Charter Boat Captains Hope To Hook More Customers

"They'll go out for two and a half to three days and they'll take people out," said Danny Pitalo, as he walked along a pier at Point Cadet.

Pitalo runs a marine store that supplies tackle and fuel to charter fishing boats. More charter boats than ever are docked at Point Cadet Marina, since it sustained minimal hurricane damage.

But while the fishing boats are abundant, the customers have been scarce.

"The season was down, basically the hotel rooms and stuff like that wasn't here. The people wasn't coming in. I believe there's still an image we're not functioning as far as the charter boat business and stuff like that," Pitalo explained.

The head of the charter boat captains association told WLOX News business was 80 percent down last season, with 30 percent fewer boats.

"I believe we just have to get that image back out. That we are still here. We are still in business," he said.

Longtime charter boat captain Scott Simpson keeps his fishing boat in the backyard. With the Long Beach harbor still badly damaged from the storm, Simpson decided to trailer his 26 footer, even though it means more effort.

"It's increased my work load pretty good. It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to get the boat ready here, load it, back it up and get it hooked up. About another 15 minutes to offload the boat in the water," said Simpson.

He says volunteers and relief workers looking for a getaway fun helped salvage his summer season in '06. He's confident '07 will mean more traditional tourists.

"I'm very optimistic. Things are looking up. We've got hotels coming back on the coast right now, as you know. The tourism industry will slowly come back," said the confident captain.

As those tourists return, charter captains are waiting to take them out for some fishing fun.