ENGLEWOOD — Even with a steady west wind in Englewood and Cape Haze Thursday, only spotty and very slight scents of airborne red tide toxins could be detected in the air.
A big relief compared to the last two weeks.
“Two weeks ago, the snook left,” said Cindy Masheck, manager of the gift and bait shop at Stump Pass Marina. The busy facility is accessible by land through Grove City, and by water via Lemon Bay and nearby Stump Pass.
Dozens of large, trophy snook prowl beneath the marina’s docks and are a bit of an attraction in their own right, snapping up shrimp and other bait thrown to them. They seem to know that the longstanding no-fishing rule in their basin is strictly enforced.
The snook left just as tides started carrying dead fish, floating into the marina basin.
Masheck also said she suffered from a scratchy throat two weeks ago. That sandpaper feeling, along with coughing, labored breathing and headaches are typical signs of airborne red tide toxins.
Elsewhere, too, dead fish floated into canals and along the shorelines of Placida Harbor and Lemon Bay. When red tide concentrations exceed 100,000 cells per liter of water, the toxic algae will kill fish and other marine life.
Samples taken earlier in the week in Lemon Bay and Gasparilla Sound, around Grove City, Placida, Boca Grande, showed algae levels approaching and exceeding that level.
But is it finally abating?
The good news Thursday is the snook were back. No dead fish floated in the basin. No scratchy throats.
Patrons enjoyed outside lunches at the marina’s Lighthouse Grille.
Along the Boca Grande Causeway at Eldred’s Marina and bait shop, Sam Dixon said, “It seems to be getting better.”
Like Masheck, Dixon said the snook under Eldred’s docks disappeared for a while when the red tide was prevalent but have since returned, including a big female snook that likes to beg for scraps.
In the mangroves across from the Placida Boat Ramp, no signs of floating dead fish tangled among mangrove roots. Only a flock of white egrets perched in the mangrove branches.
But that doesn’t mean local waters are completely free and clear of red tide.
While the beaches of Manasota Key were reporting clearer conditions, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found medium concentrations of red tide from Little Gasparilla Island and Boca Grande Pass, and high levels near the Boca Grande Fishing Pier on Gasparilla Island.
A water sample taken from Manasota Key’s Ski Alley only showed low concentrations, however, and points north in Lemon Bay showed only background counts.
Is it getting better?
The snook seem to think so.