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Posted on May 11, 2010 in Top Shots
The Gulf of Mexico: Still Open for Business

T or F: The entire Gulf of Mexico is covered with oil.
T or F: The entire Gulf of Mexico is closed to fishing.
T or F: You can forget about any fishing trip to the Gulf of Mexico.

Of course all three are false. Yet with national media intensely focused on the deepwater BP oil-rig blowout, more than a few folks may be thinking "true" to one or more of the above.

So let me take this opportunity to remind anglers: big news, small area.

Yes, absolutely, one must add "for now." The situation at best will remain (pardon the pun) fluid; at worst, long-term failure to stop the gusher's flow may mean additional areas of the Gulf may be closed to fishing.

But as of this writing, more than 93 percent of the Gulf of Mexico federal and state waters remained open to fishing: Florida - open; Alabama - open; western Louisiana - open; Texas - open.

As NOAA itself was reminding us: "The vast majority of Gulf waters have not been affected by the oil spill and continue to support productive fisheries and tourism activities."

Closures are being posted for 10-day intervals. NOAA has indicated that it would like to keep waters open as long as it doesn't feel drifting oil will jeopardize public safety.

Far from any hint of oil on the waters, fish are biting. In fact, this could be a great time to head to the Gulf Coast with bookings and traffic down - all the more room to enjoy great fishing and have it to yourself. Yellowfin, cobia, redfish - all are "on the chew" as they say in Australia, at least as of this writing, though fewer anglers are taking advantage of the opportunities.

One Gulf skipper e-mailed a report to me from last Saturday. Located in Cocodrie, Louisiana, well west of Venice and in an area that remained open as of this writing, Capt. Tommy Pellegrin's anglers enjoyed a quad hookup of wahoo, landing two. That was followed by blackfin tuna, little tunny, amberjack and cobia. "On Sunday, it was rough, so we stayed inside, catching and releasing bull reds until everyone was tired. We lost count at somewhere around 40 or 50 fish, most in the 20- to 30-pound range." Pellegrin (www.customchartersllc.com) says the group had come down from Missouri to fish with him; undoubtedly - as photos show - they were very glad they didn't cancel their trip.

None of this is intended to minimize legitimate and very serious concerns about what the long-term impact that the fountain of oil flowing into the Gulf may have on its ecology and fisheries. That remains to be seen, and we're all watching and waiting. But I figure sitting around and worrying won't do a damn bit of good; time to go fishing!

All photos by Capt. Tommy Pellegrin