Cold Decimates Florida Saltwater Fish

MIAMI, Jan. 19 (UPI) — It could take coastal snook and other saltwater game fish years to rebound from Florida’s record-setting cold snap this month, officials said.

“I haven’t see a swimming snook in 10 days,” Everglades guide Benny Blanco said. “All I have seen is floating (dead) snook.”

State wildlife officials reported the fish kills were widespread in Florida’s bays and channels, The Miami Herald reported Tuesday.

“I was so shook up, I couldn’t sleep,” Audubon ecologist Pete Frezza said after examining inlets in the Everglades. “Millions and millions of pilchards, threadfin herring, mullet … . Whitewater Bay is just a graveyard.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission last week ordered the catching and keeping of snook, bonefish and tarpon stopped, though catch-and-release would still be allowed for all three species.

The fish kill began when water temperatures dropped into the low 50s, with high winds pushing colder, heavier waters into deeper channels where fish typically seek warm refuge.

“Even the channels became a tomb,” said Jerry Ault, a marine biologist at the University of Miami.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

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