Offshore, for the past 3 days we know of, dead grouper and grey snapper (Key West Grunts) have been floating on the surface East of Hernando Beach and Crystal River. On Sunday, when this reporter went to confirm the fish kill, other reports of the fish kill were heard by anglers of Crystal River. It is nearly impossible for anglers to determine where the kill begins. However the fish floating on the water was extremely wide spread from roughly 40 to 50 miles offshore of Hernando beach. The floating mass of bloated grouper to 30 inches occurred roughly at 50 feet of water, West of Hernando Beach. Further reports via VHF radio were heard off Crystal River.
Since NOAA does not normally keep track of red tide fish kills, but the state of Florida FWC does, (FWC hotline for fish kills is 1-800 636-0511) may cause a bit of a problem. Since the offshore waters are not normally patrolled by the FWC, as the cost of operating offshore is to great due to the poor funding (what they get comes form their allocation and that money is often ‘loaned’ to other entities). However, so far, there has been no notice of an outbreak of red tide or grouper and grunt fish kill reported.
The origin appears to be way offshore, and no reports of Red Tide have been in the news or reported. In addition, Red Tide North of Tarpon Springs would be a break from the normal occurrences’ of the algae bloom, as it rarely is seen that far North. Actually, the grouper and grunt fish kill goes as far as offshore of Crystal River.
Since the 50 and 60 feet depths (50 miles out) have several known grouper haunts, efforts to catch anything where the floating dead fish were to be found were useless. Nothing would bite in this area, nothing at all. Therefore it was assumed that some of the fish may have sunk to the bottom and contaminated the bottom area anglers were in; or perhaps that was near the origin of the problem. No stinging stench normal to a Red Tide Algae bloom was encountered on several trips to the area, only the smell of dead fish.
NOAA was informed and is currently working with Florida’s FWC to determine if the source was contamination or red tide. Whatever it is, it is devastating to the offshore fishery In the Central Gulf of Mexico. This has affected the deep water fishing grounds past 50 feet deep off Hernando Beach and Crystal River. Corroboration of this fish kill can be verified by contacting Capt. Frank at www.alwaysfishing.com