IMMOKALEE, Fla - Take an airboat ride along the shores of Lake Trafford, and there are signs of life everywhere. The lake, long known for its alligators, is seeing a resurgence in one of the state's most prized fish, the Largemouth Bass.
The return has been more than a decade in the making. A series of algea blooms and fish kills beginning in the 1990s all but destroyed life in the lake. Edward "Ski" Olesky, owner of the Lake Trafford Marina, likes to remember the better years.
"This used to be one of the best bass places in the state," Olesky told WINK News Anchor Cayle Thompson. "It'll come back again. I know it will."
Efforts by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission are helping.
"The lake had some serious nutrient issues which would cause the algea blooms," FWC fisheries biologist Josh Wilsey said.
FWC began restoring and revitalizing the lake in the mid-2000s. To improve the ecosystem, the lake was dredged and plant life has become a focus.
"It's basically opened up more habitat for the fish and wildlife," Wilsey said.
Experts have seen a change, and so has Olesky. For the first time in over a decade, a fishing tournament on the lake yielded a bass that weighed in at over seven pounds.
It's a milestone Olesky hopes encourages anglers to return.
"Over 95 million cubic yards of muck was taken out of that lake," Olesky said. "It's paid off... what they've been doing, and what they're still doing today."