Red tide reemerges in Southwest Florida

Red tide is reappearing in Southwest Florida. Some beaches have even seen dead fish lining the shores.

While red tide conditions look better than they have in previous years, those who work on the water say they’re keeping a watchful eye.

Captain John Landry is a full-time charter captain based out of Fort Myers Beach. “This is the best I’ve seen the fishing in a very, very long time. It’s the best I’ve seen our water look for this time of year also in a very long time,” Landry said.

This is welcome news for charter captains after what floated in a few years ago. Captain Ozzie Lessinger is a full-time charter captain based out of Captiva. “I mean 2018 was, was awful and it was, you know, devastating for our business and for the fishery in general,” said Lessinger.

Captains Landry and Lessinger are just two of the Southwest Florida charter captains that depend on clean water. “People need to get involved. They need to understand that the lifeblood of our community for probably 60 to 80 percent of the businesses is water quality and if we don’t fight for that water quality, we will have, we will, we will lose it,” Lessinger said.

“Charter captains are facing a lot of issues environmentally, you know, we’re in the constant fight with our water and the discharges from Lake Okeechobee,” said Landry.

Now, red tide is slowly creeping back into parts of Southwest Florida. “I think a couple of weeks ago, I noticed it around Red Fish Pass. I was all the way up north on Friday up around Gasparilla Pass… definitely up around Gasparilla Pass, there was… there was some dead fish that had been around for quite a while,” Lessinger said.

This gives captains a reason to pay attention to what’s on the horizon. “Red tide is naturally occurring, we’re always going to deal with it. But when you have so much nutrients in the water, the phosphates and the nitrogen that is in the water, that’s what continues to let that red tide feed in and continue to bloom and be nonstop,” said Lessinger.

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County says that people shouldn’t swim around dead fish when red tide is present. FDOH-Lee also says you should not harvest or eat shellfish, distressed or dead fish when there’s a red tide bloom.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Drew Hill
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