OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Usually the Fourth of July weekend is the only time when the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources allows people without licenses to do their saltwater fishing. However, this weekend for the first time ever, the state is allowing people two days of free saltwater fishing in June. DMR officials say the hope is that people will want to continue all summer long.
After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill closed much of our local waters to anglers last year, fishing related business were hit very hard. Owners say they're happy to see sales finally picking up.
Mary and Robin Bailey of St. Martin made a quick stop by Crabby's Bait and Tackle before heading out for a day of fishing. The couple is doing a lot more fishing these days compared to this time last year.
"We don't have to worry so much about getting the oil on the boat and having the oil in the water so we're enjoying our water this year," Mary Bailey said.
Employees at the D'Iberville bait shop say as the weather heats up, they've seen their customer-base growing steadily.
"Now it's getting into the summertime and more people are going out fishing," said employee Cole Patronas. "So selling at lot of shrimp. Getting shrimp in and shrimp has been going out. Just trying to get more and more people to fish. A little slow last summer, but it's starting to pick up."
The mood at the bait shop was far different than when WLOX stopped by almost a year ago. Back then the owner described sales as dismal. The store couldn't get live bait after the BP Oil Spill closed a large portion of the local waters.
"I don't think there would be no comparison," Patronas said. "I think last year was real slow. We'd just started out. The BP stuff, I think a lot of people were scared to fish because of the oil. I think they're seeing that the fish are still here and they can fish now. I think a lot of people are realizing that."
Saturday was the first day in business for Harbor Bait shop in Biloxi and the owners say customers were eager to buy.
"They've been needing a bait shop down here since Katrina and there hasn't been one," Rock Sekul said. "Everybody's got to get their bait out of town somewhere. So everybody's happy that I'm here. That's for sure."
Again Saturday and Sunday are free saltwater fishing days. However, officials stress that all size and possession limits still apply.