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An Update on the Florida Fish Kill

February 5, 2010
Author: Trouts Staff

This came off the website for of the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust regarding the recent fish kill in Florida that resulted from the extreme cold in early January. 

“The severe cold that gripped Florida in early January resulted in high levels of fish mortality. Snook appear to have been hardest hit, but bonefish and tarpon were killed as well. In response, on January 15, 2010, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission closed harvest on these three species. Catch and Release fishing is still allowed. And there is a silver lining in this cloud.

The cold weather in Florida has caused mortalities of numerous coastal gamefishes.  The night temperature reached down to freezing along coastal areas in the central and southern part of the state three or four nights in a row.  Reports of dead bonefish came from in the Upper Keys and scattered reports of small tarpon statewide. The FWC has closed these fisheries to harvest even though few tarpon are kept, and the limit on bonefish is only one per person per day (yes, some are still harvested in South Florida). Catch and release fishing for these species is still allowed. The FWC is taking this proactive, precautionary approach to ensure the long-term health of the fisheries. As temperatures warm, guides and anglers are finding hungry fish coming in from deeper waters.

In addition to bonefish and tarpon, snook took a big hit. The most recent estimates were of >100,000 snook dead statewide. If true, this would be almost 7% of the total snook population in Florida.  The FWC has responded by canceling the opening of the snook season, due to open February 1. Adding this to the summer closed season, this means that snook can’t be harvested until fall.

The silver lining – we and our colleagues at University of Miami have been collecting some of the dead bonefish and tarpon for biological samples. From these fish we are able to get tissue for genetics, fish length and otoliths (earbones) for aging fish, stomach contents for diet analysis, and measurements for morphometric analysis, and more. So not all is lost. We are gaining some important biological information from this sad event.”

We’ll all have to see how the spring season plays out down in Florida.

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