Economy and Oil Spill Concerns Impact Fishing ChartersBy Rhonda Miller | Published 16 Aug 2011 09:04pm |
The weather is fine, the fishing is good and the boats are fueled up and ready to go. But MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports charter boat captains say business is suffering because of the economy and lingering concerns about the BP oil spill.
On his boat, the Silver Dollar III, at Point Cadet Harbor in Biloxi, Captain Jay Trochesset says his best years for business were before Hurricane Katrina. After that, the charter fishing business got hit by the recession and other problems.
"We had the oil spill in '10, which really hurt us, so we haven’t had anything like we saw prior to Katrina," Trochesset said.
From a peak of about 230 trips a year, Trochesset now has about half that number. Even with decades in the business and a steady clientele, he’s using every tool possible, including the Internet, to attract customers.
At a harbor fueling station, owner Danny Pitalo says his fuel business is up, but that’s all.
"Actually, the tackle side, the bait side, the charter boat business, tourism's down," Pitalo said. "We’re probably down about 50 percent from what we did in ’06 and ’07."
Pitalo says he still gets half a dozen questions a week about the oil spill.
"We get a lot of phone calls asking us if the waters are still closed, if you can eat the fish, and stuff like that. And we say, 'Sure you can eat the fish. I fished this past weekend and ate the fish, you know speckled trout and stuff we caught'," Pitalo said.
Ordinarily, this would be a busy season for charter boat Captain Tom Becker, but his business is down 40 percent from his best years.
"Out there today, early, I didn’t see another boat out there. When I came in, I went where they’d been fishing and there wasn’t a boat out there," Becker said. "Normally, this time of year we have two-thirds of the fleet out there."
As President of the Mississippi Charter Boat Captains Association, Becker says he’s working with tourism officials to develop a long-term plan to get more people out fishing.
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