Jim Knapp, commercial fishermen, struggling to hang on

Want Lake O discharges to stop


On a beautiful late afternoon, the commercial docks at Port Salerno are quiet.  


No big catches are being brought in on this day.


75 commercial fishing boats call this port, home.


Jim Knapp has been a commercial fisherman here 20 years, mostly fishing for king mackerel and Spanish mackerel.


Even though he does most of his fishing offshore, the Indian River Lagoon's toxic water still has an impact.


"All fishes will spend part of their lives in the bay or near shore," says Knapp.


1.3 million pounds of fish move through the docks annually. But months of freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee will likely cut that number this year.


"When this dirty water started coming in, the fish have moved. The larger boats have had to travel farther so their fuel costs are up," said Butch Olsen, the President of the Port Salerno Commercial Fishing Dock Authority.


When there's less fresh seafood coming out of the local waters, there's less fresh seafood to sell at local fish markets.


Basin Seafood owner Donald Plant says they normally sell a lot of blue crabs. But that local delicacy has been in short supply this summer because of the lake discharges.


"When they release that water it runs the crabs out of the rivers," said Plant.


But not all is lost, say some commercial fishermen.


John Gunsolus says he's had luck in his search for sheepshead in the North Fork of the St. Lucie River.


"When they open it (the locks) up, the sheepshead seem to flock to the freshwater and they're right there right now," said Gunsolus.


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