September 23, 2010 - Orange Beach, Alabama - By Conrad duPerier - The BP Vessels of Opportunity program has officially ended on the Alabama Gulf Coast and you can hardly find a charter boat to take you fishing. Even though charter fishing boats have been given the go ahead by NOAA to harvest and consume fish, most of the charter fishing fleets remain tied to a piling and are apparently not wanting to fish for some reason. After a little investigative work, I found out that most of the charter boats on the Alabama Gulf Coast participated in the BP's VOO program. Charter boats made more net money this Summer than they would have ever made fishing this year. "It's hard to find a fishing charter that wants to go fishing this Fall" says Chuck Smith of Nashville, Tn. "I have called over a dozen charter boat operators and none of them seem to be wanting to let me charter their boat and fish the Fall Red Snapper Season." We did find Orange Beach Fishing Charters in Orange Beach, Alabama to be open and ready for business. None of Orange Beach Fishing Charters boats and guides used their boats in the lucrative program. These guides are the Intimidator Sportfishing Charters, Distraction Charters and Alabama Inshore Fishing. Each of these captains and guides are chomping at the bits to get back on the water and do what they do best.
For the past six years, the Gulf of Mexico Charter fishing fleet has been faced with restrictive bag limits, short federal fishing seasons, hurricanes and the worst Oil Spill in US History. Charter boats have been struggling to make ends meet. Some of them have simply shut down and gone out of business. The BP oil spill this year has temporarily revived some struggling charter fishermen. It has certainly injected some much needed capital into the charter fishing businesses along the Gulf Coast. Charter boats that were barely running 60 trips a year and generating $72,000 in gross income, have doubled or tripled that amount in just three months after the spill by participating in the VOO program.
The Vessels of Opportunity presented the opportunity for charter fishermen to put their boats to work for BP as a contractor. The rates paid to local charter boat owners were incredible. A dinghy boat 12' all the way up to 35' in length, made $1,200 per day. A 36' boat up to 45' made $1,500 a day. A 46' to 65' boat made $2,000 a day. A boat that was over 65' was paid $3,000 a day. The crews were paid $200 for an 8 hour day each and $300 for a 12 hour day. BP paid for their fuel and oil. What a sweet deal that is! The average charter boat we are told by unsubstantiated sources, stayed on hire for over 63 days. Some charter boats only put one boat in the program and worked only 36 days. Nonetheless, some charter boats with more than one boat made a lot of money. If you take the reported 63 days on hire and the average charter boat is let's say 42', that means that boat made $94,500 in just three months. The captain and crew made an additional $12,600 each for their work in addition to what the boat made. There were a lot of charter boats that were able to put a second, third, fourth and fifth boat into the program. If you do the math, someone would quickly see why nobody really wants to fish this year. If you do a little math, someone with three boats made over $283,000 this Summer with no expenses. Is there any wonder why some charter boat operators don't want to fish this Fall?
While other captains and charter boat operators may feel they have made enough money this year, the guides and captains at Orange Beach Fishing Charters want to let everyone know that saltwater fishing in Alabama is red hot and this Fall is presenting some great opportunities for those who want to wet a hook.