ESTERO BAY, Fla. – From empty beaches, to dead fish and declining business, a charter captain said the impact of Lake Okeechobee water releases is noticeable everywhere he turns.
Captain Eric Davis has owned his charter company for 17 years. He said he typically schedules about 300 fishing trips annually. But since the beginning of January at least 35 of his trips have been cancelled, he said, and there is little he can do to convince people to stay in Southwest Florida.
“As of right now no there’s nothing I can do to change their minds,” Davis said. ‘The water is the way it is. We have to stop the flow of the freshwater coming out.”
Davis said he has not seen the murky condition of the water since the late 1990s.
On Monday Davis took a photo of a dead dolphin in Estero Bay while out with a fishing group. The cause of the dolphin’s death has not been identified, but Davis wonders if the fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee were involved.
“This was a full grown adult dolphin that had no visual marks on it from being hit by a boat or anything like that and it was floating dead, so I would have to assume that it died from red tide,” he said.
With fish dying, Davis said he fears the impact of Lake Okeechobee water releases could have an effect on Southwest Florida for the next three to five years.
“So much freshwater now is killing so much of our small fry juvenile fish, our juvenile snook, our juvenile red fish, our bait fish,” Davis said. “When you lose all that it takes years and years and years for that stuff to come back.”