seagrass

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A healthy grassflat has a mix of grass and algae. Too much algae is a bad sign.

March is marching on and I’m looking forward to April. Hopefully it will bring less wind. The stiff breezes of March are true to form and blowing us off the Gulf frequently. I can fish the nearshore Gulf with east winds, but the west winds stir up beach waters. They are too rough to take folks out on safely. This week was tough as we were forced inside by high winds.

We caught a few fish last week but it was nothing like the calmer week before. On some trips, I was thankful to find ladyfish to bend poles. The abundant schools of Spanish moved on, but baitfish are still here. I expect many more mackerel and kings to pull our strings when it’s calm enough we can reach them. We are expecting east winds in coming days, which I predict will allow great fishing again.

It’s great to get a break from red tide and all the negative press about it. Stay on all possible prevention and possible cures, because it will not go away forever. We can each do our part by putting less nutrients in our waters to feed blooms. Prayers might help too.

We still have a big problem with algae in our local estuaries. We have a lot of dying red algae showing up everywhere as our varied wind directions blow it around. As waters warm up, this algae dies off and floats around.

The stuff isn’t good: It stinks if it blows up in your neighborhood shores. It also covers much of our bay bottom, suffocating our important seagrasses. Green grasses need sunlight. The algae covers the grasses, killing them. As you motor around shallow areas with dead algae, you will notice it being stirred up by the prop wash. It’s also a problem getting hung on our baits and lures.

Beach renourishment is necessary to prevent barrier island properties from falling into the Gulf. It’s not a solution — just a bandage to slow down the inevitable. Sands will always continue to shift with winds and waves. Beachfront living is not sustainable, but it’s fun between storms. Ask the folks in the Panhandle up around Mexico Beach how it works out when you get a hurricane. Mother Nature will eventually win.

If we go back before Venice did extensive beach renourishment decades ago, our natural hard bottom near Middle Beach offered very productive fishing. Capt. Scotty Moore, myself and a few others enjoyed excellent fishing on this bottom for snook, reds, trout and more.

Ask Capt. Mike Anderson of Reel Animals to dig up their show filmed on this very spot. They were taken to a super-secret spot by one of the newer guides in need of exposure. My clients were catching big reds and snook as fast as we could until they moved in and ran us off. Their diver swam in to shoot impressive underwater footage of the schools of snook we were enjoying. I’m sure Mike could find the footage to prove just how awesome this hard bottom was — before beach renourishment and red tides killed it.

We need to educate some of our Charlotte County commissioners about hard bottom mitigation. They are concerned about the costs but lack any understanding as to why the natural hard bottom is low quality now. With hard bottom in shallow water, beach renourishment tends to cover it up with sand. Understand that our longshore drifting of sand is from north to south, and it migrates with wave action.

I suspect the problem with fish holding locally longer is exactly the same as our beach hard bottom. But instead of sand covering it, red tide killed all the marine life — barnacles, sponges, corals, etc. — that held minnows and larger fish there. Either way, with no reason to stay, the fish don’t.

Growth and “progress” are not going away, but sustainability must be considered. I welcome any opportunity to help educate our commissioners about the importance of natural hard bottom. A manmade substitute is never going to be better.

I’m glad they are concerned about costs. How about increasing impact fees from 40 percent to 100 percent? How about all the taxpayers’ “investment” wasted on Murdock Village? These commissioners did not create this mess, but they are giving it away to get it back on property tax rolls. Let’s see the total amount we spent on Murdock Village projects. When we add up the initial costs, litigation, loss of taxes and interest, it comes to real money! Hundreds of millions of dollars, surely.

Fishing has long been and still is crucial to our local economy. Yes, construction is big too — but if we don’t maintain our quality of life, no one will want to live here!

This area was settled by fishermen because no one else could deal with the heat and bugs. Now that we have A/C and insect control, it’s been conquered by outsiders who are more concerned with money than our environment. Please consider what we are leaving for our grandchildren. I’ve enjoyed my four decades here, but it just might be time to move on.

Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or VanHubbard@CaptVan.com.

Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or VanHubbard@CaptVan.com.

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