CAPT. JOSH:

“I have to measure him again and I don’t have time. The bite is too good.” So said the captain with his two female anglers last Saturday at our dock. They had already measured him and taken pictures before putting this snook in the live bait well. After telling this young man to put the fish back in the water, he said that they had to measure him again and take more pictures. They were supposedly in a flats fishing tournament. So it pleased me immensely to see the column in this week’s WaterLine by Robert Lugiewicz. His statement that not every released fish survives was spot on (and I’m not talking redfish). I hope that every fisherman reads your column this week, Josh. Everyone needs to treat our fish with respect and release them quickly. Otherwise, catch and release probably kills more fish than the red tide! Keep up the good work.

— Linda Long

CAPT. JOSH:

Red tides or harmful algal blooms occur worldwide and have bee reported here in Southwest Florida since the 1800s. The past several years, and especially this year, they have been devastating and destructive. Politics, population growth, big sugar, fertilizer and even the governor are all being blamed for what is now being called an ongoing disaster. Pencil this citizen in as believing that the exploding population growth of a non-native species is negatively impacting our environment and is a very real and significant part of the red tide problem. In the 1960s, tilapia were introduced into Florida to control aquatic vegetation. Billions upon billions of tilapia now infest the waterways of south and south central Florida. In both the Peace and Myakka rivers, tilapia dominate the fish biomass. Their overwhelming presence has voided these rivers of all submerged aquatic vegetation. The vegetation that provided habitat and oxygen for native species while absorbing nutrients is gone. We are not alone! Drastic reductions in native plant and fish species have occurred where tilapia have been introduced. It is a global problem with documented ecosystem invasions and negative impacts being reported in Australia, Brazil, India, South Africa, Fiji, China and more. In the 1950s, tilapia were introduced to Lake Victoria in Africa, the world’s largest tropical lake. They depleted vegetation, removing habitat and out competed native species for food. Massive amounts and fecal detritus sank and decayed absorbing oxygen. It created dead zones in the lake and algae blooms and fish kills were reported. Sound familiar? Florida — we have a problem. A big fix is not a solution, only a diversion. First, we need to immediately stop the use of herbicides to control aquatic vegetation. As the vegetation decays, the organic material settles to the bottom exacerbating the problem. Native or non-native, we now need every and all of the nutrient absorbing aquatic plants currently found here. In summation, it’s time for our scientific community, together with the FWC and our local and state governments to come together and develop a strategy or game plan to correct something gone terribly wrong.

— Michael Regan

MICHAEL:

While I am inclined to agree with your assessment that tilapia don’t do the natural Florida environment any favors, I believe you may be overestimating their impact. A 2009 study conducted by local FWC biologists found that tilapia abundance has dropped significantly. While they represented nearly 10 percent of the fish biomass in the 1980s, electroshock sampling in 2005 and 2006 showed they had dropped to less than 3 percent of biomass (see the full study results at https://goo.gl/26ZrZ1). Tilapia may be part of a larger problem, but there do no appear to be enough of them to take all of the blame.

— Josh Olive, WaterLine Publisher

CAPT. JOSH:

When I opened my WaterLine it smelled fishy! I live in North Port Estates — no red tide here ... whatzup? My main question is this: I know the whole newspaper downsized, but I really miss the “Fumbling Fisherman.” Thought you were going to have a book published with all his columns ... sure his wife would enjoy the reminisce. Kinda had a list of friends and relatives to send the book to ... Thanks for any feedback.

— Jane Spaid

JANE:

So that fishy smell on the paper is not due to any previous mullet wrappings but rather to the paper milling process. The inks we print with are water-based, and sometimes when it’s really humid the water doesn’t fully evaporate before the paper reaches your hands. That dampness carries a slight fishy or musty odor. It dissipates pretty quickly. As for the Fumbler, I have no plans to drop his columns and they should be returning in a few weeks. I’m not sure where we left the book plan. Tom’s widow and I talked about it a few times but it kind of fell apart.

— Josh Olive, WaterLine Publisher

Letters are welcome on any outdoor-related subject, but we do have some rules. Please keep them to less than 250 words. Letters may be edited for length as well as grammar and spelling. We reserve the right to refuse any letter not signed with the writer’s full name. Slanderous or libelous material will not be published. The Letters to the Editor section is designed as a public forum for community discourse. The opinions and statements made in letters are solely those of the individual writers. WaterLine and Sun Coast Media Group take no responsibility for the content of these letters.

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