Charter fishing making a comeback on Gulf Coast

HOUMA, La. (AP) —HOUMA, La. (AP) — Charter fishing has proven to be a tough industry to sink in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. Charter fishing has proven to be a tough industry to sink in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

HOUMA, La. (AP) — Charter fishing has proven to be a tough industry to sink in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

Many charter boat captains saw fewer and fewer customers as a result of the 2010 BP oil spill, but now they are starting to recover and reel in more anglers.

“I would classify this as a comeback year,” said Daryl Carpenter, president of the Louisiana Charter Boat Association that represents more than 140 charter boat captains along Louisiana’s coast.

Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes received more than $2 million each from BP as a result of the oil spill with much of the money going to tourism advertising.

Pat Gordon, Planning and Zoning director for Terrebonne, said the parish isn’t advertising for specific charter boat operations but for the industry a whole.

“We’re advertising for people to come and fish in Terrebonne,” Gordon said. “We’ve run ads in Cabela’s Outfitter Journal and are running an ad in the Louisiana Fishing Regulation Brochure. There’s a fishing show that runs on HTV, and some ads are being played on that channel. One thing we have done for the local captains is get as many of them listed on the Convention and Visitors Bureau website as possible.”

Gordon said in addition to using the money to advertise fishing, local festivals and the new parish branding received a monetary boost from the BP money. But it won’t last forever.

“We got the money two years ago,” Gordon said, “and it will all be spent by the end of the third year.”

Michel Claudet, Terrebonne Parish president, said he thought the advertising campaigns, which focused on promoting Terrebonne as the Salt Water Fishing Capital of the World, were paying off.

“I think it has worked out,” Claudet said. “Some captains have said they are really busy. I think these guys certainly want more, but business is good. It’s like everything else, you make an investment and hope to see a return on it. We are doing things to show that we are the Salt Water Fishing Capital of the World.”

In addition to parish-sponsored advertising, groups such as the Metairie-based Louisiana Tourism and Coastal Coalition have been advertising for these hard-hit companies.

“First of all, we’re seeing a rebound,” said Carpenter, who also owns the Grand Isle-based Reel Screamers Guide Service. “I’ve stressed advertising to our members, and they should participate in these programs. But I’m trying to say to BP and the government that one year does not a comeback make.”

Carpenter said the dollars spent on advertising was money well spent.

“There are several advertising programs taking place through the Charter Boat Association and through BP and federal government grants,” Carpenter said.

Local fisherman also have seen the benefits of these initiatives. While few of them could provide exact numbers, they all agree this year has been better than the last two.

“Versus the last two years, I’ve been extremely busy,” said George Landry of Beachcombers Guide Service in Houma. “Most of my trips are three- or four-people trips. Very seldom do I get a two-person trip.”

Marty Lacoste, owner of Absolute Fishing Charters in Dularge, said he has seen a big increase in business.

“I think because the fishing has been so good,” Lacoste said. “There’s been a big spike all summer. I do most of my advertising in the Louisiana Sportsman.”

The Louisiana Tourism and Coastal Coalition has tried to be effective in promoting Louisiana’s coast.

“The LTCC program seems to be showing returns. Some parishes are better than others. Those who focused on the user groups who were hurt by the spill did better than those that diluted it by advertising for festivals and that type of thing,” Carpenter said.

The advertising is just starting to work, and the charter fishermen of this area cannot afford to let it stop, Carpenter said.

“Some of the advertising is working, but in five or six days the LTCC will be out of money,” Carpenter said. “What happens then?”

The Louisiana Tourism and Coastal Coalition is already out of the $5 million it was given, the group’s executive director Rebbeca Buras said.

“We ran out on June 30,” she said. “Worst case scenario is that the organization would not exist for the 10 parishes along the coast. We would be the only state without a group to promote the coast, and we are just now seeing returns on our advertising dollar.”

The coalition hopes to bring Louisiana residents together to rally for their coast.

“We used the last bit of our money to reach out,” Buras said. “We need people from north and central Louisiana to experience the coast of their state. They have it right in their backyards, and some people have never visited.”

But the organization is still hanging on.

“We are not hopeless; that is part of the resiliency of the coast,” Buras said. “We are talking to anyone who will listen. We’ll be here until the end of December. But it’s hard to run an organization six months at a time.”

Readers who have responded on Facebook say they like to charter fish. BJ Bryan, 37 of Houma, said he enjoys having the opportunity to grab his bow and arrow, charter a boat and spend time with his wife.

“I love going bow fishing with Marsh Masters Guide Service in Leeville,” wrote Bj Bryan, 37, of Houma. “The guides are so much fun and knowledgeable. I took my wife, who has never touched a bow or been in an airboat, and she shot three fish that night. Every time we go, we shoot our limit within a matter of a few hours.”

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