- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 21, 2005

The youngsters in our family don’t believe it, but I can remember buying gasoline at 27 cents per gallon and never having to leave the car. The guys at the station would pump the gas for me, check the oil and wash the windshield, then thank me in good old American lingo. The people who then worked in filling stations answered to names like Bob, Ernie, Bill, Frank or Ed. They would chat about the latest game the Senators lost, or how exciting it was that Sonny Jurgensen left Philadelphia to play for the Redskins.

Now we pay $2.60 or more a gallon and do the pumping ourselves. And the fellow who owns the station rarely speaks easily comprehensible English. Not only that, he wouldn’t know the Redskins if he fell over them and rather than he learning about our way of life, he’s offended that we don’t know anything about his.

Hoo, boy!

Now add the tremendous pinch we boat-owning fishermen feel during gasoline rip-offs such as this country has never before experienced.

But, strangely, there is no outrage about it at all.

Charter fishing captain Greg Buckner, who runs the Miss Susie out of Calvert Marina in Solomons, says, “Some customers might think it’s too expensive to fill the SUV with gas and drive down to the Bay, but I raised my prices last November, so that already takes care of some of this. As far as boat operating costs are concerned, I don’t travel far to find fish.”

Another charter skipper, Jeff Popp, who currently drifts with eels or chums for rockfish in the upper Chesapeake, said, “Yeah, the high cost of fuel is hurting me. It’s really squeezing me, but I know my customers feel the squeeze just like I do. Right now, I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to raise my prices.”

Potomac River bass fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski, who runs a 22-foot-long bass boat with a powerful outboard motor, said, “The high cost of fuel has restricted my guiding to waters close to where I launch. It has lessened my search for new waters between trips and has all but eliminated my pleasure fishing. If costs continue to rise, I may have to stop guiding.” However, to prove he could find bass near the launch ramps he uses, I fished with him four days ago and in less than an hour he landed three bass, including one of nearly five pounds. Later, he boated well over a dozen more.

Chesapeake Bay charter boat captain John MacEwen, whose boat, the Janet M II, sits at Happy Harbor Marina in Deale, Md., said, “As far as gas prices are concerned, last year the Associated Bay Captains, of which I’m a member, went up $30 per trip. That covers the gas increases for now, but things are going crazy. Still, I haven’t heard of anyone in the fishing community talking about further increases.”

When asked if the high price of gasoline is affecting the way he operates, fishing guide Brent Nelson, who helps clients find bass in western Maryland’s Deep Creek Lake, said, “I’m leaving my boat [up there] so I don’t have to tow it back and forth from Montgomery County. That saves me plenty. Also, when fishing Deep Creek, I used to just go up and down the lake and fish the docks randomly. Now I do a pre-planned counter-clockwise run so I cover them all but don’t burn as much gas.”

Nelson added, “I am cautious also about raising my prices. Three hundred dollars a day is about max and I’m afraid if we raise them higher, the day of the ‘bass guide’ will become history. We ain’t getting rich, especially after fuel prices, boat maintenance, state-of-the-art equipment, all the licenses we need, and the state park stickers we have to buy. Being a bass guide is one of the hardest in the guiding business in the Mid-Atlantic.”

However, Nelson is glad he’s not an ocean charter fishing captain. “We don’t have twin diesels to fill up every morning and travel two hours out to the Gulf Stream. Those guys I pity,” he said.

In talks with the fishing professionals it becomes clear many charter operators are concerned about losing business. Sport anglers who are on the fence about hiring a bay or ocean fishing boat or a river guide probably won’t do it if the cost of an outing is raised much more.

But with minimal complaints over the almost obscene profits made by multi-national energy giants, and the lack of concern from elected officials about all of this, it begs the question, “Where is the outrage?”

After all, when the President of the United States says he’ll give you a tax credit for buying a little hybrid vehicle, has he even thought about how we’d tow our boats with a car that seems to be powered by a sewing machine motor?

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail:

gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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