Florida’s Fishing, Boating Industries Hit Hard By Coronavirus Shutdowns

Many counties throughout Florida are shutting down boat ramps and marinas to help fight the spread of the coronavirus. But these shutdowns are causing a major economic problem for Florida’s boating and fishing industries.

Heather Smith, the editor of Florida Fishermen Magazine, said the state’s fishing community relies heavily on March and April for income to manage through the less active parts of the year.

“These shutdowns couldn’t come at a worse time,” said Smith.

Smith, who also hosts her own outdoors show, said that there should be cautionary efforts to slow down the virus but shutting down the fishing industry doesn’t make sense.

Smith said that many charter captains work full time and some of them rely on charter trips to supplement their income. She also pointed out inconsistencies among local governments when it comes to using ramps for business.

“They are allowing commercial fishermen but not charter fishermen,” said Smith.

Smith said that one charter captain, James Cronk of Stuart, had 26 cancellations in one week due to the shutdowns.

“With the huge spike in unemployment right now, in Florida, so many people are depending on the capability of fishing, not just for income, but as a food source for their families,” said Smith.

Popular North Florida fishing guide Vic Tison estimated the fishing business in his area has declined around 60 percent.

Tison, who also hosts his own weekend fishing talk show, said most of fishing industry’s business comes from Florida residents.

“People think with the tourism shutdown, it’s hurting the fishing industry,” Tison said. “That’s true in some areas but, in other parts of the state, around 70 percent of clients actually are locals.”

Tison told Florida Daily that local charities might see a decline in revenue thanks to the the slowdown. He noted there are many fishing tournaments this time of the year that raise revenue for business and charities. With those tournaments on hold, some charities may suffer.

In the meantime, Florida Fishermen Magazine insisted “Florida fishing is on fire” before the crisis.

The publication pointed out some the hot spots in the state including: Florida Keys backcountry fishing; April as the month that the stellar blue water fishing kicks off in Florida including blue marlin, yellowtail and wahoo; March is the best month for Mutton Snapper; while sailfish, kingfish, cobia and grouper fishing is at its peak right now;  and bass fishing is strong in Central Florida.

The magazine reported people hauling in Florida registered catches.

“It’s a phenomenal time to fish,” the magazine noted.

Smith called fishing “a drug to a lot of Floridians” and compared it to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s, D-NY, push to legalize marijuana.

“If Cuomo can push for legalization of marijuana during this crisis to keep his New Yorkers happy, then the elected officials of Florida should give their constituents their drug–fishing,” Smith said.

Smith also said, in a time of a crisis, fishing is extremely therapeutic for stress. Studies have found that fishing is a good therapy for patients suffering from PTSD. It also works well for children with autism.

“There’s so many benefits,” Smith said.  “Let’s stay smart. Don’t close the ramps, don’t hurt the industry and let’s continue to fish.”


Reach Ed Dean at ed.dean@floridadaily.com.

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