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“Sometimes artificial is a good thing.” The Creator has indeed produced some awesome natural fisheries and ecosystems all over the world; however, man in his ingenuity and resourcefulness (with perhaps a touch of Divinity) has created some “artificial” habitat that has been pretty dang effective for proliferating various species of wildlife – not to mention the human species. Because we humans have become so prolific, demand on natural resources has increased exponentially. We can no longer afford the luxury of being passive and letting nature takes its course. The days of Bambi with a butterfly on his nose and nature in perfect harmony without the interference of “evil man” are long over. We are here to stay and we have to be creative and actively engaged in order for man and nature to succeed. There are many examples of reservoirs, tail water fisheries, deltas, rivers, streams, levies, bays, etc., that have experienced resource modification or even initial development – and have resulted in multiple benefits for not only man – but also nature. Oftentimes, fresh water reserves, human habitat, electricity, recreation, economic prosperity, and wildlife proliferation can all come from the same manmade or man-modified habitat. Here is one epic “man-made conservation success story.” The South Florida canal system is probably one of the greatest testaments to conservation success indicative of man-made involvement or some might argue “Interference.” This fishery is distinctly unique and a one-of-akind ecosystem and fishery that has not been duplicated anywhere in the world. In addition to supplying a huge abundance of fresh water reserves, flood control, recreational opportunities, etc., for sustainability of not only human habitat, but also for animal life. It is an incredible ecosystem that has a monumental economic impact benefiting humans and wildlife. In short – its here because of man and did not happen on accident. Yes – these fish can be caught in many places across the globe but not all in one location as it is in South Florida. This fishery has 32 plus non-native reproducing fish that have carved out their existence in the 1,100 mi. plus canals and lakes, south of Lake Okeechobee. Many are catchable via rod and reel and bring sure pleasure to the fishing world. This plays well for the angler who does not have the time or financial means to travel to exotic far off places. To explain all of this takes a good bit of time but to cut the story short there is not much native to South Florida from the plants to the animals and yes to us people. By the way, we don’t have one inch of native canals as they were dug out by the Army Corps of Engineers or by local developers for land fill and other uses – no matter it created one of the best fisheries that exist on the earth that has not been duplicated anywhere. Some Fishy background – What was discovered about our canal system was that because of the Biscayne Aquifer that flows at a very high level (about 8’ below ground level) along the east coast of Florida from about North Broward County to the southern tip of Florida and about 25 miles inland from the ocean - was that the water temps ran about 5 degrees warmer than if the canals were not there. This Biscayne aquifer seeps through our coral rock and because the ground water is warmer than the water in the winter, it acts like an insulating blanket and is superior to the natural ecosystem in terms of proliferating wildlife. In the 1970’s Florida started to realize we had all these non-native fish in the canals as people were tossing their pet fish from the aquarium to the canals and lakes. At this point the State brought in Paul Shafland to study the canals and by the 1980’s he came up with a plan to bring in Peacock Bass. The stocking program ran from 1984-1987 and originally included two species of Peacock Bass from three areas of the Amazon but in the end only one species survived. Some experts claim that we have 3 species but in my 28 years of fishing and guiding in both Southern Florida and the Amazon – these fish change color in different environments and have distinct color patterns as individual as finger prints on humans. I believe them to be basically of one strand and when you get down to it – it does not really matter. “Bottom line - they are here and we love em.” Catching the fish – Peacock Bass are for the most part very aggressive no matter the stage or cycle they Alan Zaremba - Prof. Guide/Author 58 BISBEE’S CONSERVATION JOURNAL Q1/Q2 • 2016


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