How Much Do Fishing Guides Make?

Everyone passionate about fishing has imagined what it would be like to become a fishing guide. To many, being a fishing guide is a dream job as guides get paid to spend their days fishing and doing the thing they love the most. 

But how much do fishing guides make? Fishing guides, on average, earn $40,000 a year before taxes. A new fishing guide will earn considerably less, somewhere in the range of $24,000 a year. Experienced fishing guides with more than 10 years in the industry can make up to $90,000 a year if they are running between 100-200 trips a year.

How much a fishing guide earns per year depends on many factors, such as weather, the number of days they can fish per year, and holidays. Keep reading to learn the average salary of fishing guides across the US and whether or not guiding is the right job for you.

What Is a Fishing Guide?

What Is a Fishing Guide

A fishing guide is a person that leads guided fishing tours and teaches other people to fish. A fishing guide’s main duties include creating a plan for fishing tours, teaching people new fishing techniques, cleaning fish, maintaining the boat and other fishing equipment, and interacting with guests.

The fishing guide job requires substantial knowledge about fish, fishing, and boat operation. A fishing guide needs to understand local waters well to know where the fish are biting and what fishing techniques and equipment to use in each location.

To be successful in their jobs, fishing guides need excellent social skills to ensure their clients are having a great time, even on days when fish aren’t biting. Besides having extensive knowledge of fish and local waters, a self-employed fishing guide also needs to know how to run a fishing business. 

Because many fishing guides are self-employed, they also need to know how to handle the business side of guiding. This means that a fishing guide needs to take care of insurance, marketing, licensing, equipment, and business records. 

Whether you plan to become an outdoor guide or want to open a charter fishing business, you’ll need to make a sound business plan detailing all aspects of your enterprise. 

How Much Do Fishing Guides Make?

Since guided fishing trips aren’t exactly cheap, it’s easy to assume that fishing guides make a fortune taking people on charter fishing. But that’s far from the truth.

The average hunting and fishing guide salary is $40,000 per year, before taxes and deductions. This figure assumes that a fishing guide takes between 100 and 200 fishing trips per year. 

Entry-level fishing guides that are just starting typically earn considerably less than experienced guides with many years of experience in the fishing charter business.  On average, a new fishing guide, with less than one year of experience earns $24,000 yearly.

Experienced fishing guides working more than 10 years in the industry can earn up to $90,000 a year before taxes, assuming they run about 200 fishing trips a year. This only happens after years of building a steady base of clients and making a name for yourself in the fishing charter business. 

The ultimate goal of every saltwater and fly-fishing guide is to fill their calendar with referrals and repeat clients. Top-tier fishing guides don’t have to spend time looking for new clients and can rely on their client base to fill out all fishing appointments through the fishing season. 

How Much Can You Make as a Guide?

The fishing guide’s job is unique in the sense that that income is earned per day. How much money will a fishing guide earn depends on the number of fishing trips it can make during the year. 

The more trips a fishing guide makes, the more money it will earn. The biggest downside to this income system is that there is a definite number of days in a year, and it’s impossible to fill them all with fishing trips. 

An average fishing guide’s salary varies by state, and your location can also affect how much you’ll earn as a guide. The highest-paying states for fly fishing guides are Washington, with an average annual salary of $39,285, Maryland, with a yearly guide salary of $38,633, and Virginia, where fishing guides earn $37,508 per year. 

On the other hand, fishing guides working in North Carolina, Louisiana, and Georgia earns considerably less than the nation’s average. The average annual fishing guide salary in Georgia is $26,993. In Louisiana, professional fishing guides, on average, earn $25,681 before taxes and deductibles. 

Fishing guides in North Carolina earn only $24,837 from guided fishing trips, which is the lowest average fishing guide salary across the US. 

Do You Need to Tip Your Fishing Guide?

Many anglers don’t know that it’s customary to leave 10% to 20% of the fishing trip’s cost as a tip to a professional and hardworking fishing guide. Like most other workers in the service industry, fishing guides rely on tips to make a living, and it’s only fair to reward a guide’s effort.

A tip isn’t generally included in the total cost of the fishing trip, and it isn’t necessary or mandatory. But, leaving a tip is a great way to thank your guide for everything they did to put you on the fish throughout the fishing trip. 


Despite common beliefs, fishing guides don’t earn a fortune. The truth is, most fishing guides are in this business because they love it, not because the pay is fantastic. 

Fishing guides in the US, on average, earn $40,000 per year, before taxes and deductibles, assuming they book between 100 and 200 trips per year. Entry-level fishing guides earn considerably less than the nation’s average and must work hard for several years to establish their name and good client base.