We receive this question quite a bit and wanted to share it:
Q: What is the “policy” on tipping a guide? We have had a guide in the past who strongly hinted for us to tip and we did. Others have said nothing. But is this a standard policy, or expected? If so, what is the correct amount or percentage? This is very confusing and causes much discomfort. Why don’t they just charge what they want to charge and forget about tips?
A: You pose an interesting question that I have struggled with myself. There is no real “policy” and it can be confusing. We all know that it is customary to tip wait staff because their hourly wage is different and well below the current minimum wage. We all also read about how it’s appropriate to tip certain service people during the holidays; i.e. postman, hair dresser and others.
But is this expected when we go fishing? To go fishing with a guide at $125 per person is on the expensive side for most folks let alone adding a tip. It’s certainly more than you would spend renting a boat, but well worth it when you haul in your limit and/or catch some of the biggest lunkers of your life.
The flip side is the guide not only has a significant amount of money invested in his boat, equipment & tackle, but there’s also insurance, maintenance, slip fees, licenses, CPR training, advertising and other expenses. Has the guide calculated this into his standard per person rate? Certainly, but there are things that a guide does that can be considered equivalent to being a “waiter” on his own boat; i.e., getting up 3 hours early to net live bait from the lake, tying & baiting the hooks, fishing training, first aid (sometimes) and probably most important, cleaning & bagging your catch.
If a guide did all this (and not all do) then a tip in the 15% range would be appropriate. Especially if the guide was quite professional and you truly enjoyed being on his boat & all the things he did that day to make it a great day for you. If you hire a guide to simply be a lake guide and not require that he wait on you hand-and-foot and clean your fish, then a tip would probably not be in order.
My final thought is this: no one should outright ask (or hint) for a tip. What would your reaction be at a restaurant if your waiter did that? You would probably reduce the amount of the tip significantly or not tip at all. Asking for a tip is inappropriate, makes everyone uncomfortable and will only result in the customer not coming back and give the guiding profession a bad name.
Editor’s Note: We invite your comments on this post whether you are a guide or somebody who has hired a guide. Email me your opinion at: