Where is the outrage? Where are the packed Capitol chambers like in 1988 when the CCA, then FCA, bused in hundreds of red hatted anglers from across the state to fight and win gamefish status for redfish?
Where is the commitment CCA had in 1992 when it helped gather over 400,000 signatures to change the state constitution, making it illegal to use gill and entanglement nets over 500 square feet to harvest fish in state waters?
These type of efforts for and by recreational anglers, and our representative organizations, have been nonexistent for the last two decades. Granted, Florida is doing a better job these days managing the state’s fisheries. The gear and allocation issues of the 1980s and ‘90s have been settled for the most part. However, the reason we still can’t keep inshore fish on the southwest coast, find a trout in northern Biscayne Bay, or consistently find redfish in Titusville, is another story. It isn’t commercial overfishing. It’s unfishable water.
With the collective effort of a million saltwater anglers, we should be able to get the attention of those making decisions regulating our state’s water. However, there’s no single issue or simple solution to rally around. The problems in the northern Indian River Lagoon aren’t the same as Biscayne Bay nor are the solutions. The Everglades and Apalachicola Bay are worlds apart. But, generally the solutions come down to priorities. Choices.
Will our representatives choose clean, healthy water over special interests such as Big Sugar?
The answer is NO, unless they feel us.
We, as anglers, and our respective organizations, need to commit to fighting together, and possibly working with others fighting for clean water, such as the Florida chapters of the Water Keeper Alliance. If we do, we may stand a chance against the well-organized and well-funded special interest groups grasping with all their might to control our state’s water.
There are two areas where we can focus our attention right now.
If you’re a member of CCA or ASA (American Sportfishing Association) or know someone at Captains for Clean Water, demand they participate with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as they review Lake Okeechobee operations during the LAKE OKEECHOBEE SYSTEM OPERATING MANUAL (LOSOM) public comment period over the course of 2021. The lake must be kept lower. A final report is due late 2022. This operational playbook will control water in the lower one third of the state for the next 8 to 10 years. It will have major consequences for the health of Florida Bay and the estuaries downstream of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. All three sides of the lower peninsula are impacted by decisions regarding Lake O management.
Another front where our representation is needed is in our state’s capital. Our voices need to be heard. We need a collective voice fighting for anglers right now as bills begin getting submitted for the next legislative session. The Clean Waterways Act, SB 712, was submitted last session Oct. 30, 2019 and was amended 16 times before finally being signed by the Governor June 30, 2020. Unfortunately, what started out as a weak bill for clean water and anglers only got worse over time. We need new legislation or strong amendments.
It’s clear that we need better representation. We’ve heard that in Tallahassee and D.C. for years. Individually, we’re like a mosquito on the backside of a horse. With a bite we’ll make its tail switch, but collectively we can move the horse into a full-on sprint. We are the 800-pound skeeter in the room, let’s act like it. Let’s create a clean water stampede. FS
CALL TO ACTION
The collective voice of over 1 Million Saltwater Anglers needs to be heard.
Tell your respective organization to get involved in the LOSOM process, and to fight for legislation to reduce nutrient pollution of our fishable waters.
Captains for Clean Water
Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
Florida Wildlife Federation
American Sportfishing Association