everglades swamp

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Water is the lifeblood of the Everglades.

Man, I hope you have been out on the water getting in on the great fishing we’ve had lately. The tides have been moving a lot of water, and the fish have been putting on the feed bag and chowing down. It seems like every fish that comes to the boat is spitting up handfuls of stomach contents in an effort to get rid of the fly or jig that had them hooked.

This morning I hooked a tarpon (oh ya; lots of them still around) of about 70 pounds. On its first thrashing aerial assault, it launched 10 to 15 baitfish about six inches long into the air. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that it wasn’t my fly coming back at me, but several “mouth missiles” coming from the gluttonous tarpon. Snook, redfish, trout, ladyfish, mackerel, jacks, all doing the same thing … spitting up bait!

Did I say trout? Trout are everywhere right now. Haven’t been able to say that for a while, have we? Tie on a fly and get it in front of a fish; it will eat right now!

Having the great fishing that we do right now doesn’t mean we can forget about our water problems. I just checked the FWC’s statewide red tide status page, and we now have red tide from Collier County to Sarasota. Let’s hope that is a short-lived duration for this K. brevis bloom.

Remember that red tide is a naturally occurring event that takes place in the Gulf, but it can be fed by our polluted runoff water to the point of the killing monster we had last year. The state has just broken ground for the C-43 Caloosahatchee reservoir, the 10,500 acre “filter” pond south of Lake Okeechobee. In my eyes, that’s a good start, but a mere bandage on the pollution and water problems. This water coming from Lake O is the creator of the “other algae,” the blue-green algae that stunk up the downstream receivers of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee last year.

We still have people pollution problems all over the state that need to be addressed. Here is what Flip Pallot, fly fisherman extraordinaire and “consultant to the outdoors,” thinks about the problem and where the water should go.

• • • • • • •

My name is Flip Pallot and I write in response to having read your Miami Herald piece on python invasion. I was born and raised, as were my parents, in South Dade County. I grew up in the Everglades alongside many of its pioneers, or Gladesmen. I knew the Glades intimately from Cape Sable to Alligator Alley, from west of Miami to the Gulf of Mexico. I ran airboats, poled canoes, Glades skiffs, walked and waded the best part of my life through what was the most precious ecosystem on the planet.

The number of ducks, wading birds, deer, otters, hogs, bear, lions and other fur-bearers was astounding and remembered today by very few! The road from Florida City down through the Everglades National Park to the village of Flamingo, at the bottom of the state, was literally infested with deer, swamp rabbits, snakes, frogs, crawfish, gators, hawks, nesting turtles and crows, while the prairies on either side of the road were covered in vegetation which no longer exists.

As far as the eye could see, there were thousands of wading birds of every species — now all gone, their rookeries abandoned. Ride down that road for the next 100 mornings and you will not see a single deer or swamp rabbit, and birds only where a very few puddles of water exist.

It’s mostly gone now, never to be restored, which has nothing at all to do with wild hog invasions, python invasions or the “skunk ape.” Someone should have the stones to look the problem in the eye and call it what it is rather than blame the python and hog for the death of the Everglades! It’s like saying, “My eyesight is getting really bad because of my hemorrhoids.”

What the loss of every single thing in the Everglades has in common is water! The lack of it when and where needed, and the quality of it when it is present, is the only issue. The fact that so much of the Everglades is closed or inaccessible to the people who care about it and would blow the whistle on real problems does not help.

Focus your attention for a moment on the dollar value of chemicals that the state and municipalities buy each year to kill unwanted aquatic vegetation. Every single day, around the entire state, in every roadside drainage ditch, every lake, every river and stream, virtually every body of water in the entire state is being sprayed with herbicides — basically a generic Roundup manufactured by Monsanto.

There is little or no science, other than that supplied by the manufacturer, dealing with its effects upon amphibians, larval stages of fish or crustaceans or the life of the chemical in marl, mud or the decomposed plant matter that it creates. All this to eliminate hydrilla, hyacinth, water lettuce and other aquatics deemed noxious by governments.

This chemical and others surely find their way into the aquifer which underlies the state. It also finds its way into rivers, braids and sheet flow that ultimately make their way into the Everglades and other estuaries which are suffering from algae blooms and seagrass die-offs, and even the death of offshore coral reefs.

Follow the dollars back to the providers of these chemicals and you will understand the real nature of the problem. Add to all that the damage done by agri-interests north of the Everglades, run-off from golf courses, private homes, public streets, effluent releases untreated for antibiotics and steroids, the flushing of millions of toilets, the selfish manipulation of water levels in the Everglades.

And then, in perspective, figure how much damage the python has really caused. Hell, we should be nice to the python. He may be the last creature standing in the Everglades as that national treasure slips away! My God — we’re doing this to ourselves!

• • • • • • •

The fishing truly is great right now and I don’t want to lay a downer on a good time, but we can’t become complacent and turn a blind eye to what’s lurking out there.

Stay involved, and stay fly.

Capt. Rex Gudgel is a fly fishing guide in the Boca Grande area and an International Federation of Fly Fishers Master Certified casting instructor. If you’d like to get casting lessons, book a trip or just need more fly fishing info, contact him at 706-254-3504 or visit BocaGrandeSlamFlyFishing.com or CastWithRex.com.

Capt. Rex Gudgel is a fly fishing guide in the Boca Grande area and an International Federation of Fly Fishers Master Certified casting instructor. If you’d like to get casting lessons, book a trip or just need more fly fishing info, contact him at 706-254-3504 or visit BocaGrandeSlamFlyFishing.com or CastWithRex.com.

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