Gulf Waters Open For Recreational Fishermen

Some waters in the Gulf of Mexico are reopening to recreational fishing. With the BP fix continuing to keep oil from leaking in the Gulf, there is a bit of new hope in the area.

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For people in Louisiana, this weekend has been very good, the first good weekend in months. Recreational fishermen were given the green light to head out on the water and cast away.

As NPR's Russell Lewis reports now from Grand Isle, Louisiana, it's the first time in a long time people had news to be happy about.

RUSSELL LEWIS: Here's something that hasn't been heard too often in Grand Isle in recent weeks.

(Soundbite of boat)

LEWIS: A small boat decked out with fishing rods and a family heading out in search of dinner. It's the first time since April Dub Gibbens, his wife Charlene and their grandson have been back on the water.

Louisiana officials halted all fishing after the Deepwater Horizon exploded. But they reopened most of the recreational waters on Wednesday after tests found no traces of oil in fish. Despite a few rain showers overheard, Charlene didn't mind it a bit.

Ms. CHARLENE GIBBENS: It's wonderful. It's been truly a depressing three months for us since it's so much a part of our life.

LEWIS: Recreational fishermen who live in Grand Isle and others who drove in from around the state were just as excited.

Mr. CHUCK ROQUES: So we have a few nice ones in here, you know, down the bottom.

LEWIS: That's Chuck Roques of New Orleans showing off his catch of trout. He and his friends left the docks at first light and were back by 10 a.m.

Mr. ROQUES: I would catch a fish every single cast. Every single cast I would bring in one or two fish. And it's as good as ever been.

LEWIS: But the docks aren't as full as they can be. Hundreds of thousands of people come to this part of Louisiana to fish each year, bringing an estimated billion dollars in economic impact. But the recreational industry has been hit hard. Most shops have very little live bait, because commercial suppliers are still prohibited from fishing in state waters.

At Gulf Stream Marina, manager Stella Ray opens an almost bare freezer.

Ms. STELLA RAY (Manager, Gulf Stream Marina): What I have is about two dozen cups of frozen shrimp, and each cup holds about one pound of shrimp.

LEWIS: Ray says she's happy the recreational waters are open, but disappointed her 50-foot marina is empty.

Larry Kramer and his girlfriend just pulled their boat out of the water after a successful morning. He caught dozens of fish, but threw most of them back. He's worried about the health of the fish.

Mr. LARRY KRAMER: This is kind of like a trial basis. We don't know what we're going to find. We don't know if the testing of them is, you know, far enough along to let us know if we have any tainted fish. We're just hoping for the best.

LEWIS: Back on the water, Charlene Gibbens grips her rod and a big smile crosses her face as the tip jerks downwards.

Ms. GIBBENS: All right, all right, first fish.

Unidentified Man: (Unintelligible)

Ms. GIBBENS: Oh, we got to see. If it's a trout, it's a good fish. But I'm not sure it's a trout. Oh, yeah.

LEWIS: It wasn't a speckled trout on the line but a two-pound catfish, which she threw back. Still, she says, a catfish is better than no fish at all, especially when it's been three months since she's been able to cast a line in the water.

Russell Lewis, NPR News, Grand Isle, Louisiana.

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