Volunteers sought for Monofilament Madness cleanup event
An annual event, which began after local anglers, Larry Davis and Dave Westra, who saw what was happening with monofilament fishing line, is now in its 26th year.
The annual Keep Lee County Beautiful Monofilament Madness will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 2, which includes a volunteer appreciation lunch sponsored by the Galloway Family of Dealerships.
The water-based cleanup requires a personal watercraft, such as boats, kayaks and canoes, as volunteers look for fishing line and other harmful debris in and around the mangroves.
The cleanup locations include the Mound House, at 451 Connecticut St., Fort Myers Beach; Salty Sam’s Marina, at 2500 Main St., Fort Myers Beach; Gulf Coast Kayak, at 4120 Pine Island Road N.W., Matlacha; and Bunche Beach, at 18201 John Morris Road, Fort Myers.
To register, visit www.klcb.org/monofilament-madness.html.
Keep Lee County Beautiful Program Coordinator Mike Thomas said they easily collect in the hundreds of feet of monofilament during the event.
“People come back and they have bags full of fishing line,” he said. “Another person comes back and it’s a boater and they have 150 pounds of just debris. The idea is Monofilament Madness. We are going after fishing line, but we do have boaters out there with us and they are getting the bigger items.”
Last year, for example, a giant cardboard box, which might have been for a refrigerator, was pulled out of the water by the boaters, Thomas said.
“The kayakers find that fishing line. You can be pretty far away and see the lures, the bright colors. When they see the bright color they go over and cut it out,” he said. “They are going close to the mangroves. As they go, they find plastic bottles and food wrappers that are caught up in the mangroves.”
The great thing about the event is all the volunteers, regardless of watercraft, are working side-by-side to get rid of all debris, Thomas said.
Last year about 400 to 500 pounds of debris, on top of all the fishing line, was gathered from Gulf Coast Kayak and about 1,500 pounds from around the Mound House.
“The year before over 3,000 pounds (was collected) out of the Mound House, but it was after a hurricane, so we had a lot of hurricane debris,” Thomas said, adding that some of the debris was so big they had to mark the location for a bigger vessel to collect the items.
In June two powerboats went into the Estero Bay for a cleanup. He said he was among the volunteers going into the mangroves.
“We gathered easily over 1,600 pounds of debris. Some of it was still hurricane debris. It was a good day because we got a lot of stuff out of there. Now we have a better idea of where to look,” Thomas said.
He anticipates that this year they will collect even more monofilament line and trash because they added another jump-off point, Salty Sam’s, to the lineup.
“They are going to go into Hurricane Bay. We haven’t done that area in a long time. A lot of people fish in that area. I expect them to gather quite a bit of fishing line,” Thomas said.
The mangroves became a destination for the Monofilament Madness because anglers cast their lines into the mangroves due to the fish population being 30 percent higher in that area, that 10 feet out of the mangroves.
“In the sea grass the fish density drops,” Thomas said. “The fish breeding grounds are in the mangroves. A lot of times it’s where there is a little bit of a curb or more shade. That is where they are casting away.”
He said he cannot fault the anglers. Once the monofilament is hooked into the mangrove, boaters who made the cast usually cannot remove it.
“Unless they are carrying a portable kayak with them there is no way to get the line out of the mangrove because the boat is too big. The only thing they can do is cut their line,” Thomas said.
Unfortunately, monofilament line that is left behind can be extremely harmful for the birds, as well as what is below the water line.
“The birds more often get the brunt of it. They land and all of a sudden they have a hook in their wing. The fishing line is wrapped around their foot and can’t get away. The more they try to get away they get more tangled into it,” Thomas said.