Needless to say, when major hurricanes sweep through an area, our first concern is for the people living there. In the aftermath folks close enough pitch in to help rescue those in need and later look for the missing. The rest of us that are far removed reach for our wallets to provide support for those efforts.
It is only later that we begin to ask how the fish and fisheries faired during those disasters. We now are far enough removed to ask those questions regarding both Harvey’s impact on the Texas coast and Irma’s in the Florida Keys and along with that state’s southwest coast where she made landfall.
Along the South Texas Coast, both strong winds and flooding were the dangers from Hurricane Harvey. In Houston’s Harris County alone, at some point, more than 1300 square miles were under water.
Fortunately for saltwater fly fishers in Houston, as soon as the week following the storm the three Fishing Tackle Unlimited stores, the Orvis Store, Bass Pro Shops, and Gordy & Sons Outfitters were all open for business and striving for some normalcy. Farther down the coast near Corpus Christi the popular Swan Point Fly Shop at Rockport did sustain damage, but by the end of September it too was up and running.
Obviously, the guide business took a double hit on this coast. Many guides were off the water trying to put their lives and property back together. Additionally, their local clientele was busy with those same chores, leaving no time for fishing.
As for the fish, most reports point to little to no effect. Redfish, trout and flounder have all been reported to be present, hungry and getting less fishing pressure. The biggest hazard for fishing has been the amount of debris in the water, necessitating extra care while running boats.
As for Hurricane Irma’s effect on fishing in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Antigua, Barbuda and surround isles, who knows? Those places are still in recovery mode and the infrastructure is in no shape to support visitors to find out.
The Florida Keys from roughly Cudjoe Key to Islamorada took the brunt of Irma and those islands were not opened to visitors until early this month. The entire stretch still is cleaning up and rebuilding. Hotels, restaurants, fly shops and guide services all are spotty at the moment.
Some reports filtering out point to the fishing having been basically unaffected. But, of course, as in Texas, debris in the water can be a hazard.
Along the Southwest coast of the Florida peninsula, it is a mixed story. Chokoloskee, Naples and Marco Islands all took a beating and much like the Keys are still recovering. Up at Fort Myers, the storm turned inland ravaging some of that city. But, the barrier isles of Sanibel, Captiva, Cayo Costa, as well as Pine Island and its namesake sound, were basically spared. They are open for business. Whitney’s Bait & Tackle and Norm Ziegler’s Fly Shop, both on Sanibel, have their doors open and are dispensing fly gear and fishing tips.
The staff of Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing was on Pine Island Sound the week following Irma’s visit to assess the fishing. While the waters were churned up and quite murky for that time of year, the area was alive with tarpon of all sizes. Up around the mangroves the snook were also feeding. Once the water clears, this part of the coast will be back to business as usual.