Red tide intensifies in Southwest Florida

Red Tide Florida Beach – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Jillian Cain Photography

Red tide is appearing in Southwest Florida as some beaches have seen dead fish lining the shores. A report released Friday shows that red tide is also creeping upward along Florida’s Gulf Coast, clearing up the Florida Panhandle to Navarre Pier, near Pensacola.

While red tide conditions look much better than they have in previous years, those who work on the water say they are keeping a cautious eye.

Captain John Landry is a full-time charter captain based out of Fort Myers Beach, Florida. “This is the best I’ve seen the fishing in a very, very long time. It’s the best I’ve seen our water look for this time of year also in a very long time,” Landry said.

This is great news for charter captains after what floated in a few years prior. Captain Ozzie Lessinger, full-time charter captain based out of Captiva, stated “I mean 2018 was, was awful and it was, you know, devastating for our business and for the fishery in general.”

Captains Lessinger and Landry are just two of the Southwest Florida charter captains that depend on clean water. “People need to get involved. They need to understand that the lifeblood of our community for probably 60 to 80 percent of the businesses is water quality and if we don’t fight for that water quality, we will have, we will, we will lose it,” Lessinger said.

“Charter captains are facing a lot of issues environmentally, you know, we’re in the constant fight with our water and the discharges from Lake Okeechobee,” said Landry.

Now, red tide is slowly making its way back into parts of Southwest Florida. “I think a couple of weeks ago, I noticed it around Red Fish Pass. I was all the way up north on Friday up around Gasparilla Pass… definitely up around Gasparilla Pass, there was… there was some dead fish that had been around for quite a while,” Lessinger said.

This gives captains a reason to remain vigilant to what’s on the horizon. “Red tide is naturally occurring, we’re always going to deal with it. But when you have so many nutrients in the water, the phosphates and the nitrogen that is in the water, that’s what continues to let that red tide feed in and continue to bloom and be nonstop,” said Lessinger.

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County states that swimmers should stay away from the water and dead fish when red tide is present. FDOH-Lee also said that you should not eat shellfish or harvest distressed or dead fish when there is a red tide bloom present.

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