Does spraying harm the fish?

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Pamela Dade shared this photo of a fish caught in the St. Lucie River on social media on Feb. 8, 2020. According FWC, this photo is actually from 2014.

Krause offers to pay for testing

OKEECHOBEE — The health of the fish in Lake Okeechobee and waterways throughout Florida is of great concern to Mike Krause at Okeechobee Fishing Headquarters. In recent months, he has been concerned about allegations on social media that herbicide spraying conducted by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) contractors may be connected to lesions and tumors found on fish in waterways across the state.

Mr. Krause decided to do something about it. He’s asking area anglers to help.

“I know there will be a lot of practice going on for the ABA (American Bass Anglers) and Costa fishing tournaments coming up in the next couple weeks. I would like two — or more — bass with open sores on them. I would like them to be alive when they are brought to me. Size of the fish doesn’t matter but prefer 1-4 pounds,” he explained. For data purposes, he would like the GPS data on the location where each fish was caught.

“I will not publish where you caught them, but for data purposes I would like GPS numbers as well as water and weather conditions. Samples of the water and or bottom where the fish are caught would be great,” he said.

He explained that he will keep the fish alive in tanks at Okeechobee Fishing Headquarters until they can be picked up for testing. He will send one fish to FWC and one to a private, independent testing facility.

“When I have the results, I will make them public and will also send the results from each test to FWC and the second testing facility for their comparison to see what each facility tested with and for. My hope is stakeholders will do the same thing on other lakes, then forward me those results,” he explained.

“If the lesions are connected to the spraying, we need to find out, and that needs to be handled,” Mr. Krause said. If the lesions are not connected to the spraying, collecting the fish will make it easier to determine the cause of the problems.

The GPS data is important, because it can be compared with the FWC data on when and where spraying was conducted. The GPS data will also allow FWC to conduct more research in targeted areas where fish with lesions were caught.

“I want people to be truthful,” he said. “I am giving everyone the opportunity to present their case.”

Mr. Krause said that, as a businessman whose livelihood depends on Lake Okeechobee fishing, he is tired of the negative publicity circulating online. If there are any problems with the fish, then it’s time the problems are documented, researched and resolved.

He added that he does not believe the lesions have been a widespread problem on fish from Lake Okeechobee. He said he asks anglers who come into his shop each day about their catches. He also recently worked a two day tournament in Clewiston in which he helped weigh in the fish brought in by anglers on 125 boats. “I looked at every single fish and there was not one sore,” he said. The only dead fish connected with that tournament jumped out of a tank and hit the concrete head first.

FWC has hotline
Anglers who catch fish with lesions or tumors can also contact the FWC hotline. FWC scientists will examine any legal-size fish with lesions or tumors to confirm the cause of the problems. Anglers who catch fish with with lesions or tumors can call the Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511. FWC will help you arrange for free shipping of the samples for analysis.

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