Redfish are big, brawny fighters and key contributors to Florida’s $13.8 billion recreational fishing industry. But redfish have a weak spot: They faithfully return to the same waters each year to spawn. This past fall, Hurricane Ian and red tide hit West Central Florida at a critical spawning time, delivering a one-two punch to a fish that is back in the conservation spotlight.
In the Indian River Lagoon of 20 years ago, Capt. Billy Rotne could hook a spotted seatrout on cast after cast. But today, the lagoon’s seatrout numbers are 90 to 95% below historic levels. After a decade of intense algal blooms, the Lagoon is making fragile gains. “We’re about halfway home,” says one expert.