January 18, 2012
By Diana Rudolph
Two years ago, a record setting cold snap decimated populations of marine fish along Florida's coast. Because snook are very sensitive to cold temperatures, they were among the hardest hit by the freeze. Prior to this, Florida Bay and the southwest coast of Florida were stacked with snook. The redfish population, however, was smaller and the fishing marginal when compared to other destinations like New Orleans or Texas. While redfish were a common sight, they were often spookier than bonefish and were somewhat unreliable.
Recently, I spent a few days fishing around the 10,000 islands and in Florida Bay and was amazed by the number of redfish that roamed the mangrove shorelines and fed on the warm, brackish flats. Unfortunately, snook, which are among my favorite species to pursue, are still fairly scarce; but they are rebounding well. It is extremely interesting to observe the changes in this fishery. Five years ago, the aggressive snook dominated this environment feeding opportunistically on small baitfish, crabs, shrimp and even baby reds, but now it is time for the redfish to thrive. I imagine that in a few years, barring no more excessive cold fronts, the snook and redfish will share their habitat and do the delicate dance that nature intends. These fish are survivors and fluctuations in their populations are the norm. Let's hope that Florida Fish and Wildlife leaves the redfish limits as they are and allows the snook population to rebound, so the two populations find that natural balance and flourish side-by-side. But for now, let there be redfish.