Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our World's Greatest Lagoon in Crisis

Gold at the end of the rainbow — the Indian
River Lagoon.
My leap into saltwater fly fishing was defined by both blunder and success. It started some thirty-five years ago along the east shore of the Indian River Lagoon (IRL). If I remember correctly, I used a tin bobbin to apply a coat of red nylon thread to secure three small dabs of white bucktail on the neck of a Mustad Shaughnessy- 3407 hook. My fly rod and reel were as rudimentary as was the design of my fly. The reel had no handle to reel in its line; it only had a thin metal lever used to energize a spring-loaded device to retrieve the fly line. The two-piece yellow fiberglass rod was heavy and cheap, much like my first fly casts and presentation.

Regardless, I knew of many places along the IRL Coast that were special sweet spots for the fish I targeted using my substandard fly rod and poorly hand-tied flies lived. I fished those habitats; the ones rich in lush sea grass beds and those thickly shaded with red, white and black mangrove canopies. These areas were often teeming with crabs, shrimp, mullet, glass minnows, and many of the other forage foods which attracted an abundance of the marine critters I worshipped.

Over time, I caught spotted seatrout, snook, tarpon and red drum, despite my lack of fly fishing grace and skill. The IRL system was a fly fishing paradise back then; I should've never taken those days for granted.

I became a fishing guide a few years later, depending on the Lagoon's vigor and vitally to afford my family their lifestyle. On good days back then, my clients could catch and release over a hundred spotted seatrout before lunch if they wanted to.

Many others discovered the bountiful IRL Coast, and moved here to explore and relish the blessings of its bounty. Developers cleared land and drained wetlands, built homes, and landscaped the yards with non-native plants and grasses that depended on fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides and routine watering. During that time, State, county and city officials tailored laws and regulations that made it easy for the developers to change the lay of the land, and in the long run, alter the quality of our water and our lives.

Yes, what has placed the IRL in crisis is an explosion of growth and population within its watershed. The fact is, Florida's economic machine has been fueled by development and real estate and other connected industries for generations, and the chances of this changing anytime soon are near zero.

The results of this reckless development and horrifically poor management and leadership on issues directly connected with storm water and ground water issues has plagued the health of Florida's waterways. Regardless, we all should see the light at the headwaters of the Lagoon, because individually we can make a huge impact on the conservation of the IRL and the other rivers, lakes, springs, creeks and bays of Florida.

For instance, our family has “Floridified” our yard and adopted the “Three R System.” Practicing reusing, reducing and recycling we hope for a brighter IRL future, a future where green sea grass once again covers its bottom.

For more on how you can make the wise choices on how to return health to Florida's waterways check out or contact me, Rodney Smith, at Together we can proactively change Florida's future.

Rodney Smith, CEO of Little Pond Publishing;and author of Catching Made Easy and Enjoying Life on the Indian River Lagoon is a visionary and community leader who like to share his tales. Download these books digitally on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes and Noble by searching "Rodney Smith+Name of book"; or order the soft-covered books online!  See all of Rodney's upcoming events and exploits at