Happy New Year to you all, I hope you ended 2022 on a high note and have plans to make 2023 an even better year!
Holiday Red Tide Was Bad – Look To Be Abating In January
As for fishing, Tampa Bay is coming off of a red tide spell that hindered the last few weeks of the year for our fishery. Red tide blooms were found highly concentrated around the Fort Desoto area and very present throughout most of the lower bay, even up to 10 miles or so offshore. With this late bloom came another cycle of the bait moving out of the area, and fishing to slow drastically, while even if you were able to catch bait south and transport it back into the Desoto area, the entire live well would die. Although you could get a few fish to eat shrimp and artificials, the majority of the fishing recently has been dismal. There have been numerous fish kills this bloom as I witnessed more than 10 large black drum washed up on the beach and countless other small fish and sea life floating dead on the surface.
Red Tide has become more rampant over the last few years than ever before and although there are contributing factors out of our control, as it is a naturally occurring phenomenon, there are some factors we can control that are directly impacting the severity of red tide blooms, such as pollution and fertilizer runoff. A few suggestions would be to impose stronger sanctions on businesses that dump into the bay, including more oversight of the dismantling of Piney Point and those in charge of the travesty it became be brought to justice. Lastly, we need more fertilizer bans and stricter policies for communities that border the bay and neighboring areas, as Florida is continuing to see record growth. These are just a few examples I believe would be steps in the right direction to ensure we maintain a sustainable fishery here in Tampa Bay. Some are speculating that this most recent bloom could be a remnant effect from Hurricane Ian that hit Fort Myers and the weather and tides pushed it north to now be affecting Tampa Bay. Even if that was the case, once it arrived here in the bay specifically, the bloom grew exponentially while also becoming more concentrated. We may not be able to rid Red Tide entirely, but we certainly need to find ways to mitigate the contributing effects when it is present or year after year, at this rate, it will destroy our fishery. We can’t continue to hope solely on a big storm to pull it out of the bay or a cold snap to kill it because if one of those doesn’t happen our red tide blooms will continue to last longer and become more frequent.
However, its not all grim news I bring in the New Year. I was on a charter January 3rd and although we’re not back to the normal wintertime fishing that we are accustomed to, there are signs of good news on the way. Bait is beginning to move back onto the flats, dolphins are popping up all over, and sheepshead are back munching on bridge and dock barnacles.
One unfortunate telling sign that the bay has not yet fully recovered is a lack of mullet on the flats and in the usual spots that we see them this time of year. The bottom bite in and around the bay has kept us busy, as grouper, snapper, and sheepshead have all remained active throughout this period.
The redfish have been steady in the upper bay; as this time of year with the cooler months these fish seek the warmer water temps of the muddy flats that absorb heat more rapidly. I hope in the weeks to come we are back to more normal fishing patterns.
Until next month,