BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The weather is warming up, allowing many locals and out-of-towners to book a fun getaway through a number of charter boat owners. We're still weeks away from the official start to summer, but one retired charter boat captain said the tourism numbers for those who own charter boats on the coast are down.
"This year they're not doing good. The bookings are down on all the boats. One guy had one person cancel last week," said retired charter boat Captain Tom Becker, who now serves as President of the Mississippi Charter Boat Association.
Becker said the low number of recent visitors doesn't reflect the higher tourism numbers charter boat captains are used to seeing. He blames the recent bacteria scare for it.
"They still think that we've got this virus in the water, but that's not right. So how do you get that word out that we've got water that they could go fishing in or swimming?" Becker asked.
As we've reported, a handful of people have come in contact with the bacteria Vibrio Vulnificus while taking a dip in the Mississippi Sound. But experts say Vibrio could be found anywhere along the entire Gulf of Mexico on any given day, especially during warm weather. Becker is optimistic that the season will soon pick up.
"Good numbers, that's all we're asking for," he said. "And to get the people out there to have a good time and that's our whole concept. A good time for them, catch some fish and get them home so they can get the word out at home and somebody else calls us."
For information on how to book a trip with a charter boat owner, visit http://www.gulfcoast.org/fishing/