Last week I had the chance to get out on Florida Bay with my good friend, Rusty Albury. A fifth-generation Conch, Albury is one of the top guides in Islamorada.
Leaving the basin at Lor-e-Lei, he throttled up his skiff. After about 10 minutes, he pointed to the ever-greening water and said, “See this? Wait about 15 minutes.”
Right on schedule, we entered a pukish-green mass of some of the most vitriolic water imaginable. If we’d had a problem with the lower unit on the skiff, I would’ve thought twice before slipping overboard. It was that bad.
“We’ll be in this for about 20 more minutes,” said Albury over the drone of the outboard engine. Again, right on schedule, the water cleaned up and looked as good as you’d expect the water in the Florida Keys to look.
“What’s up with that?” I asked.
“We’ve always had some of this green water, as long as I can remember,” said Albury. “But it’s worse now than it’s ever been. Nothing swims in it. Bonefish won’t tail. It just kind of moves around based on the wind direction. Some days it’s in Flamingo, some days it’s in Islamorada and some days it’s in the middle. It just never seems to leave.”
While scientists are investigating the water, Albury has an anecdotal explanation for it.
“Two years ago, when Hurricane Wilma came in, it drove the storm surge way up into the Everglades,” he said. “Seems like it went up into every nook and cranny of the mangroves and the swamp, and then it washed back out.”
If that’s true, it doesn’t bode well for Florida Bay. In the brief period that they’ve been keeping records, few if any hurricanes have approached the Everglades from the southwest. This one did, and it flushed out more than 100 years’ worth of man’s detritus and toxins into one of the last, pristine environments on earth.
The long-term effects are uncertain but, in the short-term, it is definitely changing the way guides and anglers approach Florida Bay.
Stay tuned for more on this in upcoming issues of FFSW.