OKEECHOBEE — A video posted on Facebook by angler Kail Stevens on June 21 shows dead bass scattered on the surface of Lake Okeechobee near Lakeport. Some local anglers suspect the fish may have been collateral damage from haul seine nets.
Mike Krause at Okeechobee Fishing Headquarters explained that haul seine boats were working that area for a couple of days. There has been no algae in that area, and no chemical spraying of the aquatic vegetation has been done there recently by FWC contractors, he added
The haul seine boats were seen Wednesday and Thursday between Buckhead Ridge and Third Point by three different guides, he explained. He explained that haul seine boats use long gill nets or mullet nets. They catch everything in their path but can only keep certain species of fish. Bass and other game fish must be thrown back.
The FWC did not respond to Lake Okeechobee News phone calls and email requests for more information about the fish kill
FWC permits haul seine boats
The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Freshwater Fisheries Division issues a limited number of haul seine permits to licensed commercial freshwater fishermen.
Haul seines are limited to Polk County and Lake Okeechobee. Ten permits are authorized for Lake Okeechobee.
“Lake Okeechobee is nationally recognized as supporting high quality largemouth bass and black crappie fisheries. The lake also supports a commercial fishery dominated by catfish species. However, the commercial fishery is also nationally unique in that a limited entry fishery (ten nets) exists for haul seine gear which is permitted to legally harvest and sell bluegill and redear sunfish. Freshwater fishing retail sales in the five counties surrounding Lake Okeechobee were estimated at more than $117 million during 2000. Biologically, Lake Okeechobee can successively support recreational and commercial fishery interests. Fishery management concerns on Lake Okeechobee not only require allocating available fishery resources between recreational and commercial interests, but must also be concerned with resolution of socio-political issues that result from user conflicts,” the FWC website states.
Seines may be operated only Monday through Friday. The lake is closed to seines on state holidays: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Friday after Thanksgiving Day. Christmas Day, and other holidays as they are designated.
Florida statute requirements of haul seine fishing include:
Other causes of fish kills
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website, many factors can contribute to fish deaths. Weather-related factors are common causes. Sudden temperature fluctuations or extreme temperatures can result in fish kills any time of the year.
Hot weather during the summer months can cause fish kills, in part because warm water holds less oxygen than cold water. In addition, lower water levels in lakes and ponds can result in poor water quality, increased density of animals and faster use of dissolved oxygen.
Heavy rains can compound the situation by suspending sediments in the water column and by washing vegetation, such as leaves and grass clippings, into the system where they will decompose. The decomposition process also can remove oxygen from water.
Report fish kills
The public can report fish kills to the FWC at MyFWC.com/FishKill or by calling the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511. You can also submit a report through the “FWC Reporter” app on your iOS or Android mobile devices.