Bryan Fluech

Common Reef Fish Associated with Collier County’s Natural and Artificial Reefs

Collier County’s natural and artificial reefs have a diverse mix of sub tropical and temperate fish species that inhabit them. Many of these species are targeted by recreational and commercial fishermen, while others may only be encountered by divers. The following presentation is meant to be a general reference for some of the common fish species found on and near Collier County’s artificial and natural reef systems. It is intended for recreational divers and spear fishermen, anglers, educators, resource managers and/or anyone interested in learning more about the biodiversity associated with our area’s local reefs. Each slide has the fish’s scientific name, associated family, general remarks about its presence on reefs (based on local staff observations), and basic field identification tips, and size. For species that are typically targeted by fishermen, links to state and federal (Gulf) fishing regulations are provided; This presentation is NOT meant to be a substitute for regulations and individuals should consult the appropriate regulatory agency for updated harvesting regulations.

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Florida Seafood and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

buying seafood

Perhaps one of the most recognized health benefits associated with seafood, while certainly not the only one, is their omega-3 fatty acid content. These essential fatty acids are required for healthy human development and are not produced in substantial amounts by the human body. They must be obtained from dietary sources and many seafood choices are considered one of the richest sources of omega-3 fats. Health organizations suggest healthy individuals consume at least 250 to 500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per day and eat at least two seafood meals per week to maximize the health benefits associated with their intake. The American Heart Association advises individuals with coronary artery issues to consume at least 1,000 milligrams per day. Two types of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are present in most of the seafood we eat. Both EPA and DHA are thought to reduce cardiovascular disease and contribute to brain and vision development in developing fetuses, infants and children. A third type of omega-3 fatty acid, alpha linoleic acid, is found in soybeans, leafy greens and certain nuts, but must be converted metabolically in the body to have the same level of health benefits that the direct consumption of EPA and DHA provide to human health.

Fish and shellfish obtain these important compounds by consuming phytoplankton, which are the primary producers of omega-3 fatty acids in the marine environment. Consequently, omega-3’s are found throughout the aquatic food chain and are present in commercially harvested fish and shellfish, at some level. In general, fattier, dark-color fleshed fish such as salmon and herring contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than leaner, light-color fleshed species, such as tilapia or cod. Factors such as diet, age, reproductive status, physiology and surrounding environmental conditions, however, can also influence the omega-3 content found between seafood species.

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Are you Vibrio Aware?

DSCN0881Summer is here, which means in addition to higher temperatures, there’s a good chance you’ll hear reports of “flesh eating bacteria” in the news. While this phrase may be fear-provoking, some common sense and basic prevention steps can help minimize the likelihood of infection. The first step in this process is educating yourself about this potential culprit. “Flesh eating bacteria” or Vibrio vulnificus as it is better known to the scientific and health community, is a naturally occurring bacterium that is present in the warm marine and estuarine waters of southwest Florida. Vunificus, like other members of Vibrio family are called halophilic because they require salt. While the highest concentration of Vibrio in the U.S. occurs in the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it has been found in lower concentrations in every coastal region of the United States including Alaska. It should also be noted that Vibrio can occur in the cleanest of waters and is not related to pollution levels.

Infection from V. vulnificus occurs in two primary ways. Roughly 50% of U.S. cases comes from the consumption of raw seafood, particularly oysters. (Oysters and other molluscan shellfish are filter feeders who actively filter the bacteria out of water and concentrate it in their tissues.) The other 50% of cases are the result of wounds exposed to saltwater. Ingestion of V. vulnificus can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. While healthier people might experience milder symptoms, those at high risk can develop more life-threatening illnesses. The bacteria enters the bloodstream and can cause gastrointestinal illness, fever, chills, and decreased blood pressure or septic shock. Infected wounds can also develop blistering skin lesions and ulcers. If left untreated, infections can lead to the breakdown of skin tissue (hence the name “flesh eating bacteria”) and surgery and even amputation may be required for recovery.

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Calico Scallops….Florida’s Other Native Scallop

When it comes to native scallops in Florida, perhaps the most recognized and sought after species is the sweet-tasting bay scallop (Arctopecten irradians.) CalicosHowever, did you know that a similar species, the calico scallop (Arctopecten gibbus) also inhabits Florida waters? Calico scallops get their name from the colorful patchwork of red and pink patterns on their top shell; their lower shell tends to be yellow to white in color. While bay scallop may have markings on their shells too, they tend to be more drab in color and do not have the bright colors found on calico shells. Their colorful shells are often found washed up along local beaches.

Unlike bay scallops that are commonly associated with shallow seagrass communities, calico scallops are found in deeper offshore waters. They are associated with shell rubble or other hard bottom substrates and can be found along Florida’s east and west coasts.

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Are You Smarter than a Stone Crab Tour: April 9th, 2015

Dostone crab flyer you love to eat stone crab claws? Would you like to learn more about the stone crab industry? Join the Florida Sea Grant Agent in Collier County for another “Are you Smarter than a Stone Crab?” Tour on April 9th, 2015.  We will visit Kirk Fish Company in Goodland, Fl. Note the tour will start at the Marco Island Library. To register visit:


2015 Southwest Florida Fisheries Regulations & Management Workshop

Do you know . . . fisheries regulations workshop

  • What fishing regulations have changed since last year?
  • The latest on goliath grouper research?
  • How to identify local marine fish?

Florida Sea Grant Extension in Lee and Collier Counties  & Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Law Enforcement are pleased to announce their 6th annual

Southwest Florida Marine Fisheries Regulations and Management Workshop

 January 20, 2015 from  9:00 AM—12:30 PM.

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Tripletail…Beyond Crab Trap Buoys

tripletail buoy Boat US

October in Florida means the start of stone crab season, but for many anglers in southwest Florida, this time of year also means an increased likelihood of seeing the uniquely shaped Atlantic tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis) as they are commonly spotted floating near crab trap buoys. While they inhabit Florida waters year round, it is thought tripletail migrate to warmer waters during cooler months and back to northern latitudes during warmer periods.
Globally, tripletail inhabit mostly tropical and sub-tropical coastal waters, but in the U.S. they can be found from Massachusetts south along the Atlantic coast throughout the Gulf of Mexico. They are not thought to be very abundant in any particular location, and are unique as they are the only member of the family Lobotidae found in the region. Individuals can reach over three feet in length and weigh as much as 40 pounds although anglers commonly encounter much smaller individuals.

tripletail floatingTripletail derive their name from their large rounded dorsal and anal fins, which in addition to their caudal fin, makes it look like they have three “tails”. The fish has a deep, laterally compressed body and a large mouth. They also have small eyes and a sloping forehead.
There are still many unknowns about the life history and reproductive biology of tripletail, but it is thought they can live up to ten years. Spawning takes place offshore in deeper waters during summer months, and females are thought to spawn multiple times during the spawning season.
Like many fish, tripletail can change their color to match their surroundings. Juveniles tend to be mottled with yellow, brown and black and have white pectoral fins and a white mar-gin on their tail. They are commonly associated with Sargassum and other drift algae and resemble leaves or debris. Adults also have varied mottled patterns ranging from dark brown to reddish brown or brown with a tint of gray. They are found in the open Gulf waters but can also occur in passes, inlets and bays near river mouths. Typically tripletail are solitary, but occasionally will form schools. They tend to float on their sides beneath objects such as crab trap buoys or debris or near structure such as pilings or navigation markers.

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Summary of the 2014 Great Goliath Grouper Count

DCIM100GOPRODid you know 2014 marked the 5th year that local Sea Grant Extension Agents in collaboration with researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute  have worked with volunteer divers and boat captains to participate in the Great Goliath Grouper Count (GGGC)? The GGGC is citizen-science effort to:

  • Provide a snapshot of goliath grouper presence and abundance at known artificial reefs
  • Compare abundance & size distribution to habitat, depth, and region – both between and within years
  • Characterize the size structure of goliath grouper within the study area
  • Involve stakeholders in the collection of fisheries data

The following slides provide an overview of the data we collected not only for this year’s count, but for the other four years as well.

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Florida Remains a Top U.S. Aquaculture Producer

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent survey on farm production,  Florida aquaculture ranked 6th amongst U.S. states with 619 farms reporting $95.6fish million in sales. Florida’s top aquaculture sector continues to be ornamental fish (freshwater and marine tropical, koi, and goldfish) with 155 farms reporting farm-gate income of $42.9 million. In fact, Florida is the number one U.S. producer of ornamental fish followed by California at $5.3 million.

Shellfish production, specifically hard clams, is Florida’s second largest aquaculture segment. According to the USDA report Florida has 154 farms reporting $15.7 million in sales in 2012.  Florida ranks 6th in the nation behind other states that culture shellfish (clams, oysters or mussels) such as Washington, Virginia, Louisiana, California, and Connecticut.

The USDA report also found 126 Florida farms are producing a wide variety of “other species” with a sales value of $12.9 million.  Florida crustacean production such as shrimp, crawfish, and prawn ranked 4th in the United States with 22 farms selling $10.6 million worth of product after Louisiana, Texas, and Hawaii.

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Marine Life Harvesting Regulations Presentation

Recently, I’ve had several questions regarding the legality of harvesting live shells and other marine life such  as fiddler crabs, sand dollars and sea stars. In short, the recreational collection of sea shells is allowed depending on whether or not the harvested sea shell contains a living organism, the type of organism it contains, and where you will be collecting. The following presentation was prepared for county park rangers and resource managers in Collier County. The presentation addresses:

  • Jurisdiction for harvesting marine life in Florida
  • Basic license requirements

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