While fishing might seem challenging to the average angler, there are definitely some bright spots in what has been a perplexing season. Seasoned guides like Captains Scott and Justin Moore and Captain Rick Grassett have been catching fish consistently but having to move with the whims of the red tide.
The only areas consistently free of the red tide are regions where low salinity inhibits the formation. Late last week, clear water made an appearance on the beaches of north Longboat Key only to disappear the next morning. While there are some encouraging signs, everything is still in flux.
This past weekend I participated in the Sarasota Bay Watch Ninth Annual Monofilament Cleanup. I launched at the north end of Longboat with Michael Dolan of Cortez, and Nancy Greenwood and Casey Lamb from the Longbeach Village. We spent the morning removing discarded fishing line, tackle, lures, trash and flotsam from a small rookery at the mouth of Bishop’s Bayou before moving to the Bridge Street Fishing Pier on Bradenton Beach and then Kitchen Key near Cortez.
After cleaning the bridge fenders at Longboat Pass, we decided to head south along the beach to assess the conditions. We finished in the cove bordering the Longboat Key Club in New Pass. At our last stop, we were greeted by three manatees. Considering what these gentle creatures have been through with the red tide they were a welcome sight! We had lunch at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron with other volunteers before heading back north in the bay.
The ride was a mixed bag of excitement and disappointment. While there were areas that looked healthy with bait and jumping mullet we also crossed water that looked bad, smelled bad and even had us coughing for a brief period.
One thing I do know from experience is that this episode will end, and clean water and life will return to the Gulf and bays.
Having said that, I can’t stress enough the importance of learning the lesson this experience is posing. While red tide is natural, the frequency of occurrence and intensity is not. Man-made nutrients are worsening the effects. It’s critical we don’t forget and elect politicians that vote for common sense policies that protect our waters.
Recently you may have noticed full-page ads in local newspapers paid for by Big Sugar. In the ads, they are dodging responsibility for the nutrient loads and releases of water that are spawning green algae blooms and fueling red tide. While it’s true that they may have been getting more of the blame than they deserve they definitely are part of the problem.
They lobby to have water levels kept artificially high during the dry season to assure they have water to accommodate their agricultural lands. This becomes a problem during wet seasons when excess water cannot be stored and must be sent east and west into the Indian River Lagoon and Pine Island Sound.
Expect more of the same and worse if we don’t address the root causes of the problem. They are understood, and a draft plan is already available that would help alleviate much of the problem. The only thing missing is the political will. That’s where we come in. Like the old saw says, we’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.
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