Ashton Wilkins: I remember the first time, five years ago when I stumbled upon St. Teresa, a tiny beach village on Florida’s forgotten coast. While fishing and spending time along those emerald waters, I have spent some of my most memorable college days.
The seafoam colored waters contrast sharply with hanging oaks and pine trees that line the tread.
I’ve been fishing in Florida waters since I was seven. My grandma taught me the old spit and bait method, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I have often rigged my pole deep into the sand at St. Teresa, cast my line into the ocean, and cracked a cold one… until my line started to run sideways. I’d pull silver trout, black sea bass and mackerel until I had caught too many to carry.
Fishing at St. Teresa became a home for me. I knew the good spots and was friends with some of the locals. But in May 2010 small black balls started showing up on the beach and in the water. As I waded through the shallow water, I noticed the ocean floor was scattered with tarballs of all sizes.
These were the infamous tarballs on the news-that rode around 500 miles to reach my beach from the Deepwater Horizon.
Dr. Jack Rudloe is the owner and head marine biologist at the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory, and a local activist and fisherman. He says that one of the main concerns he has for the Gulf is toxicity of the fish and what long term effects they will have on people.
He says that the water near his aquarium in neighboring Carabelle is saturated with oil and dispersants, which add to the toxicity levels in fish. He added that there is not a comparable study because there has yet to be a spill of this size.
Jack and his staff installed new tanks in their aquarium, as they can no longer rely on fresh water from the Gulf. Jack’s son Cypress, who helps out at the lab says, “There is a giant science project going on out in the Gulf right now.”
In 2011, research and updates about how the Gulf is doing are sparse. However, the locals know how fishing is going.
Roland Crum, owner of Crum Mini Mall and Bait Shop relayed to me the facts about how the North Florida coast’s fishing industry has been doing this year. “I feel that the BP effect is still causing tourists to stay home.” he says. “As far as sales go, January 2011’s numbers are down compared to last year at the same time.”
The last time that I fished St. Teresa, I found that the fish were scarce and when I grilled them the taste was different. This was the last time that I fished at my favorite spot, but I will always have hopes that a new tide will bring life back to the Gulf.
You can take a look at Ashton's fishing spot through the St. Teresa Beach Cam
|Ashton Wilkins Fishing for Answers 2.mp3||1.9 MB|