This year gave us many ups and downs. I’m looking forward to 2019 with optimism and seeking new opportunities. Our waters seem OK for now; I’m praying they’ll remain healthy. We must learn how to reduce our contributions to our problems. 2018 will be remembered for our water quality issues. There are many more questions than answers, but we’ve definitely seen how much algae problems can cripple our water-related economy.

Still, we are surviving. Let’s all be thankful and find ways to help each other, because a rising tide raises all ships. As a fisherman, I must be optimistic.

Our area has endured challenges since Hurricane Irma blew through a year and a half ago. Water quality and negative press sharing our problems — real and imagined — have hurt us. Right now, our waters appear to be mostly good. The pre-Christmas storm certainly stirred everything up, and wind-driven tides flushed everything out. We had double our average monthly rainfall on Dec. 20 alone. I can’t assure you red tide over, but let’s hope it is.

All our businesses have been affected and many crippled by the messes we have had. Any water-related business that you deal with can use some support now. Do whatever you can to help them out. Guides, marinas, tackle shops, beach restaurants and so forth all need your support now. Share some holiday spirit every chance you get.

We have many more questions than answers about red tide. Many of us are still working to identify sources and seek solutions. Each of us reducing our careless nutrient contributions will help limit red tide’s food source. As we look for solutions, consider that we must work together to fix problems. Even I now understand that a sweet approach gets better results than vinegar! To find solutions that allow us to save the environments and jobs, we’ll need collaboration and agreement.

I don’t have to like the phosphate or sugar businesses to understand they are powerful and do support a lot of our fellow Americans. Let’s seek answers that compromise, where we can allow big business to continue but with practices that allow our water economy to survive too. Communication is easier without confrontations. Find common ground and nurture healthy solutions. Wars have too many casualties.

Don’t pick stupid fights for the sake of publicity and egos. If you want better results, offer vetted, thought-out solutions to address problem sources. Blasting our first-class research people at Mote because you lack the education to understand how life works is not intelligent. We need research to discover new ideas to solve our problems.

The new year is a perfect time to rearrange priorities. To discover better approaches to improve our world and our lives. To consider the long haul, not just what’s for lunch. We must force ourselves to change if we want different results. Our life styles are deep ruts that require diligent efforts to pull out of and stay out of. Everybody wants change to happen, but no one wants to change what they do. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.

My personal life is in turmoil. I had to have a surgical procedure and it went well. I can highly recommend the folks at Moffett in Tampa; they are pros and caring people. The red tide mess following Irma has crippled my guide business. I’m praying that this spring, everyone can bounce back and recover. In the meantime I’ll be thankful for what I have. As I look around, I see a few who do have it better, but many not even this good.

I hope everyone had a family-filled Christmas and will have friends to help you ring in a new year. Let’s help each other wherever we can, and remember you can’t catch fish if you don’t go fishin’, so let’s go fishin’ soon.

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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