From the St. John’s River Water Management District

Fishermen recently netted 100,000 pounds of nutrient-laden gizzard shad from Lake Apopka in one week. The St. Johns River Water Management District funds the fish harvest as part of a multifaceted approach to restoring water quality.

“Our focus remains centered on projects that bring us closer to our goal of restoring the lake’s ecosystem,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Working in tandem with other restoration projects at the lake, the rough fish harvest produces great results that are pointing to improved water quality at Lake Apopka.”

Although Lake Apopka still has a need for restoration, improving water quality has been observed. Growth rates for bass and crappie in Lake Apopka are among the highest in Florida. (Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Gizzard shad are a native fish found in most Florida waters. Large numbers of gizzard shad may contribute to nutrient recycling by stirring up bottom sediments during feeding. Removing large numbers of undesirable fish from a waterbody also removes the nutrients in their bodies, which helps improve water quality.

It’s expected that 1 million pounds of undesirable fish, mostly gizzard shad, along with some tilapia, gar and invasive armored catfish, will be harvested during the season, which began in late October and runs through the beginning of 2018. For every 1 million pounds of fish caught, about eight thousand pounds of phosphorus are removed. The district pays $0.58 per pound to harvest, process, and transport the inedible fish, which are eventually used as bait for crayfish and crabs.

The district has used the low-cost nutrient removal technique of reducing undesirable fish populations in various waterways since 2003. Last season, about 985,000 pounds were removed from Lake Apopka.

The fish harvest had been previously used at Lake Griffin. In combination with other nutrient removal projects and technologies, the work was successful enough that water clarity improved, and submerged aquatic vegetation and game fish returned.


  1. SJRWMD is playing God. Burning the bird sanctuary lands around Lake Apopka, pesticide applying already over-pesticide polluted waters, and having and paying fishermen to net “trash” fish deemed undesirable. Messing with the water levels too, all the time. I am happy for the commercial fishermen who are benefiting for the 58 cent per pound for the fish catch, but if tilipia fish are so undesirable, it is mighty funny, I see them in the fish markets, and seafood sections of the grocery stores for sale as human food, as well as on the restaurant menus. Gars are beautiful fish to be admired. I hate it when people kill them for no reason, and call them trash. God put these fish here on this earth for some purpose. And gill shad serve a very important purpose here in Florida too….if it were not for them, and their annual fish die offs, with their stinky fish kills, to run off the tourists, just look what would happen, we would be subjected to another eco-tourism Disney World type thing out on Lake Apopka, and who wants that but the politicians?

  2. I am not so sure SJRWMD is doing anything with the undesirable fish, hauled out of Lake Apopka, such as their claim that crab and crayfish bait is made from them, they probably are just hauled off, and buried, or maybe go to the landfill. You can’t always believe everything you are told…. especially when it comes to the government! I have been over to Oakland, over there on Lake Apopka, the building there, don’t know what they call it, other than the information center, and there was information in there, where the “trash fish hauls” were just dumped……

  3. Notice this article states that gizzard shad are natives? What if the people of this nation’s natives were treated like these fish….oh I forgot!

  4. Now is the time to go see the sea cows, or manatees over at Blue Springs near Deland. You can find the springs, online, as I am not good at directions. Anyway, when it is really cold here in Florida, like it has been the last three days, the manatees congregate there at the Blue Springs Park. They do charge to get in there, not sure how much, but it is not an excessive charge at all…..if you have never seen the manatees, in the wild, and you are new here to Florida, you should go visit Blue Springs Park during this cold ….they are amazing to see! You don’t really hardly see them at all when it is warmer. Now is the time!

  5. This article talks about removing the undesirable fish in Lake Apopka, and mentions the invasive armored catfish, as undesirable. Many people have never seen them. I have told some people, even a fisherman, about them, and he had not seen them. The best place to see them is right there at Blue Springs Park, as the water is very clear, and they are very viewable, and easy to spot. The look black in the water, and congregate right there along with the manatees, there on the bottom, and they look just like what their name sounds like….a catfish wearing a suit of armor.

  6. Or a “walking catfish” either….if they don’t like where they are, in a body of water, they get up and walk away, and go to another body of water, so they claim…..I think their “walking” is more like flipping and flapping around, to get somewhere else.


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