Reel Time: The good, the bad and the ugly

This past Sunday morning I launched my boat to check out the red tide situation and look for places to fish. In the process what I found both discouraged and encouraged me.  The condition of local waters is deplorable, but we’re blessed with access to some healthy water and fish just to the north along the edges of Tampa Bay.

I started on north Longboat and worked my way to Port Manatee in Tampa Bay. The boat ramp on Longboat was awash in dead sea grass that was thick with dead fish and horseshoe crabs. Longboat Pass and the Bay had a few dead fish but very little signs of life. The same held true for Palma Sola Bay and north to the mouth of Tampa Bay. I explored Perico Bayou and began seeing seabirds, mullet and some baitfish.

reel time red tide fish
Red tide might not be killing only local fish but other sea life as well including seagrass. – Rusty Chinnis | Sun

On the west side of the river on the Bulkhead, I saw someone land a nice trout. Terra Ceia and Miguel bays looked normal with jumping mullet and diving terns. On the east side of the Skyway near Joe Island, the water was clear and full of life. I found similar conditions all the way to the port and in Clam Bar Bay and Bishop’s Harbor.

That’s the good news. On the way back, I decided to run the beach from Bean Point to Longboat Pass. That was a mistake. The water in the Gulf started out bad and got worse the farther south I went.  It was devoid of life, smelled terrible and you couldn’t see more than 6 inches deep.  On my return to the Bay, I noticed grass piled up all along the shoreline leading me to believe the red tide and anoxic conditions are killing seagrass too.

If you’re like me, you’re tired of and frustrated with the barrage of articles, newscasts and posts on the red tide bloom and would like to do something about it.  While there are many things about a red tide bloom we have no control over, there is something we do have control over – how we respond. That response includes actions we can take like the following. Sarasota Bay Estuary Program has compiled a list of eight things people can do personally to help keep the harmful and red tide feeding nutrients out of the bay.

  1. Reduce or eliminate fertilizer use;
  2. Properly dispose of pet waste;
  3. Keep leaves and grass clippings out of the bay – leave them on your yard as natural fertilizer;
  4. Keep rainwater out of the Bay. Direct downspouts into flower beds and the lawn;
  5. Drive less to lower nitrogen and CO2 emissions, which ultimately get into our waters;
  6. Keep your septic system in tip-top shape to avoid nutrient leaks;
  7. Plant native trees and plants to reduce irrigation and help soak up stormwater;
  8. Use a commercial car wash to reduce water use and manage wastewater disposal.

Secondly, we can join an organization like Sarasota Bay Watch that is working to restore populations of scallops and clams that benefit the Bay by filtering and cleaning the water column. Sarasota Bay Watch and other resource minded groups work to integrate youth outreach, experiences, education and leadership opportunities into their activities. This will help ensure that tomorrow’s leaders learn how to love and care for Sarasota Bay and our environment.

Thirdly we can educate ourselves and cast a vote for politicians that don’t put personal and corporate profits ahead of the health of the environment. If you do the research and keep an open mind, I believe the choice will be clear. Hopefully, if there’s the proverbial “pony under here somewhere,” it’s that we will pay attention to our power at the polls and will once again institute reasonable safeguards to our air and water.