Favorable weather helps offset high fuel prices

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AUG. 31 — Good weather, great fishing and a less-than-anticipated impact of fuel prices have kept boaters boating this summer, reports BoatU.S.

The group also says its on-the-water towboats were busy this season, helping disabled vessels and providing fuel drop-offs.

The top reported reasons boaters called for assistance were:

? unknown engine failure, 49 percent

? grounding, 16 percent

? fuel problems, 10 percent

? battery jump starts or electrical problems, 12 percent

? engine overheating, 4 percent

BoatU.S. reports the following general observations on recreational boating activity throughout the country:

Northeast/Mid-Atlantic: Up until the end of August. Good weather meant more boats on the water and an increase in requests for on-the-water assistance from last year. In the north, boating activity traditionally winds down shortly after Labor Day. If hurricane activity stays low and fuel prices continue to soften, the fall boating season could remain strong in Mid-Atlantic states.

Florida: Boating is booming as hurricanes have, so far, stayed away. Some boaters, having lost vessels in back-to-back years of storm activity, are returning to the water in new boats. Tropical Storm Ernesto turned out to be only a rain event for Southern Florida.

Gulf: Still hurting from the 2005 hurricane season. Recreational boating in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama has dramatically decreased. Much-needed boating-related infrastructure continues to struggle to rebuild.

California: "The season is not over and we plan to go full speed well into October with phenomenal fishing," says Vessel Assist San Diego owner, Capt. Robert Butler. "The difference between this year and last year is 'buddy boating,' or the practice of fishermen sharing trips to the fishing grounds.” Unusually warm water and less red tide throughout the Southern California coast are helping the trend.

Pacific Northwest: With less than a quarter-inch of rain since early July, waterway traffic has generally been above average, especially on Seattle's Lake Washington.

Great Lakes: With "the best walleye fishing in 10 years" reported by Capt. Vern Mienke of Lake Erie's TowBoatU.S. SouthShore, recreational boating traffic has been up.

Midwest/Inland: Capt. Charles Meyer of TowBoatU.S. Lake of the Ozarks says that volume has been up, especially weekday boating activity.