Photo Claire Sunquist ©
Reports of masses of cold-killed fish are coming in from many of Florida’s rivers, canals and estuaries. Both freshwater and marine fish are being killed by the cold. Along the Big Bend area and the Gulf coast, vultures and wild pigs are feeding on thousands of cold-killed mullet and snook washed up on the oyster flats and sandbars. The Waccasassa river, Withlacoochee river, Suwannee and Steinhatchee rivers are all reporting fish kills.
Florida’s sub-tropical climate and years of mild winters have also allowed several non-native fish species like tilapia and suckermouth catfish to extend their range further north. The recent record-setting cold temperatures have been lethal to these exotics as well as native species like gizzard shad, threadfin shad, and largemouth bass. Fishermen are scooping cold-stunned tilapia – which are not protected by state limits - off the surface of many north Florida lakes.
The State has placed a ban on catching bonefish and tarpon until April, and cancelled the snook season for the year. Snook, bonefish and tarpon are Florida’s most popular game fish.
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