Red snapper season set to boost local charter boats, marinas
"It's a beautiful thing to be able to get out on the water," Scott Gilbert said, looking out at Capt. Anderson's Marina.
It's also a beautiful thing to get paid.
"We weren't sure when we were going to start fishing until the day before so now that things have been taking off for two weeks, it's starting to look very, very promising," Gilbert, the First Mate on Captain Anderson's six hour boat, said.
Just in time to reel in their best catch of the year on rods and in their wallets: federally permitted red snapper season runs Monday June 1 through August 1.
"Red snapper is our lifeblood," Kelley Girl Charters owner Mark Kelley explained. "June and July, it's crucial to our business especially now that we've lost April and May."
37 private charter boats call Capt. Anderson's home. Many of their customers come from out-of-state, booking months in advance. This year is already yielding mixed results.
"We started booking trips almost immediately," Gilbert recalled. "The biggest issue was not having places for them to stay. We had to cancel some trips. Over the last week, it has picked up a lot."
"We are getting a lot of phone calls," Kelley continued. "Things I can’t say are back to normal the last couple of weeks in May, but June is starting to look good. The phone is ringing. People are coming.”
They're coming both to fish and to work. Employees are returning to charter boats and the marina.
"Some of them come and just work the season," marina operations manager Pam Anderson said. "The fish market has a lot more employees now so they can take care of all the fish coming in. We have our grill open, fully staffed."
Capt. Anderson's boats will board at half capacity with deckhands wearing masks and gloves.
There may be less bookings, but there's equal enthusiasm and an added bonus.
"People seem to be a lot more generous," Gilbert said. "If your average tip was 20 dollars per person, this year it has been 40. People have a good heart. They want to help. They want to give."
And now they want to fish.