Sanibel team wins SW Florida CISMA Non-Native Fish tourney
On May 5, an all-Sanibel team composed of three 8-year-olds and an adult won the SW Florida CISMA Non-Native Fish Roundup after weighing in with nearly 50 pounds of invasive fish.
The team consisted of Yuan and Joy Bonhayag and Kai and Josh Schwartz. Mark Thompson and Scott Schwartz also accompanied the group to lend support.
Yuan and Joy teamed up to catch the greatest weight of fish and the biggest fish awards. They were competing against participants from Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties.
It took about six hours for the youth to round up the fish from Sanibel lakes and the Sanibel River. The team hopes that the showing will help put Sanibel on the map as one of the state’s premier invasive fish hotspots and attract nationwide attention for anglers interested in reducing the numbers of invasive fish.
Unknown to most residents, Sanibel’s fresh waters are a haven for non-native invasive fish such as Mayan cichlids and blue tilapia. Lurking in any stormwater pond, lake or wetland are large numbers of the invasive fish, which are prolific, destructive and almost impossible to eradicate once established.
Introduced to Florida through aquaculture and aquarium releases, they reduce water quality by over-eating the zooplankton, which prevent algae blooms and by churning up bottom sediments, releasing phosphorus and causing additional algae blooms. Once cichlids or tilapia move in, native bass and sunfish slowly disappear. They out-compete the native fish and are able to gulp air to survive in low oxygen conditions often seen in ponds.
One positive note about the invasive fish is that they are tasty. The same fish you might purchase at local groceries are swimming around fresh in the pond behind many homes.
For more information, visit www.floridainvasives.org/Southwest/.