Fishing the gulf coast of Florida is unlike anywhere else in the world. But there’s something magic about the waters in southwest Florida. Even more magic than anywhere else in the state. Within the Ten Thousand Islands area to Everglades National Park lies a rich ecosystem capable of providing habitat to countless inshore fish species. This just doesn’t happen by accident though. It takes not only the government to set aside national park boundaries and state parks, but us as ethical anglers as well. It’s a group effort and when we all work together, something magical happens. And that magic is evident in the coastline from Marco Island south to Florida Bay. There are other players in the game besides the government and concerned anglers when it comes to protecting such a pristine and fragile ecosystem. Take the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) for example. This organization puts an emphasis on conserving AND restoring fisheries and habitat through a number of different outlets such as: research, stewardship, education and advocacy. They are heavily science based that work closely with many other institutions and government agencies to help get their research heard. Speaking of research, the BTT partners with universities and institutions whom of which have the expertise in conducting the proper scientific research so that proper regulations and projects can be put into place to either conserve or restore the existing habitat and fish population.
The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) also plays an intricate role to the area’s battle to provide a proper habitat for thriving fish. Much like the BTT, the CCA’s objective is to conserve, promote and enhance the present and future availability of coastal resources. They do this by initiating scientific research, funding marine-science scholarships, building artificial reefs, supporting marine law enforcement, creating fish hatcheries, monitoring quality and quantity of freshwater flows and much, much more. Did I mention that they’re a non-profit organization?
There are things you can do as well to help conserve our precious fishery. Practice ethical angling techniques like using rubber coated nets, minimizing handling of catch-and-release fish, wet hands before handling fish, holding a fish horizontal and many more. Also, when fishing the Marco Island, or anywhere else for that matter, hire a guide that takes conservation seriously. They know the regulations and species in the area so that the fish are handled properly and without harm. Remember to also practice CPR; catch, photo, release!