One of the most special places on Earth. Probably to none more so than the fly angler (if we don’t fight to preserve it no one will).
Fly fishing in the Everglades is the simplest, most enjoyable act of participating in and connecting with something totally and completely wild and natural. It’s this natural, seemingly untouched, state of the glades that recharges you and fills your soul.
It may have been the dream of catching a tarpon, snook or redfish that first brought you to the Everglades, but it is the environment as a whole that keeps you coming back.
For those that haven’t been – the Everglades is a rare place where you will both lose and find yourself simultaneously. A day in the glades can change your entire perspective of the world.
The Everglades faces major threats to its existence. Water is the glades’s life-source. The quality and management of water are the problems that must be solved to preserve the Everglades as we know it.
Freshwater is supposed to flow down from Lake Okeechobee. The water gets filtered in the grasslands and dumps into Florida Bay. That is the baseline for how the ecosystem works. Through diversions and water mismanagement we (the state of Florida) have starved the Everglades and Florida Bay of the freshwater it needs. Throwing off salinity levels and causing major seagrass die-offs. For anglers, too high salinity and major grass die-offs mean a degradation of the fishery as prey species can not survive and predators start looking elsewhere.
The Problem Extended
This same water mismanagement causes catastrophes in the coastal estuaries north of the Everglades. The water from Lake O that is supposed to go south goes east and west, out the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie rivers. The coastal estuaries that receive the freshwater would not naturally and are not able to healthily balance the amount of freshwater they receive. Clean, pure freshwater would cause problems in the estuaries by itself. But it’s not clean, pure freshwater. The water is rich with nitrogen, phosphorus and other pollutants from agriculture and development around and north of the Lake. These nutrients and pollutants are the catalysts for blue-green algae, over-intensified red tides, and in-turn major fish kills.
The solution is pretty simple in theory. Water must be stored south of Lake Okeechobee, cleaned and conveyed south. This will eliminate harmful discharges to the coasts and supply the Everglades and Florida Bay with the clean freshwater they need.
This means that land in the EAA (Everglades Agricultural Area) must be obtained by the state. Here a water storage reservoir must be built, and STAs (Stormwater Treatment Areas) must be used to clean the water using aquatic vegetation to remove the nutrients from the water as it’s sent south to Florida Bay.
The CERP (Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan), a 35+ year plan which includes the solution above, has been authorized and in play since the year 2000. However in the last 20 years delays and red tape have led to very little progress.
Where we’re at now1: SFWMD is working on the Stormwater Treatment Area for the EAA southern reservoir. SFWMD has also began construction and neared completion on other key CERP projects, including removing the water barrier that is the old Tamiami Trail.2 The USACE continues on the CEPP South project. CEPP South is an extensive project designed to restore more natural water flow through the central Everglades. It includes the construction of the infrastructure needed to improve the quantity, quality, timing, and distribution of water flows to the coastal estuaries and Everglades.3 The USACE has chosen a new framework for the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM). The new framework will send more water south, and less water out to the coasts. This is a major step for restoration efforts.4 (see citations below for more details on these projects)
The problems with the Everglades and water management are not a science problem – science has stated the solution. They’re not a problem that can be fixed on our own. Even if somehow we were able to get the tremendous amount of funding together with private scientists and engineers to buy the land and execute the projects – all the permits and legal entanglements would either land us in jail or guarantee we never get started.
So unfortunately, they’re a political problem. On the bright side, the funding has been approved. On the not-so bright side there has been a lot of red tape and too many intentional obstacles causing progress to move painstakingly slow. Intentional obstacles set by politicians and policy makers in order to appease interests that conflict with pro-Everglades restoration movements. Such slow movement leaves room for more and greater obstacles to nestle in and potentially bring the project to a complete halt.
That’s where Captains for Clean Water comes in. Being a political issue, the angling community needs a voice and a player in the game. CFCW has stepped up to the plate in a big way. They started as a handful of fishing obsessed guides fed up with the water mismanagement and issues at hand. By marching up to Tallahassee and Washington D.C., they made their stance. Well educated on the problems, solutions, and economic impacts, they’ve proven they’re also not afraid to stand up to who they need to in order to lobby for the restoration and preservation of the Everglades and coastal estuaries.
Now, with the support of Governor Ron DeSantis and Congressman Brian Mast, CFCW has become a force to be reckoned with as they continue to play their part in being a voice of reason for clean water in political discourse and helping to guide policy in the right direction.
The organization operates under two ideologies. First, that this is an economic issue. This is a very digestible, great way to attack the issue. Research5 shows Everglades restoration and coastal preservation leads to tremendous economic benefit for the state of Florida in every industry from fishing and tourism to real estate. The second is: “if everyone knew what we knew, the problem would have already been fixed” – Captains for Clean Water.
By building awareness and presenting the economic side of things, CFCW has seen some success. 2019 toxic discharges to the coasts were greatly reduced from previous years thanks to better water management directly associated with reducing discharge. But Florida Bay still only receives 1/6 of the freshwater flow it needs and the water management policies that worked for the coasts in 2019 were altered again in 2020 in a way that was a step backwards from 2019. Good news is that later in the year the 2020 Water Resources Development Act passed with added protections for the coastal estuaries. A small victory that proves political pressure from Captains For Clean Water and support from citizens like you and me can help move things in the right direction.
We wholeheartedly agree with CFCW’s stance on awareness. The more people who know about the issue and are outspoken about it, the harder it will be for politicians to ignore it. Championing clean water will continue to be an issue that politicians can run a whole platform on if enough people care about it.
Grassroot organizations like CFCW need a continuous flow of capital to continue executing on their strategies for building awareness for clean water and gaining the support to battle corruption when it appears.
Aside from contacting politicians and attending important meetings regarding water policy on your own – joining, supporting and funding organizations like this is the best thing you can do.
So we’ve put together the Fly Box Raffle for Captains For Clean Water. It’s a donation to CFCW with an added perk in that you’ll be entered to win a little fly box full of productive Everglades flies. All the flies are tied in-house by our team. It’s a monthly raffle. So the winner is chosen at the end of the month and a new raffle begins at the start of the next month. The flies may change month to month. They may be well-know patterns or no-name bugs, but they’ll always be flies we personally love using in the glades for big tarpon, baby tarpon, snook and redfish.
Captains For Clean Water Donation/Fly Box Raffle Entry
This raffle is hosted and managed by Ole Florida Fly Shop. We’ll be sending a check every month to Captains For Clean Water with 100% of the proceeds from the raffle.