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Bush sets Pacific for protection

January 8, 2009

In an effort to bolster his dismal environmental legacy before leaving Washington, President George Bush designated three areas of the Pacific Ocean, nearly 200,000 square miles, as a marine sanctuary.

"All will be protected under the same status afforded to statues and cultural sites, through the 1906 Antiqui-ties Act."

The law allows the government to immediately phase out waste dumping as well as commercial fishing and other items that take from the environment. Supposedly, recreational fishing, tourism and scientific research still will be allowed. (Watch out fishermen.)

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Red Tide update: For the last year or so we have enjoyed a break from the obnoxious deadly algae know as red tide, or "Karenia brevis" named after a Florida scientist Dr. Karen Steidinger.

In 2005, a 2,000-square-mile "dead zone" located 10 miles offshore between Sarasota County north to Hernando County killed marine mammals, fish, birds, turtles and a great deal of corals and other bottom dwelling invertebrates. Even people are affected with respiratory distress during these outbreaks. Naples had to clean the beaches with front end loaders to remove the masses of dead, rotting fish.

The dead zone between Sarasota and Tarpon Springs was caused by oxygen depletion that killed almost everything in and on the ocean floor. Red tides killed an estimated 163 sea turtles, 63 manatees, 25 dolphins, untold numbers of bottom creatures, and tens of thousands of fish.

Mote Marine in Sarasota says fish stocks are coming back strongly after an almost 18-month vanishing act, especially in the Sarasota area. Sea trout that had disappeared from their typical grass flat homes in Sarasota and Tampa Bay are now back in great numbers as evidenced by fishing reports from local guides and recreational fishermen.

Sea trout are a good way to measure water toxicity due to their delicate nature. The corals, and other invertebrates are recovering, but at a much slower rate. Red tides which supposedly occur naturally throughout the world have been written about since the 1800s in Florida.

Lots of research is ongoing to find a solution to these outbreaks that affect wildlife and people as well as the fishing and tourism industries. New research by Mote labs and the state has been developed, such as sensors placed at sea to monitor conditions. The use of clay and ozone has been shown to help, but it's difficult to use these cures in such a widespread area.

Also, the Center for Prediction of Red Tides at the University of South Florida was created in 2007 in conjunction with the FWC. A lot has been learned in the last five years and, hopefully, we can get a real handle on the issue.

Capt. Dick May of Easy Rider Charters reports that after several days of beautiful weather trout fishing remains excellent. Low winds and the associated calm seas have allowed him to go offshore to the 60-foot levels. Lots of grouper, grunts, porgies and sheepshead are being caught at that depth.

The captain says redfishing inshore continues to be tough. He and other guides will present free fishing seminars at Cape Tool & Tackle on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. He advises to bring a lawn chair.

My charter company, Flying Fins Sportfishing, also has found outstanding trout fishing. My clients scored big on trout in several locations this past week. Look for trout on grass flats in two to eight feet of water depending on water temps, tide and sun.

Bait fishermen hardly can go wrong with the classic bobber and live shrimp setup. If live bait is a problem then simply substitute a small jig, a DOA or GULP shrimp under the cork. Lure slingers will be happy throwing plastics of all varieties on small jigheads. Great fly fishing also.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.



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