GULF DEAD ZONES – March 2020

TEXAS SALTWATER by Calixto Gonzales – March 2020
February 24, 2020
TEXAS FRESHWATER by Matt Williams – March 2020
February 24, 2020

(Photo: TF&G)

Environmental Abuse is Playing Havoc with Gulf Fishing

IT WAS A PERFECT day for offshore fishing. With two-foot swells, clear waters and no storms forecast, it seemed like the ideal time to score on snappers, ling and king mackerels. This was back when you could catch a limit of snappers every day in federal waters.

But we couldn’t get a fish to bite—not a single one.

This map shows how oxygen levels in the Gulf can produce a massive “Dead Zone” that kills marine life or forces it to leave the area. (Photo: NOAA)

In fact, we didn’t see any fish around the rigs. Not even spadefish, which typically congregate around platform legs.

When I returned home, I did some research and learned the “dead zone” had moved off the Sabine Pass area at the time.

According to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), less oxygen dissolved in the water is often referred to as a “dead zone” because most marine life either dies, or, if they are mobile, such as fish, leave the area. Habitats that would normally be teeming with life become, essentially, biological deserts.

Dead zones are a common occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico.
(Photo: TF&G)

Hypoxic zones can occur naturally, but scientists are concerned about the areas created or enhanced by human activity according to NOAA.

“There are many physical, chemical, and biological factors that combine to create dead zones, but nutrient pollution is the primary cause of those zones created by humans.” NOAA officials reported. “Excess nutrients that run off land or are piped as wastewater into rivers and coasts can stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which then sinks and decompose in the water. The decomposition process consumes oxygen and depletes the supply available to healthy marine life.

Offshore fishing off the Texas Coast can be great, unless chemical, biological and climatic forces suck away the oxygen.
(Photo: Mike Price)

“Dead zones occur in many areas of the country, particularly along the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes, but there is no part of the country or the world that is immune. The second largest dead zone in the world is located in the U.S., in the northern Gulf of Mexico.”

The year I referred to was really for a dead zone, (2015) and the size can fluctuate.

Daiwa Tatula

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“The measured size in 2015, an area about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, is larger than the 5,052 square miles measured in 2014, indicating that nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed are continuing to affect the nation’s coastal resources and habitats in the Gulf,” NOAA officials said.

A “dead zone” doesn’t always mean there will be no fish in an area, but it certainly decreases the number and makes fishing extremely tough. I have experienced them, both in Texas and fishing out of Venice, Louisiana. The source of much of the dead zone is the Mississippi River.

J-Braid

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It’s one of those things that we as individual anglers can do nothing about, but it’s something we should note.

Sometimes the tough offshore fishing isn’t because of anything we did wrong in terms of technique. Perhaps it’s something that our convenience-driven society has done with the pesticides and other things that impact the watershed. I never thought much about dead zones until I came across one.

 

—story by CHESTER MOORE

 

Toledo Bend Lake Country

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