Rick Ruoff and I were talking skiffs yesterday–and in particular about the fine custom pirogues built by Brian Esposito–when the subject turned to the health of Upper Keys bonefish.
I noted something Harry Spear had mentioned a few months back: that fish were much easier to see in the Keys these days because of the absence of the deep, dark turtle grass that used to line most of the basins and flats. “Makes sense to me,” Rick replied. “The best theory I’ve ever heard was that we need a hurricane to come scour the grass clean every few years. But since the algae blooms have become widespread and more regular, it may be that the grasses are already so week that any hurricane will just scour them off the bottom. That’s what happened with Wilma in 2005. It left big sandy areas where there used to be lush turtlegrass and manatee grass.”
“What do you think is at the source of it all,” I asked Rick, who is a trained marine biologist.
“There are some people who don’t want to hear this, but I think it has to do with pollution, which may be why the Lower Keys have been mostly spared. The prevailing wind in the Lower Keys pushes it all out to see. But the prevailing wind in the Upper Keys just pushed it all back into Florida Bay.”
We’ll be interviewing Rick, who’s been guiding in the Keys now for 43 years, in the coming weeks.