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Kalani Cairns oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Terry Howard.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (42 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (30 p.)
Oculina Bank oral history project
Interview conducted August 29, 2010.
Oral history interview with recreational fisherman Kalani Cairns. Cairns, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is an avid fisher and diver who fishes several times a month. He knows where the Oculina Bank is and what the regulations are, but has never fished there. He personally was not affected by any of the regulations. Cairns is a strong believer in conservation and thinks that, on the surface, closed areas could be a good fishery management tool. However, he does not know of any data to support that hypothesis, nor does he know enough about quotas or seasonal limits to offer an opinion. In this interview, Cairns also addresses some of the environmental issues affecting the Fort Pierce area, namely water quality, runoff, and mosquito control.
Fort Pierce (Fla.)
Saint Lucie County (Fla.)
Howard, Terry Lee,
Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Development Foundation.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Oculina Bank oral history project.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS
COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 201, University of South Florida. All rights, reserved. This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrighted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Terry Howard: Good afternoon, this is Terry Howard. Today is August 29, 2010. Im at in St. Lucie Village, Florida, conducting an oral history with Kalani Cairns for the Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundations project with Fort Pierce fishermen on the Oculina Bank HAPC [Habitat Area of Particular Concern]. Welcome, Kalani. Please state your name, spell your name, your place of birth, and your date of birth.
Kalani Cairns: Its Kalani Cairns. Thats K-a-l-a-n-i. Last name is C-a-i-r-n-s. My place of birth is Scott City, Kansas, and my date of birth is May 17, 1951.
TH: May 17, 1951. Okay. When did you move to Fort Pierce?
KC: I moved to Fort Pierce in September of 1975.
TH: What brought you to Fort Pierce?
KC: I had a job with Smithsonian Institution and Harbor Branch Foundation
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution at Florida Atlantic University conducted scientific research referenced in the Oculina Bank closure. It is a non-profit oceanographic institution dedicated to marine and ocean research and education operated by Florida Atlantic University.
. I graduated from college and there was an opening, and I applied for it and got it.
TH: What was the job?
KC: We did research in the Indian River Lagoon. We primarily looked at sea grass associated communitiesthose kinds of invertebrates and vertebrates associated with sea grass beds from as far south as Jupiter Inlet to as far north as Titusville.
TH: Interesting. Okay, I want to come back to that in a minute. Are you married?
TH: How old were you when you got married?
TH: Do you have children?
TH: How many?
KC: Have two daughters.
TH: How old are they?
KC: One is thirty-three; the other is twenty-nine.
TH: Do you have their names?
KC: Yes, the oldest one is Malia Lynn Cairns, and
TH: I need spellings as we go through this.
TH: Thats okay.
KC: The Lynn is just L-y-n-n.
TH: Okay, how much schooling do you have?
KC: I graduated with a degree in zoology from the University of Florida.
KC: Nineteen seventy-four.
TH: All right. What do you do for a living?
KC: I work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a fish and wildlife biologist. We have a field office in Vero Beach.
TH: Okay, interesting. What other jobs have you had?
KC: Between ofI started with Harbor Branch back in 1975 and worked with the foundation to 1985. Then, from 1985 to 1993, I worked with the
State of Florida Department of Natural Resources in the Aquatic Preserve program; and then, from 1993 to the present, Ive been with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
TH: Interesting. Have you workedso you have worked in the fishing industry, but not as a commercial fisherman?
TH: But as a researcher and a biologist?
TH: Do you currently own a boat?
TH: What kind and length, and can you describe your boat?
KC: Yes, its a Hydra-Sport center console, twenty-six feet, and it has the twin motors; theyre each225 horsepower each.
TH: Okay, twin 200what kind?
KC: Oh, the Evinrude E-TECs.
TH: All right. Some questions about the Oculina Bank. How familiar are you with the Oculina Bank?
KC: I know where it is and, in terms of regulations, that its prohibited from bottom fishing, but you can fish trolling through the Bank boundaries, within the Bank boundaries. And thats really all I know about it.
TH: Do you know why it was designated as an area to protect?
KC: Not really. I dont know the history behind it. For what its worth for this discussion, I do recall that when I worked with Harbor Branch we used to take cruises offshore, and I think at that time they didnt call it the Oculina Bank; they referred to it as Jeffs Reef. They used to send out submersibles to do surveys and inventories of the Bank back inI want to say in the late seventies [1970s], early eighties [1980s]. So, I dont know. I doI understand that part of the reason for establishing the Bank boundaries was that commercial shrimpers were tearing up the Oculina corals by dragging their nets across the Bank itself. But outside of that, I dont know any other reasons, biological reasons, as to why they may have established the area.
TH: As a protected area?
KC: As a protected area.
TH: Is there anything else you can tell me about the Oculina Bank?
KC: I think thats it.
TH: Do you know about the peaks?
KC: No, tell me.
TH: Well, (laughs) Im interviewing you.
KC: Yeah. (laughs)
TH: Theyre very steep peaks, and theyre called different thingstowers, peaksby different areas and different fishermen. Has the closure of the Oculina Bank affected your fishing?
TH: Okay. If anchoring and bottom fishing in the Oculina Bank was not prohibitedin other words, if you could fish there, would you fish there?
TH: How and for what?
KC: Snapper and grouper, primarily, and typically bottom fishing. Anchor up if we could or, if not, drift across the bottom with baits.
TH: Overall, how has fishing changed since you began fishing in the Fort Pierce area?
KC: I have to say that one huge change to me was when the net ban went in, and a lot of my work with Indian Riverwith the AquaticI mean, with Harbor Branch and then the Aquatic Reserve programwas focused on Indian River Lagoon. And I think the net ban went in the mid-nineties [1990s] and it seemed like shortly thereafter, a few years thereafter, there was a big change in terms of the availability of bait fish, the abundance of bait fish, and you get to see all that reflected in the other birds, like the ospreys. There were many more ospreys than there used to be. So to me, I think one of the significant changes rule-wise that benefited the resources was the net ban.
TH: Okay. Have you had any experiences with law enforcement within or regarding the Oculina Bank?
TH: Now, I want to talk about your fishing history, specifically. What is your earliest memory of fishing, and how old were you?
KC: Very little. In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I lived on a waterfront home and my brother and I used to fish off the dock just for whatever swam by the dock down in Lauderdale.
TH: Now, the waterfront was on a?
KC: It was on a canal.
TH: A canal?
TH: Okay. How did you learn how to fish? Who taught you?
KC: My grandfather.
TH: How did he teach you? I mean, what did he
KC: You know, Heres how you do it. And mostly he liked to work on his boat, and we used to sit and fish on the dock next to him while he worked on his boat.
TH: What kind of boat did he have?
KC: Oh, Isome old wooden boat with an inboard outboard andor inboard, Im sorry. It was an inboard motor. I couldnt even tell you the brand or the
TH: Fine. Was it a lapstrake or just straight wood?
TH: Okay, so when did you start fishing in the Fort Pierce area?
KC: Well, when we moved to Fort Pierce and I started working here, and we established residency. We used to fish in the Indian River Lagoon, mostly from the shoreline. I didnt get a boat until much later, or I went with friends by boat, but I would say in the mid-seventies [1970s] weve been fishing on and off in this area.
TH: So what did you fish for, and how did you fish for em?
KC: Well, whatever we could fish: mangrove snapper, flounder, whatever we would catch just to get thejust get out on the water and enjoy the time out fishing.
TH: Now, you say you fished from the Bank a lot?
KC: Yeah, you could wade in from the mangrove shorelines and fish on the barrier islands or from the mainland.
TH: Okay, and you wadedwaded fish?
TH: That was early on in the seventies [1970s]. Its popular today. It was a new thing back then.
KC: Right. We used to fish, also, when I worked at Harbor Branch, right on the seawall. Especially wintertime, when the sea trout would move in, cause the canals so deep: they would come in to stay warm, and so by the time the sunlight came up they were pretty hungry. It was always easy to catch trout, but it got so popular that people living in the community used to drive in, and pull up their cars and pull their chairs out, and start fishing like you were at the jetty. (TH laughs) So, that became a problem for outsiders.
TH: So you had to run them off?
KC: Well, they did, after a while.
TH: Yeah, theres a big canal there where Harbor Branchokay. So, where did you go to fish when you began fishing? You say the banks? Can you be more specific?
KC: Oh, sure. Used to walk on the impoundments and make my way around, you know, just walking in and find an opening in the mangroves and try to fish there.
TH: Those are on the barrier islands?
KC: Around Fort Pierce Inlet we used to try to fish on the park when theynow and then when they had a fishing tournament, and we had an opportunity to take our kids and take them out and let them fish along the shoreline. So
TH: Which park would that be?
KC: The one on the north side of the Inlet; it was Dynamite Point back then, and it was a big sandier stretch. They used to have the little kids tournament out there.
TH: Okay, thats at the Inlet State Park today.
KC: Yeah, Fort Piece Inlet State Park. Jaycee Park down on South Beach, you know: used to wade out along there, along the north side of the shoreline, and get out far enough to try to catch some fish.
TH: Do any good there?
KC: No. (laughs)
TH: Thats a lot of shallow grass flats there. Okay. Do you mostly go fishing in your own boat now? Okay. Where did you go fishing? But, do you mostly go fishing in your own boat now?
KC: Yes, most of my fishings in my boat. Occasionally, Ill go with friends and go with them fishing.
TH: Who do you fish with, your friends? We have to spell their names.
KC: Okay. Well, my brother, Guy.
KC: My daughters fianc, Brad.
TH: Okay, hes yourengaged to your daughter?
KC: Yeah, my youngest daughter. Theyre engaged.
KC: Wayne Clemenzi.
TH: Wayne Clemenzi.
KC: Ill spell that for you. C-l-e-m-e-n-z-i.
TH: Did he own a restaurant up here on
KC: His brother does.
KC: The Pineapple Joes, yeah.
TH: Yeah. Anybody else? Those the main ones?
KC: Those are the main ones.
TH: During what
KC: Oh, and one other person I need to add, because he was helpful. His name is John Caldwell.
TH: Caldwell, C-a-l-d
TH: Yes, okay. So, who do you fish with? What months of the year do you fish for what fish? Lets
TH: Okay, so you just keep enough to eat?
TH: And release the rest. How long does a fishing trip last, basically, on average?
KC: On average, probably six, seven hours.
TH: So you start off at what time in the morning?
KC: Usually, seven in the morning. Try to get back around two or three in the afternoon to clean up. Because I keep my boat in storage, I need to get back in time so they can put it away, and then I have to bill the time to clean the boat up and, if were lucky enough to catch fish, to clean that up.
TH: Now you store it at Taylor Creek Marina?
KC: Yeah. The Anchors Aweigh, I think, is their name.
TH: Now, is there a place there for cleaning fish?
KC: Yes, theres a couple places you can clean fish. Theyve got cleaning tables.
TH: I wondered about that. How much would you catch on an average trip?
KC: Oh. (laughs)
TH: Thats a hard one, I know, because youre fishin for different things, different times.
KC: Right. Jeez, I have no way of knowing. So many more times weve gone out and not got anything, and then other times weve had a bonanza day with cobia, grouper, scamp, mangroves [snapper] or reds, before the closure came. It just depends. So I couldnt even begin to tell you how much we catch on an average fishing trip.
TH: So, I guess the next question: How many years have you fished forlets start with dolphin. I guess you like to target dolphin a lot?
KC: Well, let meone thing, Illand this might come up in a question later is, I really didnt fish much offshore, but my brother had a boat, and this was prior to 2000. I went with him, and I think for me, the best day I ever had fishing was, simply, the first day I ever caught a wahoo. It just was a new experience. I never caught anything like it. We caught two that day. One was twenty-three pounds, the other was forty-two pounds, and we got them back to back in the middle of the day draggin ballyhoo, which I found out later thats not necessarily what their preferred choice is. So, that got me started. And then when I got my boat, the Hydra-Sport I talked about, I started goin with my brother and this fellow John Caldwell, and Wayne, and we just started. Whats goin on right now: if the dolphin bites on, well go and try that. If cobia are inshore, well try that. If the kings are on the beach, well try that.
TH: Your firstwhat really got you? The offshore bug for you was the two wahoo?
KC: Mm-hm. That was a lot of fun.
TH: A forty-two pounders a big wahoo.
KC: It was big and it was a fun fight. My brother had a nineteen-foot boat, so if you can image three guys runnin around on a boat the first time any three of us caught a wahoo like that, it was crazy.
TH: (laughs) That brings us toyou still fish for all these things, I guess?
TH: Okay. Thats the next question. Where else did you godo you go fishing in the Fort Pierce area? Lets see, offshorecan you name areas, some of the areas?
KC: Sure. I guess I would go sort of counter-clockwise. Well head down to the boil. Well work our way out
TH: The boil being?
KC: The Fort Pierce nuclear power plant, the outfall.
KC: And then well work our way further east past the 12-A buoy, and then well also work through the southeast grounds, and generally with, you know, depending on what the conditions
TH: The southeast? That would be the eighty-five, ninety-foot drop offshore?
TH: Southeast of Fort Pierce Inlet.
KC: Actually, even from sixty feet on out, because of all the reef structure. Thats where it seems like a lot of kingfish boatsll go, and some activitys happening. Well make our way out to eighty, ninety, and well go farther if the fishings farther out. It just depends on what the sunyou know, what were seein that day, and whats goin on. Then well make our way further north on the compass till we get to the northeast grounds in the same depthseighty, ninety, to a hundred feetand work our way out that way. We worked 125 to 160 feet deep, made our way further north, then to the west to the Bethel buoy and Bethel Shoals, and work our way back in towards the three mile reef, which is off Vero Beach. Its an area thats roughly three miles off in fifty feet of water.
TH: Forty to fifty feet of water?
KC: Yeah, forty or fifty feet of water. And then well work along the beach area. But most of what I just described is where Ill work
TH: If you dont really have a plan for the day, youll start south, and just make a bigis that a one day fishing trip? Thats a lot of area to cover.
KC: Yeah. No, actually, if we dont have a plan, generally what well do is go straight out of Fort Pierce Inlet east, due east, and well get to eighty, ninety, a hundred feet and then well see whats happening. If we see signs, whether its sargassum, if theres rips goin on, or whatever the color change might be, that will sort of dictate where we go. But if we dont have a plan, thats generally what well do is head straight east, and just let the current take us north and make our way back.
TH: Okay. Trolling, mostly?
KC: Trolling, mostly. If we have a plan for bottom fishing, then well pick a specific site and well go work that, and spend our time on that.
TH: Okay, and this is in lieu of not having any information, if you have, you know, recent information.
TH: That affects where you go.
KC: Right. Friends of mine that recreationally fish or commercial fish, Ill check with them: Can you tell me whats goin on, and where its goin on? Then we work with them and try to talk with the buddies and see what they feel like doin, and then well go do that. Well make a decision about that.
TH: Now, when you say you go down to the boils, do you go there to get bait or to
KC: Both. We go down to bait, to get bait, and we also go to catch fish. We go to get permit, snook, redfish, whatever happens to be goin on down there. Its jack all the way. If you want to have a fun day and burn yourself out catching jack, cause you know, you can just tear it up down there on light tackle.
TH: Okay. Cool. Do you live bait a lot or just mostly troll?
KC: Both. Well troll dead baits and well drift live baits. It depends. It justif we get live baits, well take them with us even if we might have ballyhoo rigged up for trolling.
TH: If youre not catchin anything trolling, you might
KC: Well switch it out.
TH: Yeah, drift fish. Okay. Cool. Lets see, what do you fish for, what gear, bait do you use? I think weve kind of covered that, but could you elaborate any more on the bait and gear?
KC: Well, the bait, if we cant catch it ourselvesand generally we use, you know, sabiki rigs to catch our baitbut we will sometimes go ahead and buy the bait from Daves Live Bait in the Inlet and buy, you know, ten or twenty or thirty baits from him.
TH: Now, Daves Live, thats one of the boats that sells bait in the Inlet now?
KC: Yes. Dave Meskel, I think, is his name.
TH: Theres couple of them now. Lenny
KC: I dont know about the others, but Daves you cant miss, because he has a big sign that says Daves Live Bait. (laughs)
TH: (laughs) Yeah, thats good. This guys doin quite well, I guess, especially in tournaments and so forth.
KC: Sounds like they work pretty hard at it.
KC: Then as far as gear, Ive got some trolling rigs that I use, bottom rigs. I bring some spinning gear depending onwe just sort of try to bring enough gear with us depending on what arises while were out fishing, so were covered. You know, if were focusin on trolling, then well takewell primarily take stuff that allows us to do that and cast some live baits out with some spin gear. Or, if were focused on bottom fishing, then, you know, again, well bring gear that works that lets us do that.
TH: Who do you usually fish with? I think that you just told me that.
TH: You also talked about what months you fish for what. Okay. How often do you go offshore fishing, would you say?
KC: Well, up until fuel (laughs) becameI guess, probably every weekend. But I would say the last year Ive cut back on my fishing. I just havent gone out as often, and focused on mostly diving; if I can get a chance to get in the water, thats what Ill do instead.
TH: Thats to diving, when youre targeting lobster?
KC: Lobster. Lobster seasons on, so thats what well go for. Before lobster season, well go look and see what we can do as far as findin the snapper or grouper on the bottom.
TH: Okay. How deep do you dive?
KC: I usually dont dive any deeper than ninety feet. I have no desire to go any deeper. But most of my divings around the forty to sixty, seventy foot range.
TH: So, how many times a week do you go diving, or go offshore?
KC: Well, thats a
TH: Tough question?
KC: Yeah. It could be once or twice a week.
KC: Yeah, I get every other Friday off, so generally, Ill go with someone from work for diving cause we all dive. Then nobodys on the water, generally, you know, on the weekyou know, and then, maybe one more time on the weekend.
TH: Okay. So, youre trying to go once a week, but you said you havent been going as much this year?
KC: Well, diving we have, so thatsinstead of fishing. And, especially, since everybody I talk to says fishings so hit and miss that if Im going to spend the money to go out on the boat, Id rather go dive.
TH: More productive?
KC: It is. I mean, I feel I get more for my effort. I mean, if you see a fish and you can shoot the fish, youre going to take that fish and put it onboard. If youre out fishing with hook and line, you could be out all day and not run into a bite once.
TH: Its more productive.
TH: What do you use to shoot the fish with?
KC: A spear gun.
TH: You dont use a bang stick?
KC: No. I know some people do, but I just
TH: Okay. So, how many times a week? At least once, maybe twice a week?
TH: How many times a month? Okay, that would be four to six, four to eight, six to eight?
TH: Are there some months you go fishing more frequently?
KC: Yeah, I think probably spring into early summer.
TH: Okay, spring. Are there some months you never or rarely go fishing?
KC: (laughs) I think when October starts to roll around, and the sea states kick up
TH: The seas?
KC: Yeah, when it gets very rough offshore, I tend not to. Yeah.
TH: Your twenty-six foot boat should be able to handle most.
KC: Yeah, mostbut people cant take those. (laughs)
TH: Boaters are people. (laughs)
KC: What do you mean you mean you cant go with me?
TH: Okay. On the average, how far offshore do you go?
KC: I would say on average, probably seventeen, twenty milesif Im fishing.
TH: And diving?
KC: Diving, a lot less: fourteen miles, fifteen miles. Sometimes depends on where were headed.
TH: Thats more. Thats almostthats a lot, fourteen miles. Thatd be the northeast grounds?
KC: Northeast grounds, yeah.
TH: Fourteen, thirteen miles, something like that. All right. Who do you fish with? Mostly in your own boat, we already talked about that; average, how far. How do you decideelaborate a little more; you talked a little about this. How do you decide where you will fish?
KC: Well, first of all, find out whats biting: you know, whats goin off right now. And then talk to crew, potential crew, say, Listen, this is happening right now, the dolphin bites on and theres cobia all over the beach. You guys want to go? And then thats kinda what dictates what we go fishing for. Its whats what the action is.
TH: Once againthis is kind of a repeat question, a lot of these are repetitive. But how much do you catch on an average trip? Lets say youre goin after dolphin.
KC: Okay. Well, if were into themI thinkwhats the most weve ever boated, I think, is maybe five, five dolphin. But they were all good size. They were all, you know, in the twenty-plus pound range.
TH: Thats a lot of dolphin.
KC: Yeah. We got one that was forty-four pounds.
KC: Yeah. That was fun.
TH: And, lets say, cobia?
KC: That, Im not asonly a couple. I mean, Ive boated one myself. My wife caught her first one this July. My brother, so not very much in the way of cobia. Seems like whenever we do go, were not near them, and I hear it from everybody else who, I just pulled a sixty pounder in my boat, so
TH: Yeah. I hear about a lot of them. How abouthave you caught any more wahoo? SinceI mean, in your career
TH: of wahoo fishing?
KC: Have not caught another wahoo, but Ive had them come to the boat, and I cant get em to bite on somethin. Thats the craziest thing, seein a fish like that swim up to the boat: you can actually look down and see them so close you could almost touch them, and theyre not interested.
TH: Theyre not interested in eating; theyre just looking at the boat or something?
TH: Checking you out. Theyre funny. Okay. Lets see, wahoo
KC: Kingfish, seems like we can catch kingfish easily enough. Ive caught them either on the surface or on the bottom. Actually, we were bottom fishing one time and came up with a thirty pound king off the bottom.
TH: Whoo! (laughs) You know, I can tell you that sometimes, when Im not doing anything out there, Ill drop down a fifty or seventy-five foot cable.
TH: And you wont catchthat will be the only line you catch fish on for the rest of the day. Theyre usually bigger fish, and thats when its real slow in the summertime. Theyre hangin down there on the bottom
KC: Yeah, this is the same kind of thing. It was really kinda not much action.
TH: Ive had that happen a lot. Okay, excuse me. Youre the interviewee.
KC: All right. Its okay.
TH: (laughs) Finally, Id like to talk about how your fishing has changed over time in regards to the Oculina Bank. Since 1984, several changes have been made in the regulations of the Oculina Bank. Id like to know if any of these regulations affected your fishing, and if so, how? The Oculina Bank was initially closed to trawling, dredging, and bottom longlining in 1984. Did this affect your fishing, and if so, how?
KC: Well, thats a long question for a short answer. No.
TH: Okay. (laughs)
KC: Yeah. I didnt know that the Bank has been closed off or regulated since 1984.
TH: Well, that was just for trawling, dredging, and bottom longlining.
TH: Then, in 1994, ten years later, the Oculina Bank was designated as an experimental closed area where fishing for and retention of snapper grouper species was prohibited. Snapper grouper fishing boats were also prohibited from anchoring. Was your fishing impacted by this regulation?
TH: Nineteen ninety-six , all anchoring was prohibited within the Oculina Bank. Did this impact your fishing? If so, how?
TH: Okay. In 1996, trawling for rock shrimp was prohibited in the area east and north of the designated Oculina Bank. And, in 1998, this area was incorporated. Thats the extended area, I think
KC: This part, here?
TH: That map, yeah. This area was incorporated into the Oculina Bank HAPC. Fishing with a bottom longline, trawl, or dredge was prohibited in this expanded area, as was anchoring by any vessel. Was your fishing impacted by this regulation?
KC: What was the date again?
TH: (laughs) Nineteen ninety-eight.
TH: That brings us to this: The designation of marine areas that are closed to fishing is being used more frequently as a fishery management tool. What do you think about the use of closed areas to fishing compared to other types of management regulations such as quotas, closed seasons, trip limits, et cetera?
KC: Wow. I wish I had an answer for that, other than my initial reaction. It seems like closed areas, intuitively, are a good thing, but I dont know of any data that says that. But it just seems like you got an area like youve got a population of fish that can be responsible for providing the recruitment outside of that area, then why wouldnt that be a good thing? In terms of whats an equitable way to distribute the fishery, I dont know enough about the quotas, or seasonal limits, or anything else, really, to have an opinion on that. I wish I could, but I justI dont. Hey, I wishI think thats my answer, is I think the closure areas are good. Im not sure whats the best way to doto, you know, make it an equitable way to
KC: Yeah, to regulate the fisheries.
TH: Okay, but you do believe that the management regulations should be in effect? That it shouldnt be wide open?
KC: Yeah. I mean, I think
TH: You believe in conservation of the fisheries?
KC: Definitely. And, again, I dont know if thats the best way to conserve the fisheries. But it seems, again, on the surface thatsyeah, I mean, it seems like a good thing.
TH: Thats a very honest answer. Okay. Thinking ahead to the future, what do you think fishing in Fort Pierce will be like in ten years?
KC: Thats a good one. Um
TH: Along with that, we havent mentioned other aspects, other pressures on the fishery besides fishing that we have in this area. And you being in
KC: Loss of habitat, is that?
TH: Im thinking of runoff.
KC: Runoff. Well, degradation of habitat.
TH: In your line of business, you should probably have a better fix on this than most people. What do you think itll be like in ten years here?
KC: I dont know. Ive been working in the Indian River Lagoon for a long time, andor at least affiliated with or know of the work thats going on for a long time. Clearly, one of the key issues was to improve water quality within the Lagoon, and I dont know if the water quality has improved. It seems like it has, but I couldntI dont know if it has. But sea grasses are flourishing in some areas where they werent, and theyre decreasing in other areas where they used to be. I dont have a gauge yet, I guess, on where we were ten years ago versus where we are now, and where we might be ten years from now.
TH: And youve been in the field?
TH: And thats experience. (laughs)
KC: But theres nothing out there that says that the Lagoon is in dire straits. The Lagoon has theyve always said the Lagoon could be in dire straits if certain things werent addressed like septic tanks, leakages, seepage from septic tanks. I dont think that problems been fixed, but what has been fixed in many ways is local communities have put in baffle systems to deal with runoff, you know. So, some of the runoff issues have been addressed. Whether its a county or a town, you know, theyve tried to deal with their surface water runoff, and so it seems that thats an improvement. But I guess I havent seen a status of the health of the Indian River Lagoon report in quite a while. There were a lot of reports that came out back in the seventies [1970s] and eighties [1980s] on what was wrong with the Lagoon, but I havent seen anything on whats right about the Lagoon or since then.
TH: Okay. Again, the runoff from Lake Okeechobee, is that
KC: HeresI mean, one of the
TH: Billions of gallons. Am I right there?
KC: Well, theres a lot of fresh water thats sent out of the Caloosahatchee River to the west and the St. Lucie Canal out to the east. And when we used to sample the sea grass beds down in St. Lucie Inlet, whats now Sailfish Point, we used to work down in that area. Every time the discharges used to come through, the sea grasses would wipe out. But once the discharges ceased or were diminished, and you had that oceanic water comin in and the summer season comin on, the sea grasses would flourish once again. So, while it killed off the grasses above the sediment line, it didnt kill the roots. And the grass beds, I think, are still what its always been down there for years. They still manage, they still do well, and people will still fish that area quite a bit.
But you know, again, I think the [Indian] Riverkeepers organization probably has a better handle on how the freshwater discharges have affected the resources down there. I know a lot of people say oysters arent what they used to be, that some of the fish are getting skin diseases that they didnt used to have. Again, I just dontI dont know where we are now to someone whos actually done a health assessment on the St. Lucie Estuary, the Indian River Lagoon, the areas thatall this stuff is important for what happens offshore.
TH: In that the smaller fish are spawned here?
KC: Right. This is the basis for our sea grass research was that you can find lots of small fish and crabs and shrimp, all kinds of worms and mollusks that use these grass beds, and you know, without the grass beds, you dont have them.
Heres another thing that I think got by me in this discussion or interview is mosquito control made a big change in terms of how they managed the marshes in trying to address controlling the mosquitoes. You know, initially when they put them in, they wiped out fisheries habitat, thousands of acres. But by following up on science since then, and for quite some time now, theyve managed the marshes to maintain their control over mosquito populations, but yet open the systems back up when its appropriate, and that allows the fisheries to use the impoundments when they need to and to move out into the Lagoon when they can. So, you know, the snook fisherysI wouldnt say rebounded, but improved once they opened up the impoundments. Thats true for shrimp, thats true for the crabs. So, thats another big change, aside from the net ban, that I think was an improvement was managing all these impounded marshes to open them back up again.
TH: So they were closed off. I know that the culverts that go through them were capped off and theyd open them at certain times.
TH: Now they have a free flow.
KC: Right. What I probably should have said is that the reason that they were impounded and flooded was the salt marsh mosquitoes have to have bare sediment to lay their eggs on. And when the floodswhen the water rises and the tide comes and the water floods the marsh, the eggs hatch, and thats where the larvae come from. And by impounding them, they kept the sediment surface completely flooded so the mosquitoes didnt have a place to lay their eggs. But then, when they did that, they closed off all that mangrove habitat, all that marsh habitat from all the juvenile fishes that use the Lagoon, all the juvenile crustaceans that use the Lagoon. And by regulating them again, where they flood them when they need to and open them up when they have to, its worked out.
TH: Interesting. So again, ten years, one last time. Whats your ten-year prospective, you know? Youre in the field; youre a biologist.
KC: I think itll be better.
TH: You do?
KC: Yeah, I do. It hasntsince Ive been here, it hasnt gotten worse. Even though weve got these discharges that we gotta to deal with, I still think, you know, where I see grass, see sea grasstheres still sea grass. Mangroves are still in our area; thats a huge plus for our developing fisheries resources. And so, I cantunless something changes that affects those, the habitat and the water quality, I think were going to be better. So, I think the more we move into the future, the more were going to deal with discharge issues that are going to come out these canals: the C-23, the 24, and the 25, as well as the St. Lucie Canal. And those will be dealt with over time, and we wont see those kinds of issues with water quality degradation, because a lot of that water is going to be stored and re-used or re-directed as far part of this Everglades restoration process.
TH: If that ever comes to pass, thats what we should.
KC: Well, its a long time away, yeah.
TH: Finally, I guess we have a little bit of time. Can you tell me about one of your most memorable times fishing and/or diving, one of the most exciting experiences?
KC: Okay, I told you about the fishing one, because that really introduced me to offshore fishing.
TH: The two wahoos.
KC: Two wahoos, because it was just like boredom, and then the pandemonium that ensues when you got a fish on that youve never fought before or seen before. That was exciting. But I have to say my best diving was an area thats northeast of Fort Pierce Inlet in fifty feet of water. Theres a ridge of rock out there. And I went down, and I was covered in so schools of so many different species of fish. Ive never been like it again. There were blue runners, threadfin herring, mackerel swimmin by. Just an abundance of fish of different speciesI cant even remember them alland it was just bein in a sea of fish.
TH: Was it Snapper Rock?
KC: Well, I dont know what they call Snapper Rock, but itsif you went out five miles of the northeast Inlet out of Fort Pierce in the northeast
TH: Five miles?
KC: Five miles. Its in about fifty feet of water. You know, where the
TH: Hurricane Rock.
KC: Is that what do they call it? NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] buoy? Its just south of the NOAA buoy, the weather buoy.
TH: Yeah, thats Hurricane Rock. Its a niceyears ago we caught a lot of kingfish there, you know, but itsI think last summer we had a couple days we caught pretty good fish there. Thats the Hurricane Rock.
KC: Thats what they call it, the locals. All right.
TH: A lot of small boats go out there from the Inlet and fish that dont really have offshore, you know, faculties on the boat.
TH: Its a good little reef for fishing and trolling.
KC: Its got lobster, too.
TH: Is it?
KC: Oh, yeah. (laughs) I caught seventeen pounds. I got a nine-pound bug and an eight-pound bug thirty seconds apart on one dive. The second one I had to carry back out the bag, because the bagit was too big to fit in with the other big one and the others that I had in there. But just that one dive was fascinating with the abundance of fish just swimmin over that ridge
TH: How defined is that ridge?
KC: I would say its
TH: I see it in my recorder, Im always curious.
KC: It seems like it could be six feet, you know? If I stood at the bottom, the top of it might be with me or maybe just above.
TH: Sounds about right.
TH: When I see it on the recorder.
KC: Highest part than the others, and itsthe two best parts of that reef are really more pronounced. Then it slopes a little bit between them or at either ends. Its not as squared off. But yeah, I thought it was one of the best dives ever.
TH: Its a long reef.
KC: Yes. (laughs)
TH: Itsthat one area it starts atoh, golly, get my numbers right, here. Its in theon the east-west line. Its inits from 12 to 13.5, I think, on myand then it starts a little bit north of east of the Inlet, and it goes all the way up to the buoy, the yellow buoy, the weather buoy.
KC: Yeah, it breaks up, it seems like, and then picks up again. Theres a couple sections there that are just
TH: Its intermittent. Every once in a while you get up into the really deep sections. Well, with that, is there anything else youd like to add?