For the past five or six years, I would drive by an abandoned service station and think, “Thank God those days won’t be around anymore. While I’m alive, at least.”
Fast forward to yesterday when the pump price at the local jumped 15 cents overnight, well above the heretofore bad memory of $4 from nearly 15 years ago.
Well, those “daze” are rapidly approaching, and the negative impact on fishing and boating will be substantial. Crippling might be too strong a word for now, but if the rate of increase continues, it will certainly get to that point from both recreational and business ends.
Yes, it was certainly encouraging to witness the brisk-bordering-on-robust across-the-board vessel sales during the MTA Boat Sale & Expo in February and the recently concluded Progressive Atlantic City Boat Show. However, when discussing the twice and thrice a week leaps at the pump with charter and party boat captains as well as mid-range and offshore anglers, the specter of the fuel price factor loomed large.
It appears as if the days of fuel surcharge increases to the prices of charters might be a stark reality once again. How each boat deals with it is, well, up to the owner if indeed the cost of the fuel is high. Most understandably, stick to the added charge. Business is business.
Captain Al Crudele III of Bayhound Charters in Sea Isle City, a fixture in this South Jersey reach for 30-plus years, from back bay flounder and weakfish, to offshore tuna, was blunt...and generous. “Like last time (super-high gas prices), I’ll tell the client ahead of time that there will be an extra charge for fuel from the price he or she read online or in a brochure when booking the trip. I’ll split the surcharge with them. It’s the right thing to do because I want them to go fishing and I want to keep them as customers. Yeah, it’s a hit to my bottom line, but I care about my customers, a lot who’ve been with me for a lot years.”
Party boats? Who knows how much of an increase to the daily fare, but figure it’s coming. From the bay pontoon flounder pounder to the wreck and reef bottom bomber, it’s going to cost more starting this spring to get aboard.
Where? At the pump while filling the vehicle and filling the gas cans.
And...at the marina with the “Fuel Here Only” dictate which again, is understandable. Filling the tank at a marina is certainly a convenience, but there is a price to pay, something in the neighborhood of $1.10-plus higher than at a gas station. Why that much more? Taxes at governmental levels.
Our prognostication: legions more flounder fishing in the bays and on the structures within a few miles from the inlets. Mid-range trips cut by one-third and offshore canyon runs by almost a half, if not more. Regarding the latter: sure the owners with the 48-foot plus boats, for the most part, don’t blink at fuel prices. However, the owner of say, the 28 to 36-footer with fuel bladders on board, who has the 3-4 pals on the trip, formerly chipping in $100 each last summer to be in the game might well have to figure $150-175 apiece, if not more, this summer should the prices continue escalating at the pace they are.
With the exception of the once-in-a-lifetime Triple Wrecks yellowfin chaos two years ago, there is nothing guaranteed; i.e. pay the dough and possibly go home with a “no”, i.e. empty box. Such is the canyon tuna gamble.
It’s going to be an interesting season on the water, bay to offshore, for sure.