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Local charter captains feeling the pinch from COVID-19

Many charter boats are still available to individuals and small groups. (WJHG)
Many charter boats are still available to individuals and small groups. (WJHG)(WJHG)
Published: Apr. 11, 2020 at 9:47 PM CDT
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Coming off of an already below-average season in the wake of Hurricane Michael, the charter fishing industry along the Emerald Coast was not prepared for a complete standstill in business.

"Maybe one trip a week goes out at this point (from the marina), said Kelley Girl Charters owner Mark Kelley.

Charter fishing captains occupy a unique sphere of small business. They do not spend the majority of their expenses on payroll, like many small businesses; operating expenses are their primary money drainer. As a result, the new economic stimulus plan largely passes them by without much help.

"Fisherman from Alaska to the Great Lakes all the way to Maine, around the Gulf Coast and East Coast that I've heard from over the last three weeks, are pretty clear," National Association of Charter Boat Operators President Bob Zales said. "If this industry doesn't get some serious financial help before July, a lot of these businesses are going down."

Work is currently underway at multiple levels of government to help out the industry, but for now the best way to support it is to consider chartering a boat.

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