Surface Water Improvement and Management
Shad removal could help clean up Lake Apopka
Adjusting the fish population removing Florida shad en masse to Lake Apopka," said Godwin.
structure of Florida's most polluted from Lake Apopka, the cycling of District scientists estimate the
large lake could help clear up its nutrients can be reduced. It also will mass removal of Florida shad from
pea-green waters, and re-establish result in the zooplankton consuming Lake Apopka would cut 10 metric
Lake Apopka as a bass fishing greater amounts of algae. tons of phosphorus and 35 metric
mecca. "We've been working with the tons of nitrogen from the lake annu-
Until the late 1950s, Lake Apopka Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish ally. It would also reduce the internal
was known for its champion-sized Commission on this and the results recycling of nutrients from the fish.
bass, drawing anglers from through- look promising," said Walt Godwin, "We estimate there are up to10
out the United States. a District project manager. million pounds of shad swimming in
Bass still are found in Lake Recent mass harvesting of Florida Lake Apopka and that 3-3.5 million
Apopka, but their numbers are few. shad from nearby Lake Denham, a pounds could be harvested annual
Instead, Gizzard shad (Dorosoma smaller lake with nearly identical from the lake," said Godwin.
cepedianum), also known as Florida water quality problems to Lake Because these fish propagate an
shad, is the dominant fish species. Apopka, has left scientists hopeful. grow rapidly, yearly fish removal on
It makes up an estimated 80-percent In the two years of harvesting a large scale would be required for
of the fish population. which largely diminished the shad 5-10 years before the supply would
Removal of these fish could help population in the lake, water clarity diminish.
improve the lake's health, as the increased four-fold from about nine "With a stable supply of 300-400
lake is overrun by algae which cloud inches to more than three feet! The pounds of fish per acre available foi
the water, giving it its sickly color, amount of submersed vegetation- harvest, mass removal of Florida
"Harvesting these fish will help habitat for juvenile game fish- shad from Lake Apopka represents
improve the lake's health by remov- increased, and local fishermen a tremendous opportunity for the
ing nutrients in the bodies of the report substantial increases in game private sector," added Godwin.
fish," explained Jim Conner, Lake fish caught in Lake Denham. "This is an excellent example of c
Apopka Inter-agency program man- "The water quality improvements public-private partnership," said
ager. "Just as Indians would use fish following the shad harvest are still Conner. "As private fishermen profit
at the end of a corn row as fertilizer, holding strong. As shad removal from harvesting a bountiful supply c
each shad is a package of nutrients, continues to confirm itself as a fish, the public benefits from a
Mass harvesting can remove these restoration technique, we cleaner lake."
nutrients in the bodies of the fish." are applying this
Shad wastes return phosphorus method
and nitrogen into the water-in a
form which feeds the growth of
the already overly-productive
In addition, the shad are
filter feeders that eat micro-
scopic zooplankton in the -
water. The zooplankton, if left in
the lake, would eat the algae.
District scientists believe that by
Shad harvesting could benefit Central Florida economy
Fishermen net Florida shad
on Lake Denham.
Each fish is approximately
16 inches long and weighs
an average of 1.5 pounds.
Each fish yields one pound
of meat. With an estimated
3.5 million pounds of Florida
shad available for harvest
from Lake Apopka annually,
that's enough to keep fisher-
men busy for the next 5-10
--. If a large consumer market
can be found or created for
SFlorida shad (Dorosoma cepe-
Sdianum), it could mean a res-
toration technique that pays
for itself while being a boost to
the Central Florida economy,
according to District research-
ers working on Lake Apopka's
Until recently, the market for
the fish was restricted to use
as bait. However, recent work
conducted by the Florida
Department of Agriculture's
Bureau of Seafood Marketing
& Aquaculture has proven the
potential of marketing this fish
for human consumption. Their
work has resulted in the devel-
opment of consumer products
from the fish roe (eggs), gizzards
and processed fish meat.
Gourmets see the fish's roe and
gizzards as delicacies. While it's not
known if Americans will eat the fish
as it's prepared by gourmets around
the world, taste tests have research-
ers hopeful that Florida shad will
become an export product.
"It's a tasty fish with a great deal
of potential," says Seafood Market-
ing's Charlie Thomas. "We've devel-
oped a number of tasty recipes and
we're excited about a consumer
market for this product.
Officials say the fish removal will
be a restoration technique that
costs taxpayers nothing. They hope
the price paid to the fisherman can
increase to 12-15 cents per pound.
from the current 5-8 cents per
District researchers estimate a
consumer market for Florida shad
would have an annual economic
impact approaching $1 million.
Each of the ten fishermen with
permits to fish for shad are catching
more than 4,000 pounds of shad
per day. Roe and gizzards are
being exported, providing income
to fishermen and fish processors.
Local businesses benefit from
fishermen patronizing hotels, rest-
aurants and stores, purchases of
ice to preserve the fish, and fuel
purchased for the fishing boats and
trucks. Additional jobs are created
for loading, transporting and pro-
cessing the fish.
Jim Conner, Lake Apopka Inter-
agency program manager, says it's
a win-win situation.
'The local economy gets a boost
because private fishermen harvest
the fish, additional jobs could be
created and it's an abundant food
source that tastes good," says Con-
ner. "It's a great example of a pub-
lic-private partnership. And best of
all, it's a restoration technique that
could pay for itself...with the end re-
suit being a cleaner Lake Apopka."
What is SWIM?
For more Information about the
Lake Apopka restoration project,
call Jim Conner at (407) 897-4347,
or the Public Information Division
at (904) 329-4500.
SWIM stands for the Surface
Water Improvement and Manage-
ment Act passed by the Florida
Legislature in 1987. It provides for
the cleanup, restoration and
protection of Florida's lakes, rivers,
bays and other waterways.
In passing the SWIM bill, the
Legislature noted that pollution has
jeopardized some functions of many
of Florida's important water bodies,
such as Lake Apopka.
Through the SWIM Act, the
Legislature directed the state's five
water management districts to
develop priority lists of water bodies
needing attention. Annual appropria-
tions to the SWIM Trust Fund have
provided the majority of monies
needed to begin addressing these
The St. Johns River Water
Management District has initiated
work in four SWIM program areas
with great success. They are: Lake
Apopka, the upper Ocklawaha River,
the lower St. Johns River, and the
Indian River Lagoon.
Unfortunately, reductions in state
funding have caused the elimination
or postponement of many SWIM