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A deep freeze in the shallow waters of Florida Bay and Everglades took a heavy toll on snook and other native fish.
Everywhere he steered his skiff last week, Pete Frezza saw dead fish.
From Ponce de Leon Bay on the Southwest Coast down across Florida Bay to Lower Matecumbe in the Florida Keys -- day after day, dead fish. Floating in the marina at Flamingo in Everglades National Park alone he counted more than 400 snook and 400 tarpon.
``I was so shook up, I couldn't sleep,'' said Frezza, an ecologist for Audubon of Florida and an expert flats fisherman. ``Millions and millions of pilchards, threadfin herring, mullet. Ladyfish took it really bad. Whitewater Bay is just a graveyard.''
Fish in every part of the state were hammered by this month's record-setting cold snap. The toll in South Florida, a haven for warm-water species, was particularly extensive, too large to even venture a guess at numbers. And despite the subsequent warm-up, scientists warn that the big bad chill of 2010 will continue to claim victims for weeks.
``Based on what I saw in 1977 and 1989, there is a good chance well have a second wave,'' said William Loftus, a longtime aquatic ecologist for Everglades National Park.
During those last two major cold fronts, weakened survivors succumbed to infections from common bacteria, such as aeromonas, that they would normally ward off, he said.
Fish weren't the only ones that paid the price. Lots of other little critters did too.
While it might take snook and other saltwater game fish years to rebound, the cold snap should at least temporarily help less-popular freshwater natives such as sunfish by knocking off walking catfish, Mayan cichlids and other tropical exotics that have invaded the Everglades and many of South Florida's canals and ponds, said Loftus, who retired from the park last year and now runs a consulting business, Aquatic Research and Communication in Homestead. It also might help him in his current job of trying to knock back exotic fish populations at Fairchild Tropical Gardens, he said. ``I'm dancing a jig here,'' he said.
After all water temperature is greatly affected near the wter surface and not so much deeper down, the deeper you get the less the influence.
When the water temperature drops below 50 degrees, that's reasonably lethal for most of these species.''
The duration of the cold and high winds worsened things, Ault said, pushing colder, heavier waters off shallow flats into deeper channels where fish typically seek warm refuge. ``Even the channels became a tomb,'' he said.
Originally posted by plumranch
reply to post by JJay55
Iguanas falling out of the trees! I suppose they would! Question... do they recover or is that it for them?
Here's another email from my friend, Walt. My question was about how long recovery will take:
"Hard to tell how long it will take populations to recover, but we are obviously looking at a long term versus short term recovery.. Its the worst I have seen in the 20 years we have lived in FL. Its really sad - I saw a 20-30 lb dead snook off our dock this afternoon - the fish of a lifetime for most of us!"