FLORIDA TODAY is checking out reports of a major fish kill in the Indian River Lagoon, involving some 15 different species of fish and stretching from Titusville to the Pineda Causeway area.
The fish floated around the area of the no-motor zone of the Merritt Island Refuge to State Road 520.
Alex Gorichky, a charter captain who has been fishing in Brevard County his entire life, said he’s seen a variety of fish dead in the lagoon.
“We’ve seen everything now from several different types of bait fish, all the different types of puffer fish that we have in the lagoon which is three different types, we have black drum, redfish, we have seen snook, sea trout … sheepshead … a bunch of catfish,” said Gorichky.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s website, 100 puffer and sheepshead fish were reported dead at Watts Park on Merritt Island on Friday.
A strong smell that could be associated with dead fish was present at the Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary on Friday evening.
Gorichky said that he initially saw dead fish in the area of Sykes Creek and Newfound Harbor Drive on Merritt Island. He’s worried about the connection between the fish kill and the recent rash of brown tide that has swept through the lagoons.
“I’ve now seen pictures of world class fish dead. That’s a big issue with me,” Gorichky said. “It’s obviously horrific. I don’t know if you could put a price on it.”
“This is where I call my home. I chose to live here for my children so they could experience the water, and this is not what we need to leave behind,” Gorichky added.
Gorichky says that typically, any of our “lesser water conditions” happen in the summer and that that’s generally when they see fish kills of this nature occur.
He added that he’s seen similar fish kills before and it angers him to see it continually happening.
“At this point, beyond sad, I’m angry that it’s come to this point and even still to this day very little if any action is actually be taken by our elected officials (from) local, state and federal,” said Gorichky. “I would have to say above and beyond the fact that obviously that my business is in potential trouble unless I make serious changes in the way I operate, above and beyond the fact I was born and raised on these lagoons.”
Patty Piepmeier, who lives in the Bay Club condo complex off Minutemen Causeway in Cocoa Beach, says she saw hundreds of fish gasping for air when she took a look at around 7:15 this morning.
“They weren’t dead. They were gasping for air so they were all on the top of the water with their heads out of the water,” she said. “There was little, tiny, tiny flounders and there’s mullet and sheepshead and red all in our little cove.”
Tom Baldwin, who also lives off Minutemen Causeway says he saw something similar to Piepmeier had described.
“The water in front of the docks was nothing but dead fish, or almost dead,” he said.
In November 2014, FLORIDA TODAY reported catfish, flounder, mullet, sailor’s choice, pinfish, red drum, sheepshead and trout were all part of hundreds of dead fish in Merritt Island canals. Brown tide returned to the Indian River Lagoon in January of this year after it first bloomed in 2012.
Baldwin, who said he’s lived in the area of six years, said this latest fish kill is unlike anything he’s seen before.
“Nothing even close,” said Baldwin. “Back in 2010 when there was the cold weather there were a few but nothing that came even close to this,”