Fishing charters to Muskegon Co. in hopes of breaking even despite soaring fuel costs

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After battling smaller crowds amid pandemic-era social distancing guidelines, the fuel crisis threatens another blow to the wallet.

NORTH MUSKEGON, Mich. — Soaring fuel prices could hamper a summer on the water, as prices at the fuel dock tend to be a bit higher than what drivers pay at the pump.

Meanwhile, prices for everything from bait and tackle to storage fees have also risen into largely uncharted territory.

Charter fishing outfits, cruise ships and ferries all suggest they are feeling the impact.

Owner of Trident SportfishingCaptain Jeff Hedges, says prices change from month to month and only go up.

“We were paying $4.39 a gallon,” Hedges says. “When we invested a month ago, it was $5.40. It definitely hurts us.”

Hedges now says it is closer to $6.75.

That means the price that comes with filling the North Muskegon-based 31-foot “Venture” twin 100-gallon tanks is now around $1,350.

“We burn on average about 50 gallons per trip,” he said. “Our budget allows us to spend about $25,000 on fuel this year. Our margins are low anyway. No one is in this business to get rich.

That’s why Hedges had to raise rates this year – an increase of $75 – for the first time since 2016.

“We lifted this before the boat even entered the water and it doesn’t even cover our fuel,” Hedges explained.

It takes a lot more fuel to fill the tanks of larger ships, including the Lake Express High Speed ​​Ferry.

The ferry told 13 ON YOUR SIDE that there has always been a fuel surcharge attached to the ticket price, which fluctuates from year to year with the market rate.

The fares page on its website said on Thursday that would mean an extra $16 for a round-trip ticket.

“Most people are understanding,” Hedges said. “I think everyone understands, that’s where we are right now.”

Hedges said he had to get creative to weather the pandemic.

“We love to fish, we love taking people out and catching fish for them,” he said. “If we break even at the end of this year, everything will be fine.”

While the season is just beginning, it’s still unclear how the higher price might affect booking.

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