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Everglades Funding, Blue Catfish, Wyoming Dam, & More

Fly Fisherman News Briefs for January 20, 2023

Everglades Funding, Blue Catfish, Wyoming Dam, & More

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a comprehensive executive order on January 10 directing billions of dollars for Everglades restoration and protection of other Florida waters. (Photo courtesy NPS)

Florida Governor DeSantis Pledges Funding for Everglades and Other Waters

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a comprehensive executive order on January 10 directing billions of dollars for Everglades restoration and protection of other Florida waters. The order includes a proposed $3.5 billion over four years, and beyond the Everglades project, prioritizes protection for Indian River Lagoon, expands wastewater treatment water quality standards, and promises to “expedite the state’s land conservation efforts.”

“Today, I am proud to announce the next step in this administration’s continued dedication to Florida’s treasured environment,” DeSantis said in a news release. “This order directs funding and strategic action that will continue our momentum and enhance our ongoing efforts to expedite critical Everglades restoration projects, employ sound science to protect and restore our waterways, and fund infrastructure projects to improve water quality and safeguard Florida’s water supply.”

DeSantis has recently been a champion of clean water and the Everglades, vetoing Florida Senate Bill 2508 in 2022, which could have reduced funding for the Everglades and given preferential treatment to the Big Sugar industry in regards to Lake Okeechobee irrigation water operations.

“We applaud Governor Ron DeSantis, who today in Bonita Springs signed an Executive Order that includes a proposed $3.5 billion over four years for Everglades restoration and protection of Florida water resources,” the conservation non-profit Bonefish & Tarpon Trust said in a Facebook post. “We look forward to working with the administration and the Florida House and Senate to achieve these important goals that are key to the long-term health and sustainability of our iconic fisheries.


Proponents of Proposed Wyoming Dam Argue It Could Benefit Native Cutthroat

A controversial proposed dam in southeast Wyoming could actually benefit the rare Colorado River cutthroat trout, according to a report from WyoFile.com.

Proponents of the dam, which would be on the West Fork of Battle Creek in the Little Snake River drainage, argue among other things that it would benefit wildlife like the endangered Colorado River cutthroat, because the dam would be an upstream barrier from competitive fish, protecting a safe haven for the rare species.

The resulting reservoir would be for irrigation purposes. But a minimum-flow requirement is already written into the proposal, which would keep enough water in the tailwater section for fish survival year-round.


But opponents, like environmental activist Gary Wockner, argue that the dam would solely benefit irrigators.

“Dams kill rivers,” Wockner said. “The goal is to consume water and grow crops–it’s not to save the fish and wildlife and wetlands.”




The Little Snake River is high up in the Colorado River drainage, which is already embroiled in tense water-rights and usage wars.

Public comments on the proposed impoundment are being accepted through February 13. Click here to comment.

Video Highlights Blue Catfish Threat in Chesapeake Bay Basin

An alarming video shared on social media last week by the group Support Maryland Watermen showed throngs of invasive blue catfish writhing and surfacing in waters beneath docks on the Patuxent River, a major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay just north of the Potomac River in Maryland.

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The video of the teeming fish is ringing alarm bells for conservationists who have long feared the impact of these non-natives. Blue catfish are indiscriminate feeders that can grow to be over 100 pounds and can tolerate a certain level of salinity. They’ve been found to have rubber gloves, ducks, clams, mussels, and all types of fish, including native striped bass and forage species, in their systems.

screenshot of a video that shows dozens of blue catfish in the Patuxent River
A screenshot of the video showing scads of blue catfish in the Patuxent River.

Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) were stocked in the Virginia tidal waters decades ago as a potential trophy recreational fishery, but it wasn’t until a high-water event in 2018 reduced salinity in the Chesapeake to the point where the blues could spread out to all corners of the Bay. Officials estimate that there could already be in excess of 100 million blues in the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest Atlantic striped bass (among other species) nursery, where over 75 percent of Atlantic stripers spawn.

“We can’t stop them,” Tony Friedrich, Policy Director and Vice President of the American Saltwater Guides Association, said, referring to the catfish. “We have no idea what the impact is. Somehow some way we have to find a market–dog food, cat food, fertilizer, mulch…Put the nets out. Pay someone to throw them in a landfill.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed an “Invasive Catfish Management Strategy,” but Friedrich believes little can be done until more aggressive action is taken.

Click here for more information about these invasives and what can be done about them in the Chesapeake Bay.

New Ownership Plans Upgrades for Palmeto Club

Since it first opened in 2005, the Palometa Club in Punta Allen, Mexico, has built a reputation as one of the best permit lodges in the world. It sits at the gateway to the Ascension Bay complex of islands, channels, bights, coves, and massive sand and grass flats where permit feed. The second largest reef system in the world lies just outside the bay, offering unlimited spawning opportunities for permit.

Co-owner of the Palometa Club David Leake holding a permit, wading in the ocean
David Leake has been the booking agent for Palometa Club since 2010, and is now part of a new ownership group. (Photo courtesy of Tailwaters Fly Fishing)

David Leake, owner of Tailwaters Fly Fishing Company (tailwatersflyfishing.com) in Dallas, Texas, has been the exclusive booking agent of Palometa Cub since 2010, and now with new partners Paul Comer and Alan Steele, he’s become an owner/operator.

Palometa Club is located right on the beach at Punta Allen. After a day of fishing, you walk across the beach to your room. There are six double-occupancy rooms with en suite bathrooms, and a maximum capacity of 12 guests. The Palometa Club uses seven teams of loyal full-time guides. While the guides are technically independent contractors, duos like Gerardo Velazquez and Rodolfo Briceno (“Jerry and Rodo”), Carlos Rendon and Julio Octavio (“Charly and Nino”), and Eleazar Ucan and Veudy Vazquez (“Correano and Veudy”) are constantly booked and available only through Palometa Club. In Ascension Bay there are two guides in each panga, so the guide-to-client ratio is 1:1.

In 2022, the new owners overhauled the bathrooms, updated the decor of the lodge, and made expansive improvements to the outdoor lounge area, which is where guests hang out after a day of fishing. For 2023, they plan to upgrade the menu with more locally sourced and sustainable fresh seafood prepared in a local manner, and weekly meals of spiny lobster, which is a huge driver of the local economy.

Eleven Experience Acquires New Lodges

Eleven Experience, a high-end adventure travel company with fishing lodges in New Zealand (Cedar Lodge), Iceland (Deplar Farm), the Bahamas (Bahama House), Colorado (Taylor River Lodge), and Chile (Rio Palena Lodge), has acquired two additional lodges in the Los Lagos region of Chilean Patagonia.

A wood fishing lodge next a bright blue river
Eleven Experience has aquired both Martin Pescador lodges in the Lago Yelcho region of Chilean Patagonia. Puerto Cardenas Lodge is on the Rio Yelcho just downstream from the lake. La Junta Lodge overlooks the Rio Rosselot and is close to the Rio Figueroa. (Brian O’Keefe photo)

Eleven Experience in late 2021 bought both of the existing Martin Pescador lodges: Puerto Cardenas Lodge is one mile downstream of the outlet of Lago Yelcho, and sits 30 feet from the Rio Yelcho. La Junta Lodge overlooks the Rio Rosselot, and is close to the Rio Figueroa and several other trout rivers. Puerto Cardenas and La Junta both sit in coveted locations, and have outstanding reputations with experienced guide staff. Eleven Experience upgraded the vehicles, boats, the accommodations, and the lodges themselves in the 2022 off season, and reopened in November.

All three lodges (including Rio Palena Lodge) are near Lago Yelcho, a massive fjord-shaped lake fed by the massive Futaleufú River (and many other sources). Rio Palena guests fish out their front doors on the Palena, drive to the Futaleufú and Yelcho, and do helicopter fly-outs to spectacular fjord-land lakes and otherwise inaccessible rivers.

Most visitors to this region fly into the town of Chaitén. Other attractions in the area include the 1-million acre Douglas Tompkins Pumalín National Park which was donated to Chile by The North Face founder Doug Tompkins, who died while kayaking in the region in 2015.

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