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21 July 2021
If you’ve always had trouble with excess baggage fees on fishing trips, perhaps it’s time for you to rethink the way you travel with your fishing gear on your next flight. Most anglers (and even airline personnel) are not quite aware of the fine print on traveling with fishing gear, but they are there if you seek them out. What many people don’t know is that you can check in two separate bags containing fishing gear as one, the way you can with ski and snowboarding equipment. Here’s a quick guide that most major airlines use:
Maximum weight and size:
Some airlines will be strict on the contents of each bag you check in, so it’s better to review the policy of your airline before packing. Aside from that, it might be a good idea to arrive early for your flight, as most airline staff will not be overly familiar with this very specific policy on fishing gear, and security staff may also have different interpretations on what can be brought on a flight. Do note that some airlines may charge extra for rods exceeding 80 or 62 inches, so it’s always better to check.
A good rule of thumb is to keep the weight of your baggage combo under 50-pound allowance or whatever is the allowance for the airline you’re flying. That means do not overstuff your gear cases just because you can check both in as one.
If, in any case, the airline flying to your chosen destination does not have such a policy regarding checking fishing gear, here are a few things you can do:
Most fishing charters, if not all, will provide you with fishing gear if you book with them. This is especially helpful if you’re bringing along your family that you’re hoping to introduce to fishing, as it may be cumbersome to pack separate fishing gear just for their use. And since fishing charters are run by experts, you can be sure that they will provide you with the best and most appropriate gear for the type of fishing technique and target that they specialize in.
Similarly, if you’re going to a particularly popular fishing destination, you will probably find a good fishing gear rental place or two. Not only will this save you from paying for excess baggage fees, which can be quite exorbitant; it will be a good way to get tips and learn from people who may actually have extensive experience fishing the area you’re visiting.
Yes, some airlines will allow you to bring your rods and reels as carry-on, which is a safer bet considering how we can’t all be sure about the handling of checked-in luggage. Rods are notoriously easily broken, so having them with you on the plane might be better for your peace of mind. However, since you’re bringing them with you on the plane, you should consider how you’re packing them and make sure they fit in the overhead compartment. If you’re carrying your rod in a hard-shelled rod case that is not foamed or cushioned, use shirts to help cushion your rod.
Always consider, though, that TSAs in different parts of the country may require you to check in your rod case even though it follows carry-on requirements. So, always make sure to secure the insides to protect your rod from rough handling, and check if the lock on it is TSA-approved.
When packing reels, make sure to remove them from your rod and cushion them for protection as well. Some airlines will require you to remove the line from the reel, so better not risk it. Just remove your line and pack an extra spool or get one at your destination. There have been cases where the TSA have confiscated braided fishing lines, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and just get your line at your destination if you can.
While it is recommended to check in your tackle box, you might want to keep your smaller fragile flies in a separate container. If you have room for them in your carry-on luggage, then all the better.
Whether you check in or carry your fishing gear on the plane, there will always be a risk of losing them or damaging them either on the way or in your destination. So, if there is any equipment that you’re quite sensitive about, consider leaving them at home. Not only will this save you from overpacking and paying excess baggage; it will also save you from potential headaches and heartbreak.
Another tip would be to have separate sets of gear for your home base and for traveling. Investing in travel-friendly fishing gear and cases would be a good practice, especially for active anglers who regularly fish and are especially picky about fishing with their own equipment.
If, for some reason, you really need to have your regular gear at your fishing destination, consider mailing it to your accommodation. This should, of course, be your last option, as shipping your gear might put your equipment at risk of loss or damage.
Going on a fishing vacation is still a vacation, so the best thing you can do to save on baggage fees (and everything else) is to do your research, but be prepared to come up with some compromises as well. Don’t ruin your vacation by stressing too much about equipment and oversized luggage. With any trip, it’s always better to go the path of least resistance so that you can save your energies and focus on making that big catch.