MATLACHA, Fla. — A few days ago, aerial photos showed algae floating within Matlacha Pass.
The pollutants have been a major concern not only for water quality experts, but for wildlife as well. But how is it affecting local anglers?
“We’re having fun and busy fishing all day!"
For the last four years, Captain Matt Ruffing has been running the Cape Coral Fishing Charters full-time. Originally a Wisconsin native, Ruffing and his family were drawn to Southwest Florida for its waters. But recently, aerial photos showed algae floating within Matlacha Pass. The same waters he’s used to traveling through for his charter.
“Seasonally, obviously, I notice the water clarity changes," says Ruffing. "A few year’s back, we had red tide really bad- noticed a lot of dead fish floating on the way out offshore. But from what I’ve seen, in Matlacha, in these areas that I’m passing through everyday, I’m not seeing any dead fish but seeing plenty of wildlife.”
In fact, on our way out through Matlacha Pass- pelicans could be seen dive bombing the waters, capturing unsuspecting fish below.
And dolphins, jumping through the boat’s wake. Ruffing says that wouldn’t be the case if there was something wrong with the water.
“Usually, when the water quality is bad and toxic, everything kind of pushes out," he says. "The bait is hard to get, my inshore friends they have to go further out towards open Gulf to get their bait but this year they’ve been doing pretty good. Right in the pass, around Bokeelia, I haven’t heard any complaints that way.”
Water quality experts have cited storm runoff as a potential contributor to the recent change. Something that has become sort of the norm with hurricane season. And while the water has cleared up in Matlacha within the past couple of days, those who use the waters most know this isn’t the last time they’ll be seeing storm runoff this year.
“That turns up the water and changes the water conditions," Ruffing said. "We were out there, I think three or four days after (Elsa), fishing and you can tell the water clarity gets messed up from that. Yesterday we were about 50 miles offshore and we could see our anchoring dangling 80-feet below the boat and that’s pretty clean water.”
And like any good fishermen, Ruffing says he’s going to take advantage of the suitable conditions while he can.
“I don’t see anything that anybody is going to be suffering from anytime soon, by any means.”