Chemical waste dumping leads to fish deformities

CAPTAIN FRED LIFTON, MARCO ISLAND SUN TIMES, OCTOBER 19, 2006
His name is Gerald Nicks and he lives in Goodland. He’s a Sarasota native and has been a commercial fisherman on Florida’s Gulf Coast all of his life and he thinks he has the answer to something that’s been bothering me for about 15 years. His experience spans 62 years, so I figured I’d listen to what he had to say.

In the mid-1980s, we discovered, by checking out a spot a Loggerghead turtle was over, a chunk of structure on the bottom, about 12 miles out west of Marco in about 42 feet of water. It wasn’t large, but boy did it produce fish. Especially big mangrove snapper and gag grouper. It was sure fire fishing in the fall and winter months, so we fished it sparingly and didn’t share our find with anyone. This went on for years until the winter of 1992 or 1993 when the mangrove snapper we were catching had large indented lesions on them and were very empty-feeling, not at all firm and fat. This went on for weeks and we told our clients not to keep or eat them as we didn’t know what was wrong. No agency we contacted seemed interested or was any help and soon afterward that structure was gone. Vanished. So the problem was gone as well and I haven’t seen anything like it since.
Now Gerald Nicks thinks he knows what that was. He says it’s similar to what happened to him and his brother in 1947 off the coast of Clearwater in 60 feet of water while hand-lining for grouper. They snagged a drum with their grapple hook and when they got it to the surface, a very smelly greenish liquid came pouring out of the ruptured drum that Gerald says smelled like the chemical gas he smelled while he was in the army in WWII. The side of the drum was marked U.S. government. He went to the local nabobs to report what he saw but, typically, no one cared or did squat. He went to McDill Air Force Base in Tampa and talked to a guy named Johnson who knew about chemical dumping but said he didn’t think, but wasn’t sure, that the government dumped any chemical waste that close to shore. After that drum that Gerald ruptured fell back into the Gulf, in the weeks that followed he observed dead fish around the area for a while until the current carried the destroyed drum away.
Gerald supplied me with documented proof of mass dumping of chemical weapons waste by the U.S. government off our shores. The Intrafish Daily Press states that the army admits it secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard agents into the sea along with 400,000 chemical bombs and 500 tons of radioactive waste. This stuff was dumped off the coast of at least 11 states, six on the east coast, two on the Gulf coast, and off California, Hawaii and Alaska. What brought this all to a head was an incident that happened off the New Jersey coast in 2004. A clam dredging operation brought up an old World War I artillery shell that was filled with a black, tar-like substance when the bomb disposal unit from Dover Air Force Base was dispatched to neutralize it. Three bomb disposal techs were hospitalized with large pus-filled blisters on their hands and arms from handling it. The stuff was mustard gas in solid form. There is much, much more to this story than we have space for here, but log on to: www.intrafish.no (subject: U.S. Chemical Weapons Foul Seas) for more on this topic published March 11, 2005.
See ya!
Retired fishing Capt. Fred Lifton has been fishing Marco Island waters for more than 32 years. He welcomes your fishing questions, comments and suggestions at 394-7445, or by fax at 394-8353.


STRANGE RED TIDES
Tarpon. Tarpon. And more tarpon?
By the droves in October? Yes, yes, yes. The guys are having a field day out front and down south. Couple that with great snapper and cobia fishing, and you can see that life is good in Southwest Florida.
Capt. Sean Black of Say What started the week with a bang up day when he took Robert Cutter from New Jersey out on a day of snapper fishing on some wrecks 25 miles southwest of Marco. They just limited out on mangrove snapper when a big herd of cobia came up and milled around the boat. They baited up some heavier rigs, stuck on some live sand perch and Katey bar the doors. They boated six fish between 20 and 40 pounds, keeping one for dinner and releasing the other five.
Later in the week, when the tarpon showed up, Capt. Sean guided Andy Singer and party from Massachussetts for some tarpon fishing off Keewaydin Island. The folks had never fished tarpon before, so it’s understandable that even though they jumped seven fish, only one was brought to boat. That tarpon went 140-plus pounds and was landed by Walter, a business associate of Andy’s. They had the other six fish on for several nice jumps each, so a great day of fishing was had by all. Walter wanted to take a photo of that big poon that he worked for over two hours to land on light line, but nobody on board had a camera. Aww shucks!
Capt. Jody Weis of Weis Guy took out separate parties on two half-day trips and thrilled both families with super tarpon action down the south end of the island. One gal in one of the parties said that was more fun than -Oops! – this is a family newspaper. Boy, I love fishing, but…
Capt. Rich Russell of Enterprise captured and released about a 250-pound goliath grouper, then moved on to beat up the Spanish mackerel, which are still around in big numbers. All the guys on the dock are having field days fishing, targeting mainly Spanish mackerel but now will step up their tarpon fishing while it lasts.
The Fish Forum meeting held by the Gulf Council on Oct. 4 at Rookery Bay drew over 40 of you nice folk, and all those that spoke about goliath grouper problems spoke intelligently and to the point. Maybe naively, I believe you’ll be listened to. Finally.
After years of futility trying to get a limited take enacted of goliaths, we were told it will be placed on the agenda of the regular Nov. 13 meeting of the full Gulf Council in Galveston, Texas. We’ll be there.
The recent red tide outbreaks are strange. One day here, the next day gone. Sometimes in the passes and back bays, sometimes out front, and sometimes far offshore. It breaks up and comes back. Weird. No steady pattern at all. Anyway, fishing remains good.
See ya!
Hey, who ordered the human sushi?
Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to fish with Capt. Ben Fairley onboard his super 65-foot sportfish boat named Necessity out of Orange Beach, Ala.
Local guys Doug Keuther, Josh “Squid” Potter, Jay McMillen and Steve Companion and myself set off Friday at 6 a.m. for the 11-hour drive to Orange Beach. Our plans were to hook up with seven of our friends from Alabama and Virginia for a full day of fishing on Sunday.
It was one heck of a long drive, but worth it both for the fishing and the company of great guys enjoying a real fun time.
We left the dock at 6 a.m. and bait-fished at the mouth of the pass for threads and alewives and loaded up that hot tub-sized livewell in a hurry.
Then, we fished some man-made “pyramids” in 200 feet of water 40 miles out and – in some spurts of nonstop action – filled a box with all American red snapper, vermilion snapper, white snapper, black and red grouper, scampi grouper, yellowfin and blackfin tuna and a couple of big kings.
Then, we went out another 20 miles to fish some rocky bottom and got some more red snapper and a few trigger fish.
The Necessity is an “overload charter vessel” and accommodates a dozen anglers. She had plenty of cockpit room for all 12 anglers and a huge livewell as well as a big fish box and a gas-fired cooker. We were telling one of the guys that the livewell was a hot tub and to get in, but he balked at this. So “Squid” jumped in (see photo) to show him. Image the surprise of a couple of hundred baitfish in there! Human sushi! “Squid” got out of there in one piece.
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Josh �Squid� Potter relaxes in a hot tub. Actually, it�s a huge livewell full of bait fish found aboard Necessity in Orange Beach, Ala.
Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to fish with Capt. Ben Fairley onboard his super 65-foot sportfish boat named Necessity out of Orange Beach, Ala.
Local guys Doug Keuther, Josh “Squid” Potter, Jay McMillen and Steve Companion and myself set off Friday at 6 a.m. for the 11-hour drive to Orange Beach. Our plans were to hook up with seven of our friends from Alabama and
I was up on the bridge in Capt. Ben’s crib and we were talking about the state of fishing on the Gulf. Those boys up there have more fishing problems than we do. Bureaucracy rules. Capt. Ben put us on the fish that day, but the radio chatter showed that we were doing a heck of a lot better than the rest of those boys at the time. One of them radioed Ben and asked if he was doing okay at “X” area and Ben graciously said “Yeah.”
Well, a good time was had by all and we each came back with our share of filets and tuna steaks.
The fishing here is into a typical summer pattern, minus much red grouper. Spanish mackerel is still very abundant close in and are providing great action for those folks that are chasing them. All species of sharks – some of them monsters – are active down south and are a surefire way to get some big game action if you’re into catch and release.
Capt. Jody Weis was cranking in a small cobia when he spotted a huge 14-foot hammerhead shark closing in on it right close to the boat. He didn’t bait it because he wasn’t ready with the right heavy tackle, since he was cobia fishing. He did, however, get to limit out on legal cobia.
The snook fishing is just great and if they were in season, would be table fair for the snook fisherman. The possession rule is one fish per person between 26 and 34 inches. But at this time, they must all be released.
The trout is still out there but beginning to thin out. There are some gator trout to be had in the deeper holes.
We’re all set with our sign-up sheets, hoping to have a large voice in trying to shame the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop drawing down Lake Okeechobee and sending that noxious soup into the Gulf of Mexico, killing the grasses that nourish all sea life and killing the near shore fishery itself. We urge you to stop at the Marco River Arena Tackleshop and add your name and voice to this critical effort. Thanks.
See ya!

Retired fishing Capt. Fred Lifton has been fishing Marco Island waters for more than 32 years. He welcomes your fishing questions, comments and suggestions at 394-7445, or by fax at 394-8353.

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