BAY ST. LOUIS -- The much-anticipated opening of the Bay St. Louis Municipal Harbor on Saturday morning attracted boats, fishermen and curious onlookers.
Even though the grand opening and ribbon-cutting won't be until July 26, the city is eager to see what the harbor brings to town.
"It's the biggest day we've had in the Bay in a long, long time," Mayor Les Fillingame said. "The possibilities created by this harbor are endless and we're looking forward to taking advantage of every one of them."
As of Saturday morning, 42 of the harbor's 163 slips had already been rented out, said Duane Caughlin, deputy harbor master.
Chuck Lafleur's 34-foot cabin cruiser, the Paradox was the first vessel to enter the harbor Saturday. As a member of the Harbor Commission, Lafleur said he plans to rent the slip indefinitely. "I'm paying month-to-month to help the harbor make as much profit as possible," he said.
The harbor provides 5 to 10 percent discounts on long-term lease agreements of six months or more.
As boats tied up to their slips, fishermen sought the catch of the day on the new Jimmy Rutherford Fishing Pier.
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 had destroyed the original pier at the foot of Carroll Avenue, and anglers are glad to have it back.
Within seconds of casting a shrimp-baited hook into the water, Gregg Martel reeled in a baby croaker. Martel said he fishes mostly offshore, but thought he'd give the pier a try Saturday morning. "Since it's new, thought I'd see what it's like," he said as he released the croaker.
Over an hour or two, Martel caught a coastal variety of hardhead catfish, white trout and croaker.
Harbor Master Chuck Fortin said the harbor is almost fully functioning, with only a few items yet to be completed. "Hopefully, in the next two weeks we'll be fully open," he said.
Construction on the $22 million harbor and pier project began in November 2012.
Connected to the 1,000-foot fishing pier, the harbor has a 350-foot day pier that will allow boaters to temporarily dock for up to four hours without charge.