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Red tide detected in Charlotte Harbor

Thousands of dead fish are washing ashore all across Charlotte County. FWC reports that there’s a cluster of red tide near the mouth of Charlotte Harbor but in relatively low concentrations.

No one is coming out here for a relaxing walk on the beach with dead fish.

There are thousands and thousands of all different sizes and species of dead fish washing up.

But, the wind and rain may be just what we need to clear out the harbor.

John Robbins lives in Naples. “That’s the first thing we noticed that we could actually smell the fish,” Robbins said.

Noreen Mattson is visiting Charlotte Harbor from Sarasota. “I KNEW right away there was something going on,” said Mattson.

First, you smell it, and then you see it. “I noticed all the fish on the beach and then realized exactly where it was coming from,” Robbins said.

“I think we’ll probably be leaving pretty shortly,” said Mattson.

The cause of the stench and death is most likely a red tide bloom lingering in Charlotte Harbor. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found high concentrations of red tide near the Punta Gorda boat ramp 11 days ago.

red tide map
Credit: WINK Weather

Now, dead fish are washing ashore and floating through waterways.

Captain Steven Phillips owns Southern Charm Charters and says business has been picking up.

“Florida has been a playground. We’ve been really fortunate and been busy. The fishing’s been great,” said Phillips.

Except for on Monday. WINK News was his only guest for the day.

“Those fish you’re seeing dead are fish that died a few days ago,” said Captain Phillips. “Today looks much better, much, much better than the last couple of days.”

But still, not ideal for those looking to cruise through Charlotte Harbor.

Richard Bartleson is a Research Scientist with the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. “You are losing a good deal of the ecosystem when this happens and it takes a long time to recover for the ecosystem to recover,” Bartleson said.

WINK News reporter Erika Jackson asked if these lingering dead fish and bad smells were solely due to red tide. “Does this have anything to do with the situation at Piney point in Manatee County?” Jackson said.

“Most likely no chance of that because of the distance from Piney point. And the fact that the currents don’t come this way from Tampa Bay,” said Bartleson said.

Captain Phillips is hopeful our waters will return to normal soon. “Good rain, good wind direction, and it could very well clear it up,” Phillips said.

If you’re near Charlotte Harbor, be ready to see and smell dead fish for a bit. This red tide bloom may take longer to clear out of the enclosed harbor than the open gulf.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Drew Hill
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