Fisherman Searching For Permanent Dock Space

Rudy Toler rode out Hurricane Katrina on his 56-foot shrimp boat.

He and the vessel survived the storm on Gulfport's industrial seaway. But that was just the beginning of new challenges facing the fisherman. His biggest concern now is finding a place to tie up.

"This is my grandfather's legacy right here," said Rudy Toler, while walking the deck of the "Sugar Babe."

He can't explain how he captained the shrimp boat through the monster storm.

"All we was thinking about, had the motors running and waiting to do something if we had to. Hoping for the best," he recalled.

That hope endured. The shrimp boat his grandfather built lost only a running light to the hurricane's fury. But while Katrina spared the boat, it destroyed his dock space at the state port, leaving Toler and others to wander the industrial canal these past six months.

"Trinity was nice. Very nice people there. They let us stay a couple months. Went to Mr. Kremer. Kremer's Marina. He's selling it. He was very nice. He let us stay there a couple months," said the fisherman.

The shrimp boat is now docked along waterfront land owned by the Harrison County Development Commission. But the property has been sold and the welcome here may soon run out.

The future of the port's commercial fishing harbor remains uncertain. Port director, Don Allee, told WLOX News the priority has been on restoring the commercial cargo operations. No decisions have been made yet about rebuilding the fishing boat docks.

That leaves Toler and several fellow fishermen with no dock to call home. While the fishing itself shouldn't be a problem, they do need a little luck finding a permanent pier.

"If somebody just had property on the river here, that their home was destroyed by they've got a dock there that they'd be willing to rent to us. We'd rent it from 'em," he said.

Meanwhile, time is also running out on their latest temporary pier space.

"They haven't told us when we have to leave yet, exactly. But we have been told pretty much we'll have to move on."

That leaves Toler and the "Sugar Babe" on an unsteady, uncertain course.

The 25-year-old has been on a shrimp boat since he was eight-years-old. Toler says he'd like to stay on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but may have to relocate if he can't find suitable dock space.