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Despite oil slick, fishermen in one Gulf Coast town keep their lines in the water

By Marc Kaufman

The message coming from the town fathers and mothers of Venice, La. was not at all what you might expect. At a free crawfish gathering alongside one of the town's two marinas, the word was that despite the oil slick that threatened to reach land nearby, Venice and its hundreds of commercial sport fishing boats were open for business.

The impassioned owner of the Cypress Cove Marina, Rene Cross, said that people were staying away unnecessarily. The night before, he said, a party boat went out some 50 miles into the Gulf of Mexico from Venice and every fisherman came back with their limit of three yellow-fin tuna.

"Our customers are hearing all this doom and gloom about fishing in the Gulf, but they're not hearing the other side - that sport fishing is still going strong west of the Mississippi and the action is great," he said.

Sitting at the southern tip of the long peninsula that reaches from New Orleans to the Gulf, Venice is a world-renowned destination for sports fishermen looking to land a blue marlin, redfish or tuna. It is clearly suffering now - with most of the boats idle in the marinas and cancellations coming in like bayou bugs near a streetlight. The first big marlin fishing tournament of the season - set for June 1 - has already had 19 cancellations out of 58 entries.

That May is the prime season for sports fishing made the situation bad enough. But what made it excruciating to men like Cross is that Venice was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and it's newly rebuilt marinas are only just back to pre-hurricane capacity. Katrina was an act of God, the burly man said, but the spill is an act of man that is being misunderstood.

"If any of us thought it was unsafe to be out there fishing now, if it was clear that the oil was harming fish in areas still open to fishing, then we'd be the first to close down," he said. "But until then, we're going to fight this. We brought Venice back, and we're not letting her go down again."

With that, he reached down for one of the spicy and succulent crawfish, snapped off it's head, and downed the rest with exaggerated (or maybe just remembered) pleasure and enthusiasm.


Mike Shepard

 |  May 8, 2010; 6:00 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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