By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It has not been easy for Florida Keys charter boat captains to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

For several months, the Keys remained closed to non-Keys residents, which put a big crimp on the fishing businesses of the island chain.

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It was touch and go for captain Marlin Scott and his crew at FishMonster Charters, as they were kept going by locals who just wanted to get out on the water.

“It was a huge hit for my crew and it was a huge hit for our business,” said Scott.

Gone were those 8-hour trips costing $1,400 and produced tips for captain and crew and they were not alone.

“Well, the first thing when we learned we would be shut down, we started clicking off what are we going to sell first so we could survive,” said captain Scott.

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In a good year, charter fishing in Florida generates $7.5 billion annually and the industry employs 81,000 people.

The FishMonster brand includes not only several fishing vessels but also a social media presence that is non-stop. It includes daily live Facebook reports and an online magazine.

Eventually, the Keys checkpoint was taken down and customers were able to charter again, but what really worked was keeping in touch with the customer base on social media.

“Here is something that will raise an eyebrow,” said Scott, “…because we have such a reach for what we do down here we have a lot of people traveling with us for years and we were having people literally buying future charters, paying for them in full during the three-month shutdown. You talk about something warm-hearted, decent, and wonderful.”

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The FishMonster & IslandJane acquired two more boats and tell CBS4 that they are keeping five boats a day busy with charters.