Transporting 15,000 spotted sea trout got slippery for the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida. The first attempt was shut down over fears the truck’s circulating pump was broken and the fish would arrive dead. Bad weather delayed the second attempt. But on Sept. 8, despite heavy rains, a truckload of trout were shot out of a hose into Sarasota Bay on City Island.
The CCA and the Duke Energy Mariculture Center released the trout in an effort to replenish declining populations of the fish caused by red tide.
“Trout are the fastest growing, and one of the most prolific species of, fish other than mahi mahi,” Capt. Leiza Fitzgerald said. “This is an inshore fish, and it will make a huge impact once they get to spawning size.”
The juvenile trout released were from 4-6 inches long, big enough not to turn into immediate baitfish once hitting the water. Because trout spawn from three to four times a year, Fitzgerald says that even if only 1% survived, the bay will still benefit.
The fish are raised in a hatchery located in Crystal River, where 15,000 more fish were scheduled to be released the following day. The CCA releases fish all over Florida; 40,000 redfish were released on the west coast.
It takes all day to prepare. Ponds are drained, and trucks are loaded and driven across the state. But once the hose is attached to the truck and there’s a boost of water pressure, 15,000 fish are pumped out in a matter of minutes. This batch was released directly into the bay past the boat ramps on Ken Thompson Parkway.
“Sarasota Bay got hit real hard–trout, redfish and snook. The board decided to raise some fish and release them to help give it a little kick,” said Capt. Scott Moore. “This area has nice seagrasses around the passes and good water flow. They figured this would be a great place to release.”
Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.