Oil spill throws fishing tournaments into the lurch - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Oil spill throws fishing tournaments into the lurch


By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – Danny Pitalo waits all year for his big event, Gorenflo's Cobia tournament, that was set for this weekend.  He recently discovered oil had closed the federal and Louisiana waters his competitors would likely fish.

"They just closed all the inside of Chandaleurs, the Breton Sound area," said Pitalo.  "We don't know how long there it's going to be closed down, how long it's going to be seeping out of the ground covering this area."

He rescheduled for Memorial Day, in the hope the waters would open back up to fishermen.

"It's the first time in 24 years that we've actually had to postpone it," said Pitalo.  "Its really our kickoff party."

Across Biloxi Bay in Ocean Springs, Kenny Dinero is also dealing with uncertainty about his own tournament, scheduled for the first weekend in June.

"We were going to have cobia and snapper for the offshore people, and we were going to have speckled trout and flounder and redfish for inshore," said Dinero.  "I really don't want to change mine. I've got sponsors involved, whatever, but we'll just have to see what the oil does."

These tournaments are just some of the many along the coast that fishermen look forward to each year.  For the organizations that hold them, they mean a lot more.  A lot of local businesses call these fishing tournaments an economic shot in the arm at the end of the slow winter months.  All the uncertainty caused by the oil slick has them wondering when, or if their season will start this year.

"It's really our bread and butter for the year," said Pitalo of the cobia tournament.  "If they can contain it and get it slowed down, then we can have it hopefully."

Dinero said he worries about his entire business as the oil slick drifts in the Gulf.

"I would not want to say, well I guess I'm out of business because BP spilled a lot of oil in the Gulf, but that could happen," said Dinero.

Mississippi waters are still open for fishing and recreation. Click here to see a map of the closed area.

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