan Hubbard, whose family has owned Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass Boardwalk for generations, says there are some simple questions you can ask to make sure your captain checks out before you get on board.
The first, and most important: ask to see the captain’s Coast Guard-issued Merchant Mariner Credential. It looks like a passport.
"If you get on a boat and the situation looks questionable, the boat looks questionable, you're not quite sure what you're getting yourself into, you have the right to ask the captain for his credentials,” Hubbard said.
"If he can't produce that license, don't get on the boat."
The license includes the size of the vessel the captain is able to operate and other endorsements, like if the captain is CPR certified, for example.
Next, look for clearly displayed documentation on the vessel. If it isn’t conspicuous, they’re doing it wrong, Hubbard said.
“Our documentation board carries the federal fishing permit, (FWC-issued) state fishing permit, registration and radio endorsements,” he said.
“Most importantly, on any certified Coast Guard-inspected vessel, you’re going to see that COI or Certificate of Inspection, clearly posted.”
Hubbard said given the lengths they take to maintain a legal operation, it’s disappointing when a few others don’t play by the rules.
"When you’re obeying the rules, to see someone just so blatantly go off the reservation, it doesn't reflect well on those who are doing things right,” he said.
Unfortunately, neither the Coast Guard or FWC has an online database where a captain’s credentials can be easily searched.
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