Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Lake Okeechobee in southeast Florida is one of the bass and crappie fishing capitals of North America. Commercial fishing for catfish in shallows of Lake Okeechobee began in the late-1800s and didn't even require boats. Fishermen sometimes simply waded in with nets and traps. In recent decades, quality of fishing has declined as pollutants from adjacent agricultural areas and cities have flowed into lake waters. Construction of canals, linking Atlantic and Gulf Coast with Lake Okeechobee, has provided access to the lake for fishes we normally think of as marine. Snook, big-mouth sleeper, and the opossum pipefish, a relative of seahorses, have invaded Lake Okeechobee from the marine environment by way of canals. Exotic freshwater fishes, such as the blue tilapia from Africa, the walking catfish from Asia, and the Mayan sicklet and oscar from Latin America, have joined the lake's fish fauna. Exotic plants, such as hydrilla and water hyacinth, also have diminished the quality of lake habitats and often grow so profusely that they clog out board motors and make even sport-fishing difficult. Exotics upset natural balance that took millennia to develop.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.