COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — For Captain Mike Panichello with BeeLine Fishing Charters, getting his business back on the water after Ian comes with some new challenges.
"Lots of different challenges. It's difficult to navigate the debris, places to launch the boat at — that's an obstacle," Captain Panichello said. "In this job you have to be able to roll with the punches, to come up with a plan and multiple plans to get the job done."
Hurricane Ian left the charter fishing industry reeling, evident in the latest data from FishingBooker.com.
According to that data provided by one of the largest charter fishing booking sites, from the day before Hurricane Ian to November 29th, compared to the same time frame in 2021 fishing charter captains lost 72% of their bookings. That data shows individual captains lost up to 90% of their income in this period.
"When we look at the first months after September 27, when the area was most affected, the numbers are even more dramatic. In six locations, captains didn't have any bookings in this period. Overall, captains in Southwest Florida lost 88% of their bookings in the first month after Ian hit (compared to 2021) and 86% of their earnings," said FishingBooker.com spokesperson Joris Zantvoort.
Back on the water Wednesday, another result of Hurricane Ian — red tide.
"It's bad up there. It's pushed its way down here anytime the wind blows to the west it concentrates right on the beaches" said Panichello. "Most captains catch their bait. If you are in that area, your bait winds up dying before you can even get your customers on the boat."
Still, that didn't stop one Illinois couple from heading out on the water with BeeLine Charters Wednesday.
"When you got out there you can see a bunch of fish dead on top and it scares the other fish," said Alex Bakker, taking a half-day trip with her significant other Tyler Conrad. " We still caught a lot, but you can tell it affects natural sea life."
"All in all, we need customers," Panichello said. "But the fishing is great. Come on out, enjoy the weather and have a good day."