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True tales from the wet side

Published Oct. 16, 2005

I was talking with a Clearwater old-timer the other day. That's anyonewho has been here more than 25 years; he's been here 38.

He tells great fish stories, only these tales are true.

He tells about fishing in Clearwater Harbor when the water was so clear you could see the sea grass thriving on the bay bottom, about the day he and a cohort caught 335 trout in one afternoon, about how the "sardines were so thick" and the pompano would jump into your boat.

Everybody knows the harbor is not like that anymore, but people disagree about why. It's not because Dunedin Pass has filled in, this fellow says. It's not because developers were allowed to construct Island Estates.

The culprit, he says, is Dunedin Causeway, pure and simple. The quality of the water in Clearwater Harbor, he says, began to deteriorate the day they put in "that dam," which was opened in December 1964.

"Fresh" water coming down along the Gulf Coast from Pensacola would flow into St. Joseph Sound east of Honeymoon Island and then into Clearwater Harbor.

This is the quality of water that kept the fish and fishermen happy, our old-timer contends, not the quality of water that has to funnel in and out of the channels south of Dunedin Causeway. He says the water going in and out of the passes is essentially the same water.

The unimpeded flow of water east of Honeymoon Island also produced currents strong enough that outgoing tides took sand with them, and there was no need to dredge and re-dredge Hurricane and Dunedin passes, he says.

The answer, he says, is to carve out a big chunk of Dunedin Causeway and replace it with a bridge to restore the necessary water flow. "You've got to get the dam out of the way!"

The money that's going to be spent re-dredging Hurricane Pass and possibly constructing a new Dunedin Pass channel across northern Clearwater Beach could be earmarked instead for the bridge, he says.

Among other observations, he said the Clearwater Pass bridge problems were caused by poor dredging, not currents; that the only way to keep sand on the Honeymoon Island beaches is to build groins out there; and that some long-term investors might want to buy "lots" in Clearwater Harbor because "that dam" is causing it to fill with sand.

By the way, he asked to remain anonymous because he's heard all these stories about the finger-pointing at anyone who doesn't buy the story that opening Dunedin Pass will be the salvation of Clearwater Harbor. At his age, who needs hidden agendas?

"God cuts the passes where He wants them," our old-timer says.