In the face of rising prices and temperatures, the charter fishing season has been off to a hot start on the Alabama Gulf Coast.Tom Steber, owner of Fort Morgan Marina and Treasurer of the Alabama …
In the face of rising prices and temperatures, the charter fishing season has been off to a hot start on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Tom Steber, owner of Fort Morgan Marina and Treasurer of the Alabama Charter Fishing Association, said the fishing out of Fort Morgan and Orange Beach has continued to be fruitful.
“We had a really good year last year. We're having another banner year this year. Tourism's about as good as it can get, I would think, especially considering the state of the United States economy,” Steber said earlier this week. “Even though the biggest issue that anybody talks about is fuel prices because it affects everyone. And it's not just a trickle down, it's a hammer down when it comes to fishing because when you talk about charter boats, and even private boats, they're spending almost double what they did last year.”
Although they saw the writing on the wall when they set their prices at the beginning of the year, Steber said people are still signing up to go fishing because they can offer a certain promise out of the Fort Morgan Marina that many others cannot.
“When we set prices at the first of the year, we knew it was coming so we already had the crunch. They went up on their prices, at least 20% because fuel prices are more than more than doubled. So, they've just been kind of eating the difference, trying to make sure that they're running rather than tied to the dock,” Steber said. “But it definitely has affected business, you’ve got some people that don't have that disposable income because your average offshore trips about $1,500 for six people. The one thing that we offer that a lot of other places do not offer is that when you're running out of our area, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan, you're about guaranteed you're going to catch snapper. There's not many fisheries that you're guaranteed you're going to catch fish.”
On top of that, there were additional days added to the fishing calendar that will help charter companies continue to spread their seasonal revenue to cover offseason operation.
“The charter boats had an additional 10 extra days this year so they'll be able to fish further into August that they were not last year and that'll carry most of them through when our season drops down. Business is totally family driven. There’s no if, ands or buts; our business is about family, that's who's here. When they all go back to school, our business goes down drastically,” Steber said. “That also helps the fishery, because you don't put this tremendous pressure during a month or two when you could spread it out all the way into fall.”
He said on the recreational side, the rest of the summer’s outlook is similarly positive where snapper fishing could be extended on weekends through the rest of the year as it was last year.
“Last year with the state management of the snapper fishing, it allowed the recreational boater to fish from Memorial Day weekend on weekends all the way through the end of the year. And with the state keeping a close eye on the numbers, they're going to get that again this year,” Steber said. “Fall it is the best time of year to fish anyway. It's cooler, cooler and it's a lot cooler, and the fish are there. They're here year-round, especially snapper fishing. It's just a big plus for them to be able to fish year-round and the other big plus is when everybody's getting a fish, they're not fighting each other trying to fight over the fish because they're getting their fish.”
Although he confirmed the fish will certainly be at the spots, there is not necessarily a promise the big ones will hop right onto the hook.
“Fishing's great, they're catching anywhere from five to 25-pound snapper that are coming down so they're nice fish. They started off a little slow, not real sure why but they're definitely biting,” Steber said. “There’s big snapper on every spot, you’ve just got to (find them); they don't get to big and dumb. The older they are, the smarter they get, so it's harder for you to catch them."