The Importance Of Protecting Underwater Ecosystems While Fishing


I was fishing inside the inlet with a good friend not too long ago. We were on his flats boat right at 3 feet, and as we moved from spot to spot, the depths held as the tide stayed put.

We were targeting the usual suspects: tarpon, snook and redfish with the occasional bycatch. Excellent weather and a perfect moon phase provided great conditions for angling.

The high point of our day was finding an oyster bed just as the sun was setting. This small area of warm, nutrient-rich water holds a significant amount of fish.

But as the tide pushed out, it dragged the boat and created a cringe-inducing sound no boat owner ever wants to hear: crunch! The boat had drifted a little too close and was bouncing on a mound of new and old oyster shells.

These areas are teeming with underwater life, which brought to mind other areas that anglers must be mindful of.

As I mentioned, inshore anglers like to find these beds and small reef systems. For offshore anglers, it’s bottom fishing on a reef. Even pleasure boaters like to pull up to the shoreline of a shoal or island for a break from the monotonous rolling motion of the water.

Be aware of what lies beneath. We must be hypersensitive to these breeding grounds. They are a nursery for juveniles and habitual eating areas for many species of fish and crustaceans. Not to mention, stepping on them can have just as dire consequences for feet as running the boat’s hull over them.

The reef systems, shell beds and breeding grounds are perilously close to collapse. Our interactions can have devastating results if we are not mindful of how and where we intend on angling.

As you anchor up on a reef or beach on a shoal, be mindful to not drag the metal spears of your anchor across these delicate, living and much-needed reefs and shell beds. They are a precious resource that keeps the ocean’s food chains in a state of plentiful bounty. All in all, have fun, be aware and go catch a fish!

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