One coastal industry hurt by misinformation about the algae bloom and the freshwater incursion has been charter fishing, but most captains say they never quit catching fish.
“Where we were catching them changed, and what we were catching changed, but the action was always good, just like always,” said Sonny Schindler of Shore Thing Charters of Bay St. Louis. “Freshwater incursion doesn’t affect all species the same. Speckled trout — sure they are very saltwater conscious, and they will leave when salinity drops. You have to move with them.
“Redfish, not so much. They can tolerate a lot of freshwater. They won’t up and leave, and the Biloxi Marsh, which is south of the algae but closer to the area impacted by (Bonnet Carré spillway), has produced redfish all through this period. Another species that has been consistent is sharks. People like to catch them.”
The big problem, guides agreed, was the what the public knew about the algae bloom. People were slow to book trips, and some cancelled trips already booked due to the warnings about eating fish.
One captain said that the problem was in associating the bloom with the entire Gulf of Mexico, when only the beaches were impacted.
“We don’t fish the beach lines,” Clay Necaise of OutKast Charters told The Clarion-Ledger. “We go out 20 miles to catch fish, and I’m not seeing any (algae) out there.”
Schindler said that he has talked to perspective clients about a change in mindset, from “making meat-haul trips to having fun.”
With an emphasis on bent rods, he said, putting people on fish is not a problem. There’s always something hungry in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Sharks, reds, tripletails, even trout, we can always find some fish,” he said.