One of the things about this country is that we are all in this together. Knowing plenty of folks in the guiding industry, I found it deeply disturbing that there are a bunch of charter boat anglers with only a quarter of the business that they should have.
We were all glued to the television watching the Gulf oil spill disaster, but now it is not the big story.
For a sportsman, the Gulf Coast is a paradise. Some of the best redfish and seatrout shallows in the world are found there. There is fantastic fishing for deepwater species. If hunting is your thing, the marshes and swamps along the coast are home to many species of waterfowl.
The oil spill certainly had an immediate effect, but how is the fishing and hunting today?
“We want to tell people to come on down, the fishing is great, but right now I’m personally down almost 90 percent on bookings,” said Captain Daryl Carpenter, president of the Louisiana Charter Boat Association.
The oil spill took place during the spawning season for many species, and it will be next year before they even start to see if there was damage to young fish.
Captain Bill Lake owns a guide service in Houma, La., about 65 miles southwest of New Orleans. His location did not get hit very hard from the actual spill, but the business for his company Bayou Guide Service, was down 65 to 70 percent for the 2010 season.
According to Lake, the biggest problem is perception. “We are not getting any calls from out-of-state customers. Thanks to all the negative media publicity, people are fishing elsewhere or not at all,” Lake said.
Right now, the fishing is great as the adult fish were not impacted. Inshore and offshore waters are open and the fishing is as good as usual. “We are catching limits of redfish and speckled trout every day,” said Lake. Yet he is very concerned about the next couple years due to the changes in the way people look at the angling there. As he puts it, “Most of the locals own boats and we are dependent on out-of-state customers.”
On the wildlife side of things, Tom Moorman of Ducks Unlimited said that while there was considerable environmental damage due to the spill, with one exception it did not do a lot of damage to waterfowl.
Ducks Unlimited is concerned about the 1.4 million winter scaup that winter there. “They feed on dwarf surf clams, and monitoring is ongoing to see if the clams have picked up toxins from the oil or dispersants,” Moorman said. “If so, scaup would be vulnerable to toxicological effects.”
Carpenter summed up the problem by saying, “I just came from an outdoor show in Chicago, and there are people who think they won’t need any oil to cook our fish in. That stuff isn’t funny anymore. It was tough trying to convince people we aren’t swimming in the stuff.”
Rob Streeter is an outdoors columnist for the Times Union. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send items to 961 Stoner Trail Road, Fonda, NY 12068.