Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Higher Gas Prices Might Fuel Change in Habits

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Higher Gas Prices Might Fuel Change in Habits

Article excerpt

Skyrocketing fuel prices have hiked the cost of fishing in Northeast Florida.

Operators of some charterboats and partyboats have had to raise rates, while others are holding the line -- at least for now. In some instances, prices for live bait have gone up because of increased delivery costs.

Even higher prices at the pump have been forecast and with the heavy offshore trolling and tournament season still weeks away, the outlook could bring about a change in fishing habits.

"It's killing me," said Capt. Robert Johnson, who runs the Jodie Lynn charterboat out of the Conch House Marina in St. Augustine. "It's costing me about $300 a week more to operate."

Johnson runs anywhere from 32-50 miles one-way on each of his offshore trips, not counting the distance he trolls. Last year he burned 35,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

"If it continues for any extended period of time, I may have to raise my prices," he said.

The price of diesel has roughly doubled in the last year, costing around $1.25 per gallon at many marina fuel docks. Gas prices are higher still, exceeding $2 a gallon at some waterfront pumps. That's a significant bump for recreational anglers, especially those piloting high-horsepower, twin outboard-powered boats.

"The weekend boaters have slowed down because of the gas prices," said Don Maynard of Beach Marine in Jacksonville Beach.

"A young fisherman in a jonboat came in the other day wanting 4 gallons of gas. He handed me a $5 bill, and he liked to have a heart atttack when I told him it was 7 something."

Beginning Saturday, the two Mayport-based partyboats will raise per-person rates. The King Neptune currently charges $40 a head but will go up to $45 for its Friday, Saturday and Sunday trips. The Mayport Princess, now $50 a head, will charge $55 each day.

"It's pretty bad on fuel, but that's not the only reason we're going up," said Mitch Woodard of Monty's Marina, where the King Neptune is berthed. "We haven't gone up in four or five years."

"It has been a major shock," said Capt. George Strate of the Mayport Princess. "We had to go up. It won't compensate for all of it, but it will help. …

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