Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Leaving Fish to Die a Big Problem at Guana Dam; Even "Undesirables" Have a Role in the Ecosystem of the Area, Reserve Officials Say

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Leaving Fish to Die a Big Problem at Guana Dam; Even "Undesirables" Have a Role in the Ecosystem of the Area, Reserve Officials Say

Article excerpt

Byline: SHAKAYA ANDRES

People who catch fish then leave them along the Guana Lake Dam to die could be threatening the life cycle of some fish populations such as lady fish and pogies, which may be considered undesirable catches but are nonetheless important, officials said.

The dam, off Florida A1A south of Ponte Vedra Beach and north of Villano Beach, separates Guana Lake to the north from the Guana River to the south. The dam is known by anglers as a prolific fishing area for reds, black drum, trout and flounder.

But it's also noted recently as a place where people leave less-desirable fish such as lady fish, pogies and undersized and oversized red to die.

"Though the bait fish are the majority of the [unwanted fish], they have an important role in the food chain or ecosystem," said Diana Eissing, spokeswoman for the Guana Reserve.

There are several theories why some anglers leave fish on the dam. Some may have personal biases against certain fish. Some may believe there is an endless supply of "trash fish." Or they merely may want to prevent the rejects from biting again, depleting their bait, officials said.

The number of fish found dead along the dam varies depending on the season, tides and days of the week. But Guana rangers report dead fish there every morning, said Susan Van Hoek, Guana Reserve educator at Marineland.

"The real problem is that these fish have been left to die on land rather than released alive to fulfill their natural role in the food chain," she said. "The species' ability to grow and breed is being disrupted, which in the long term may threaten the sustainability of these fish populations."

Guana Research Reserve Ranger David Harshbarger said another problem is that birds can come to rely on discarded fish as opposed to hunting for their own meals, and the fish attract other scavengers such as raccoons, possums and rats. …

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