In 2018, Jonathan Newar was working in oil and gas finance in Houston. He suggested that his team book a fishing trip, and since it was his idea, he was tasked with making it happen. That’s how he learned firsthand the difficulties of finding and vetting guides, chartering a boat and coordinating the timing and logistics for a group of coworkers.
“I grew up fishing my whole life in Galveston Bay, but had never booked a charter trip myself,” says Newar. “I thought, if you can quickly book an Airbnb or Uber, why am I playing phone tag with guides all day?”
Fast forward a couple years, and Newar moved to Austin, teamed with Attison Barnes and built Captain Experiences, a platform that lets people book fishing trips quickly and easily. The company officially launched in March 2020, which was not an ideal time to launch anything, especially a travel site. At first, the founders seeded the platform with fishing guides by walking the docks in Galveston and pitching them on the benefits of being listed on the platform, which helps independent guides manage their calendars and find clients. Two years later, the company has taken off and counts about 900 licensed and insured guides among its ranks. They’ve also expanded outside of the Texas Gulf Coast to include hundreds of destinations around the world.
Today, you can book trips from Texas to Florida and all along the East Coast, from Charleston up through North Carolina and into Cape Cod. You can also take a fly-fishing excursion in Colorado or Montana, or even try your hand in the gorgeous waters off the coasts of Puerto Rico, Mexico and Hawaii.
Before Captain Experiences, most fishing trips began by picking a destination. From there, would-be vacationers had to find and compare guides and boats, and understand which species they’d target and whether trips included cleaned fish they could take home. That doesn’t sound terribly daunting, until you realize that nearly all of the above had to be handled by phone — and guides don’t answer their phones when they’re out on the water with paying customers. The back-and-forth could take weeks, and once you finally ironed out the specifics, you typically had to withdraw cash to pay the captain upfront.
Now compare that to Captain Experiences. When poking around the site, you can browse by destination, fish species and water type to dial in your perfect trip. Once booked, you’ll receive an email and text message with a QR code, which functions like a mobile boarding pass. Payment transfers to the guide automatically once they scan the code, so you’re all set to go fishing. That code also releases a link for people to leave reviews, which means all reviews on the platform come from verified users.
Most trips are booked entirely online, but the company also has a team at the ready to answer questions. And if you still can’t find exactly what you want, they’ll work with you to customize a trip to your liking.
If you need some inspiration, Newar suggests a fishing trip around South Padre Island. “Laguna Madre is home to Texas snook, which is a pretty unique species, but also redfish and speckled trout,” he says. “In late summer, red snapper trips are really popular — you can can find them almost anywhere along the Texas coast.”
For something more adventurous, he likes the overnight tuna trips leaving out of Galveston and Port Aransas. Those will see you casting reels off a 50-foot sport fisher boat, complete with bunks and cabins. “It’s a great choice for bachelor parties and group trips,” he says.
If you want go further afield, Newar says the fly-fishing around Yellowstone National Park is hard to beat. Or book a trip to the Puerto Rico Trench, which has some of the deepest waters in the world and is a great place to catch sailfish, tuna, mahi mahi and wahoo.
Right now, Captain Experiences is dedicated to fishing, but if you prefer other outdoor sports, those are coming soon. This fall, the company will expand its offerings to include Texas-based hunting trips, particularly those focused on doves, ducks and hogs. Other types of expeditions should follow soon after, including mountain biking, rock climbing, rafting and backpacking.
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