Have you ever had the pleasure of poling a remote shoreline in Mosquito Lagoon early in the morning while being serenaded by the buzzing of thousands of wings?
No, not the insects for which the area earns its well deserved name; honey bees and bumble bees are omnipresent when mangroves are blooming. So much so, their collective buzzing nearly drowns out all other sounds in the area.
The next time it happens, slow down and poke your nose into the shoreline and watch them work. It’s a fascinating service they perform as they glean nectar from blossoms and collect pollen.
The lagoon is an amazing place, down to its smallest detail. Just like these little overachievers, we all need to do our part to make sure we’re acting in a manner that contributes to its sustainability.
Our responsibilities lie in how we treat it today and how we leave it for tomorrow.
For decades Mosquito Lagoon has been know to some as “The Redfish Capital of The World”. The area earned the title due to the presence of redfish of all sizes that roamed lush grass flats, shoals and oyster strewn bays. The highlight being the presence of schools of breeder size “bull” redfish in many areas that sustained the local population by remaining in the estuary to spawn.
Over the years, water quality has suffered and what was once an estuary known for its gin clear water has become a place where often times you will face limited visibility due to algal blooms and turbidity caused by a devastating reduction of seagrass.
Now more than ever, the guides that work in Mosquito Lagoon must be committed to loving the imperiled estuary.
Loving the estuary starts with how and where they fish, how they handle and release the fish and what they teach anglers about efforts to restore Mosquito Lagoon.
There are approximately 80 guides who may legally operate charters on Mosquito Lagoon. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is responsible for the permitting process and enforcement of commercial operations across a vast area. The Law Enforcement Officers tasked with doing so are understaffed and underfunded.
Due to the wholesale lack of a law enforcement presence, guide operations are not unlike the wild west frontier. Routinely you will see behavior that is unprofessional and unethical in the name of putting fish in the boat.
A large number of the permitted guides are merely part-time operators who merely see their trips as extra cash in their pocket, not a lifestyle or profession. Their behavior in exploiting the resource is shameful.
The small number of working guides who are out there nearly everyday are working hard to highlight these problems and have taken on a leadership role in advocating for policies and practices amongst guides that will aid in sustaining Mosquito Lagoon.
If you’re looking forward to booking a fly fishing guide in Mosquito Lagoon, please make sure you’re supporting the resource by choosing a guide who has demonstrated a commitment to preserving and protecting it.
Not sure who that is? Contact me and I’ll make sure you get the names of guides that I would trust. I’ve spent a long time fishing alongside them and know who is worthy of your hard earned money.
Recently, I had the good fortune to spend a few days on the water with my good friend, Ben. As always, I picked him up at the Orlando International Airport and within an hour or two, he was tight on a redfish. Its become quite the tradition for us.
Ben is working on a new YouTube project and it was a “work trip” for him, so it seemed fitting to put him on the back of the skiff.
Here’s the result of that effort to get him up to speed with a push pole.
I’d say he’s well on his way to becoming a regular Pusherman.
In addition to stabbing a few fish in the face, we spent time talking about more technical issues like the following:
Make sure to follow Ben on his new YouTube channel, Huge Fly Fisherman, more content is on the way, including conservation issues facing Mosquito Lagoon.
Ben will also have his writings about the state of conservation efforts in Mosquito Lagoon featured in This Is Fly magazine very soon, check it out.
Yesterday, as Tropical Storm Hermine brought wind and rain to the Space Coast; very few, if any, skiffs were on the water enjoying the mostly pristine beauty of Mosquito Lagoon.
The serenity of the quiet moment was interrupted when a thunderous series of booms shook the house again and again.
I immediately went outside to investigate, knowing it wasn’t thunder from a storm band rain shower approaching.
Moments later, social media began to break the story of an “anomaly ” that had just occurred when SpaceX was testing a rocket motor in preparation for an early morning launch on Saturday.
I went to a nearby dock and immediately saw the smoke plume rising to the south, nearly 17 miles away.
Thanks to safety protocols, no human life was lost, nor were there any injuries. The question that remains is: how much environmental damage might be done by the remnants of rocket fuel that were surely washed into the surrounding marshland when a deluge of water was applied to extinguish the massive fire.
Currently, Space Florida is awaiting an environmental impact study’s completion in an effort to bring just such a launch site to the MINWR, just 5-7 miles south of my home along the shores of Mosquito Lagoon. I hope that a fully transparent and objective study includes the aftermath of this incident in the study. The area being considered is home to many endangered and threatened species and is opposed by US Fish & Wildlife staff that run the Refuge.
Yesterday was a wake-up call. Space flight remains a risky business and with that in mind, I remain opposed to the Commercial Launch Facility that is proposed.
Shiloh Commercial Spaceport
In 2012, the State of Florida requested 150 acres of NASA land located at the north end of the Kennedy Space Center, near Daytona. The site – known as “Shiloh,” which is largely unpopulated at this time, would be developed into a dedicated commercial spaceport. Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana communicated his support to the Federal Aviation Administration in April 2013 for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Study of the site. Today, the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation is working with the State of Florida to complete the Environmental Impact Study, which is anticipated to be complete by late 2015. Following the successful completion of that study, Space Florida will submit a formal application to the FAA for consideration of a Spaceport Operators License at the site.
I support the creation of a new launch facility on the current NASA campus where infrastructure already exists to respond to and manage the next inevitable “anomaly” when it occurs.
Continue to stay engaged on this issue and have your voice heard saying No Shiloh Launch Complex. The MINWR needs to remain pristine and clean.
The overwhelming push on environmental issues that are far from clear like anthropologic climate change on social media sometimes results in easily understood and non controversial ones to be overlooked. For instance, water quality in our communities’ waterways has declined over the past decades, yet not a lot of people are aware of the issue and how easily they can change their behavior to improve it.
Whether inland or along the coast in Florida, decades of fertilization of yards has resulted in lush landscapes around most neighborhoods. The unintended consequence is run-off of excess fertilizer into adjacent streams, ponds, lakes and rivers. The resulting nutrient load in the water results in algae blooms and uncontrolled growth of various submerged and emergent grasses and plants. In the worst of cases, oxygen levels plummet and living creatures throughout the water column die.
Even cutting grass and allowing it to get washed into storm water sewers has the same effect, as the clippings contain high amounts of nutrients that are easily released into the water, upsetting the natural balance.
In order to combat these problems, many communities have asked their residents to suspend fertilizer application through the rainy season, June – December. Doing so will help to prevent the run-off from thunderstorms being so easily loaded with excess nutrients.
In addition, several counties and municipalities are using placards and public information campaigns to educate the population on how to avoid sending clippings downstream into bodies of water by simply being mindful of where your mower sheds clippings. Don’t blow them into the street, send them back across the yard where they can degrade and release the nutrients into the lawn, where you want them anyway.
Simple problems and simple solutions are easy to understand. They don’t contain hidden agendas or the creation of “credits” made out of a nebulous idea that go to an equally mysterious bank.
If your neighborhood lacks a similar program, get involved and get one started. The cost is low and the benefit to the environment is real.
Check out how its being done along the Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County, Florida. Its a great example of how little ideas can have a big impact.
Its on. There is plenty of social media chatter regarding the onslaught of shoreline cruisers along the Space Coast. The buzz is confirmed, get out there. Light flies, natural colors; you’re welcome.
I’ve been putting in a good bit of time plying the Mosquito Lagoon over the past couple of weeks. When the opportunity presented, I took a few moments to simply enjoy the view.
On one of those recent afternoons I had the pleasure of spending part of my day with T.J. Saunders doing work from the front of the skiff. If you ever find yourself visiting Tampa and need a guide, look him up:
The more time I spend on the water, the more I get it. Even though I’m standing there with a fly rod in hand, its the total immersion into the environment that impresses upon me the essence of why I’m there.
After pulling on the rope to start up my faithful 25 HP outboard a simple twist of the tiller washes away the daily grind of the day job and my soul is set free to roam unabated.
I used to think these adventures were about stalking and catching fish. Now I simply let it happen along the periphery of the overall adventure and where it might lead.
I always have my head on swivel, searching for the next target that happens to be swimming by, but it is the macro view of the environment that brings the most joy.
I’ve seen a bobcat standing some 20 feet away along the mangrove sprinkled shoreline as curious and startled by my presence as I am of it. I’ve watched in awe as a bobcat swam between two islands carefully watching me as I passed by on plane, gawking.
The myriad of shore birds that ignore my presence as I slide by silently until I’m within a stone’s throw give me pause.
Seeing the ground appear to move as hundreds of fiddler crabs retreat from the waters edge in unison mesmerizes me.
I cherish this thing we call fly fishing. Not because of the fish I’ll hold for a moment or two to admire, but for the experiences that will form my fondest memories, for it is every time I go forth, I reinforce the notion that anything happens, everyday.
The Summer of 2014 will forever be seared into my memory thanks to the time I spent in the wilds of Western Alaska. Two weeks of self-reliance with a small group of fellow riverine fly fishing nomads was filled with memories that have crept into my mind everyday since my return. It was epic.
The salmon we sought were old salts, making their way back to the waters from which they had sprung. Theirs was a one way journey, undertaken to sustain their family lineage.
Up the coast from Florida, one of the great storytellers of the Lowcountry made a similar trip. His lens captured the essence and minutia of it in fine fashion.
There is a burgeoning movement afoot amongst those who spend time on the waters of Mosquito Lagoon in Central Florida chasing redfish and speckled sea trout. Its a quiet, but sustained, call for a change in guiding practices. Its being brought about by the heightened awareness of most anglers to the estuary’s troubles with extreme angling pressure and degraded water quality. Armed with the knowledge that the resource needs a helping hand, more and more anglers are becoming vocal on social media calling for charter captains and others to make Catch & Release the standard practice rule, rather than the exception.
The angling community is changing its attitude towards the long held idea that the Mosquito Lagoon is a place to go fill your cooler. While anecdotal, there is a wealth of evidence that points towards shrinking numbers of large breeder redfish, as well as a decline in juvenile redfish. Despite a majority of anglers recognizing the state of the fishery as one that is in decline, some guides see the change to C&R as potentially harmful to their business and have taken to social media to promote how splendid the fishing has been and that the resource is bountiful. Their hype is not true.
The joys of angling are many. Lowest on most anglers list is the consumption of their catch. The beauty of the environment, the thrill of the hunt and the excitement of the fight are more truly the reasons than most anglers will spend countless hours on the water in search of fish. Recreation is the goal.
The Catch & Release movement is shaping what is considered ethical and reasonable within the guide community whether the guides sign on or not. Why? Because their clients get it. They’re out for a great day catching lots of fish. C&R will lead to better opportunities for fish filled days, which of late have been the exception throughout the estuary.
Their clients get it because they want their children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities they’ve had, if not better. They’re buying in because its the only way it will happen.
The C&R movement is not saying to guides, don’t take a single fish; the angling community is calling for a more responsible approach that educates charter clients on the current state of the resource and encourages Catch & Release. The community is asking guides to forgo the practice of adding “their” fish to the clients limit.
Its always tough to change. Resistance to change is expected. The guides that are early adopters of the Catch and Release movement will be the ones who benefit the most. Word will spread and the guides will be rewarded with praise and referrals.
Catch & Release is the rule in Mosquito Lagoon and its here to stay.