Currently, no one knows what effect the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will have on the fishery. But fishermen certainly will have to adapt to the changes, study maps and make test runs to new waters, if they'll continue to fish the Gulf of Mexico this summer.

"I'm taking clients fishing right now," said Rimmer Covington of the Mexican Gulf Fishing Company, based out of Biloxi. "We're closely monitoring every day the areas of the Gulf that are open to fishing and posting fishing reports daily on our website.

"Red snapper season started in June, and we'll be targeting red snapper, grouper, amberjack, king mackerel, cobia and wahoo. We'll also be fishing for marlin, tuna and all the big-game species in whatever open waters we're allowed to fish."

Covington's boat and motor allow him to continue to fish, even under these uncertain conditions.

"I have a 39-foot SeaVee boat with three 350-horsepower Yamaha four-stroke engines, which give me a faster way to reach areas where the fish are concentrated and have a much-faster return trip home," he said. "We cruise at 50 mph, with a top end at 60 mph.

"If we're allowed to fish the reefs, we can reach them right now in about 30 minutes to a little over 1 hour. If we're bluewater fishing for blue marlin, tuna, dolphin and wahoo, we're looking at a two-hour minimum run from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. As long as we have open water, I'm dedicated to carrying my clients to the open water, finding the fish and helping my clients to catch them."

 

Inshore Mississippi waters

At this writing, anglers will find the inshore fishing areas inside the barrier islands open. The latest reports indicate fishermen are catching good numbers of speckled trout and redfish off Horn Island, Ship Island, Petit Bois Island and Cat Island, according to Capt. Kyle Jarreau of Shore Thing Fishing Charters (228-342-2206), based out of Biloxi.

"At present, the Biloxi Marsh is open, and we still can catch speckled trout, redfish and flounder there, as well as around the barrier islands," he said. "We'll be taking clients fishing as long as we have a place to fish. Right now, we're seeing numbers of really big speckled trout, redfish and flounder.

"July is the best time of year to catch those speckled trout, redfish and flounder, and we hope the folks will come down and fish with us."

 

NMFS's role

Capt. Johnny Greene of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council reports that his agency is staying involved in the process.

"Every morning, the council receives aerial updates and reports from the NMFS," he said. "The NMFS then analyzes the information, and at 11 a.m. each day, releases the updated closure zones for that day. This information can be found on the NMFS website at sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/deepwater_horizon_oil_spill.htm, and we also post the information on our website at www.gulfcouncil.org/news_resources/oil_spill_gulf_mexico.php.

"Once the NMFS has established a closed zone, before reopening the waters to fishermen, they'll send out a research team to collect samples of a variety of fish and then conduct an array of tests on them at their laboratory at Pascagoula to evaluate the fishery stock. If the area and the fish pass these tests, that section of the Gulf of Mexico can be reopened in six to 10 days."

Based on news reports, many people may assume that fishing in the Gulf of Mexico has closed down. But fishing hasn't stopped, and right now, in many sections of Mississippi's Gulf Coast, you'll enjoy fishing as good, if not better, than ever before, with not as many people fishing. However, you may have a difficult time locating a captain and a boat to take you fishing.

To learn where to fish and who you can fish with, contact Richard Forester at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau at 228-896-6699; or Danny Pitalo at Gorenflo's Tackle and Marina Store and Point Cadet Fuel & Ice at 228-432-0454.