One week after the Lake Okeechobee discharges

Posted at 8:14 PM, Feb 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 20:14:34-05

MARTIN COUNTY, Fa-  It has been a full week now since the U.S Army Corps of Engineers started releasing the maximum amount of water possible in to the St. Lucie Estuary.
Some folks in Martin County are already starting to see the impacts not just on the quality of the water but for those who use it.
Captain George Gozdz has been chartering fishing trips around the Martin County waterways for nearly 12 years, but now he's having to make some big changes.
"I'm going to have to spend more time off shore or further up the indian river trying to find cleaner water," said Gozdz.
He says the recent discharges from Lake Okeechobee have already impacted the quality of the fishing.
"I used to catch bait here in the Indian River and then transport it to the St. Lucie River and it's just dying within 30 minutes of getting into that fresh water," said Gozdz.

It's not just the actually fishing that he says is impacted, Gozdz says when they do catch something good, some of his customers are actually afraid to eat the fish. 
"When you launch at these parks and there are signs that say high bacteria levels. obviously that's concerning for people."

It has been a full week since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began discharging the maximum amount of water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie estuary, the lake was too high and the dike could be at risk.

Even in just one weeks time, Dr. Dennis Hanisak, a researcher at FAU Harbor Branch says he’s already seeing significant changes in the water quality. He says the changes happened almost immediately and are dramatic.
For example, he says the salinity is down significantly and other levels like nitrate are almost 3 times what they should be.

Hanisak says while those numbers won't necessarily change, he says the longer the levels stay out of range the worse it is for the estuary.

"The problem is the longer we have this the greater the impact, and we saw that in 2013 and in other years," said Hanisak. He says that's when we could start seeing the impact on the fish, oysters seagrass and other life in the water.
Gozdz says he hasn't seen any unhealthy fish yet, but he is concerned that is what's to come.
He says it's a double edge sword. The issue needs to be discussed, but at the same time it continues to make things worse for business.
As for eating the fish, The Martin County Health Department says use common sense. If the fish looks unhealthy, don't eat it. If you find a fish with lesions, definitely don't eat it. Report it to FWC. And be cautious not to cut yourself and if so, avoid contact with the water.