LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Some local charter boat captains are afraid red tide will kill their business. For the past six months, southwest Florida coastlines have seen medium to high levels of it, washing mass amounts of dead fish on shore.
Captain George Howell has been running charters in southwest Florida for eight years. 75 percent of them are between March and May.
As he drifts into busy season, with every fish that floats by, he grows more concerned about red tide's negative impact.
"When people show up here anxiously to get away from the cold and looking forward to our beaches and waters, and they see rotting dead fish and manatees and sea turtles, its pretty disappointing," he said.
He started to see an increase of dead fish over the last week, and how the toxic bloom is affecting his bait. "The bait was dying very quickly within minutes, so you knew something was not right," he said.
Howell even snapped a photo of a dead manatee and says he's seen three of them in a week. "You start to realize this is a little more than you normally see and its probably the red tide that's the cause of this," he said.
He says other captains also try to avoid it the best they can, and hope they'll stay afloat. "If the charters fall off or we have problems financially because of it, it's really going hurt at home."
Many people hope the cold front coming in this weekend will at least disperse some of the red tide in the area, if only for a couple days to get some relief.