Expert says red tide caused fish kills in Charlotte Harbor

An expert says red tide is to blame for rotting, dead fish filling a canal in part of Southwest Florida, and a homeowner we spoke to thinks there is more going on.

There was lingering red tide in Charlotte Harbor Friday. Homeowners told us fish have been collecting and rotting in their connecting canal since Wednesday.

“We can’t come outside,” Stringer said. “We can’t even enjoy the lanai. We smell it through the screen. It does help a little bit, but I mean, this is a perfect time of year to actually be out and enjoying the weather.”

Corrie Stringer and Jacob Hopper live in Punta Gorda Isles in Punta Gorda. They moved in about a month ago. The couple has quickly learned there is beauty, and there is a stench.

“It’s just a bunch of bloated, decomposing, fish carcasses by the hundreds; I mean by the hundreds,” Stringer said. “Literally of all different species, and they’ve been rolling in since Wednesday, and it hasn’t stopped. They just keep coming.”

Their neighbor Tim Richie says he warned the couple about dead fish popping up near homes in the canal.

“I can tell you we’ve had this house for 26 years. I used to eat fish out of here,” Richie said. “I wouldn’t eat one fish out of this canal.”

Richard Bartleson with Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation told us red tide is to blame for this fish kill.

“It’s early for red tide to start out in the Gulf,” Bartleson said. “This is red tide that we had left over from last fall. Basically, we never saw the concentrations near the shore go down to zero. So some places the conditions are right.”

Bartleson says the fish kills happening now are from lingering red tide that peaked last year.

“A couple of weeks ago, it started showing up in pretty high concentrations in Charlotte Harbor,” Bartleson said. “And then the wind started blowing from the north from the south, pushing the red tide towards the north and into around around Port Charlotte, in Punta Gorda and Peace River.”

Stringer and Hopper don’t understand why the dead fish collect near their home. They just want them gone.

“I would be willing to help, but there is no — I don’t know how to dispose of them properly,” Hopper said. “We can’t throw it in our trashcan … It’s a big operation.”

We reached out to the City of Punta Gorda and Charlotte County. The city said it’s busy removing dead fish from around city parks. The county told us it only clears fish from county parks and beaches.

Charlotte County removed more than 5 tons of dead fish Tuesday and Wednesday during the week alone.

Reporter:Gail Levy
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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