Friday, January 19, 2018

Anglers wary about Red Tide


Nothing creates more confusion and anguish among anglers than the words "Red Tide."

For weeks now, a harmful algae bloom has been lingering 5 to 20 miles offshore between Tarpon Springs and Dixie County. There have been reports of fish kills in deep water, but as of today, there have been no issues reported inshore.

Local fishermen and boaters remember Tampa Bay's last major Red Tide. In 2005-06, water- and tourism-related businesses lost millions as dead fish covered local beaches and shorelines.

"There a lot of misconceptions about Red tide," said Dr. Vince Lovko, manager of Mote Marine Laboratory's Phytoplankton Ecology program. "Perhaps the greatest one is that it is always red."

Lovko said the organism that causes Red Tide, Karenia brevis, sometimes turns the water a rusty red, or it might just be a dark patch on the surface.

Scientists from Mote, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are aboard a research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico monitoring the algae bloom that has expanded and shrunk in size several times in recent weeks.

Lovko said anglers always want to know what triggers a Red Tide, but he said there is no simple answer.

"We don't fully understand the role nutrient sources play but there tends to be some common misconceptions about the role human activity plays," he said. "We do know that they usually start offshore and that they have been occurring for a long time, even before the first settlers arrived here."

Lovko said microscopic algal species similar to the plantlike organism that causes Florida Red Tide can be found in all of the world's oceans and many freshwater lakes. At high enough levels, these organisms can turn the water brown, green and even purple.

While researchers have kept good scientific records of Red Tides in recent decades, diaries of the early Spanish explorers contain numerous accounts of fish kills in the Tampa Bay area.

Sometimes a Red Tide can last just a few weeks, then return a month later. Other times, such as 2005-06, the killer bloom can linger for more than a year. Our local variety, K. brevis, likes the offshore habitat, where the salinity is higher, and doesn't live long when it moves up into an estuary such as Tampa Bay.

The most recent report shows a high concentration of Red Tide about 5 to 10 miles off the Central Pinellas coast and moving slowly south. But as Lovko added, "It can move up and down the water column. One day you may see it … the next you don't."

Many Red Tides, including K. brevis, produce toxic chemicals that can affect the nervous system of fish and other organisms. Sometimes, when a Red Tide gets close to shore, wave action can break open the algae which releases the toxins into the air, causing respiratory problems for humans.

Officials say it is still safe to swim, but if you experience eye, nose or throat irritation, get out of the water. And if you see dead fish floating, find another place to swim.

Anglers can eat the fillets of any fish caught during a Red Tide, because the toxins usually accumulate in the fish's internal organs, not the meat. But don't eat anything if it does not look healthy.

The FWC operates a "Fish Kill" hotline. The state agency also has an excellent information page on Red Tide. To learn more, go to Mote Marine Laboratory is another leader in Red Tide research. Go to


Captainís Corner: What to expect from fish coming out of the cold spell

Extreme cold has brought backcountry water temperatures down. As in years past, extreme dips have shocked many fish, especially snook, which take the biggest hit and become extremely lethargic and often near death. Luckily the cold wonít be long, and...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Captainís Corner: Divers, anglers going after amberjack

Over the past two weeks divers and anglers have been in search of amberjack. The season opened Jan. 1 and ends Jan. 27. The short season for gulf amberjack has pushed many divers and anglers to venture offshore, even in questionable weather. Donít fo...
Published: 01/18/18

Captainís Corner: Cold weather brings different but effective fishing styles

This past week has seen a variety of different fishing styles prove effective. Fishing for trout in deeper depressions with live shrimp has provided steady action. Rig as follows: Use a ?-ounce jighead, grab a shrimp from the well and pinch the tail ...
Published: 01/17/18

Captainís Corner: Devise a strategy before heading out into the cold

The quality of fishing this month depends on how many cold fronts are in our future. When the water creeps down below 60 degrees, many fish will slow their metabolism in order to survive. They require less food than in the warmer months, making some ...
Published: 01/16/18

Captainís Corner: Make sure the fly gets in front of a hungry fish

Back-to-back winter cold fronts not only confuse inshore fish but the fly fishers who pursue them. The most perfectly tied fly is not effective unless it is in front of a fish that is anxious to eat it. The best daytime tides, very low early and inco...
Published: 01/12/18
Updated: 01/14/18

Captainís Corner: Cold, windy days just fine for trout fishing

Trout have been my most productive target during the start of this new year. Winter cold fronts and cold water are making conditions difficult to target snook and reds. Strong winds from passing fronts make it hard to work the shallow-water flats. Th...
Published: 01/12/18
Updated: 01/13/18

Captainís Corner: Cold driving out kings, but there are alternatives

Mother Nature gives and she takes away. Nature gave us warm water and great king fishing until Dec. 31. She ushered in the new year with a severe cold front with high winds and rough seas that kept us in port every day. The cold air and overcast skie...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Captainís Corner: Techniques for catching (and cooking) tasty sheepshead

Cold water has fishing in sort of slow motion. Middle bay temperatures (Gandy area) are holding in the 54-56 degree range. During this time of year the stalking of large snook and redfish take a back seat to finesse fishing and trying to figure out w...
Published: 01/10/18
Captainís Corner: Colder weather calls for different approaches

Captainís Corner: Colder weather calls for different approaches

With colder weather the first big change is what bait to use. Before the cold fronts in the first week we were using greenbacks and catching a bunch of snook. With the cold weather that has hit us we are now shifting gears and using shrimp and throwi...
Published: 01/08/18
Updated: 01/09/18

Captainís Corner: Winter need not interrupt fishing

The inevitable effects of wintertime fishing have finally arrived, but there are plenty of opportunities for the determined angler. Trout, both silver and specs, are cold water tolerant and among the best bets inshore. Now too is when schools of shee...
Published: 01/07/18
Updated: 01/08/18