By Katrina Elsken Lake Okeechobee News

    “Can you swim in Lake Okeechobee?” An article with that headline from an blog written by RVers called “Mortonsonthemove.com,” that was shared on a public social media page in Okeechobee attracted a lot of attention from community members last week.

    The article states: “Lake Okeechobee and many other Florida water sources often experience high levels of blue-green algae. While the state has been battling these algae growths across the state for years, 2021 and 2022 have seen extreme cases.”

    The writer fails to mention that not all blue-green algae are capable of producing toxins, and even the 25% of species of blue-green algae that are capable of producing toxins do not always do so. While blue-green algae is a problem statewide, 2022 has not been a bad year for algae in Lake Okeechobee, according to Florida Department of Environmental Protection data. The vast majority of regular water tests have found no toxins or very low levels with most below the level deemed safe for drinking water by the EPA. In addition, in 2021 while Lake O experienced a large algal bloom early in the wet season, there was relatively little algae the rest of the year. The theory was the initial bloom had consumed the available nitrogen in the water, limiting the available food supply.

    Okeechobee area residents who commented on the article pointed out the writer missed the reason most natives don’t swim in the lake – the alligators! The gators, combined with the low visibility in the dark water, means few locals are willing to dive in.

    “I wouldn’t swim because of gators, but the lake is not polluted. I get so sick and tired of hearing this. It’s a beautiful lake. If people would stop spraying and killing all the vegetation, which actually helps keep the water clean, it would certainly help,” posted Debbie Nettles Storey.

    “My old neighbor swam from J&S Fish camp to Moore Haven so fast he got sponsored by Mercury,” joked Harrison Willis O’Connor.

    “When I was a kid we did all the time, but it was clear and yes there’s gators but generally don’t bother you unless it’s breeding time,” offered Kristi Kinnibrugh.

    “Jumping off of the bridge out at Okee-Tantie was a right of passage when we were in high school in the 70’s!” added Karen Williamson Cook.

    “We actually tried lifeguarding at the lake back in the early 70’s, but the visibility had already begun to deteriorate and there was a huge drop-off near the end of the pier that was really dangerous. Only lasted a couple of weeks or so before it was shut down,” added Karyne Brass.

    “Many drowned in it. I will never forget. Twin sisters and their father. One sister tried to save the other and the father tried to save them, and they all drowned. Collins family. Yes, there used to be a beach and people swam and played there,” wrote Claudia Johnson.

    “I grew up swimming and skiing in it. But that was in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s but I wouldn’t now. Way too much crap coming in from the river from Orlando,” stated Brian Feltner.

    Linda Harper posted swimming in Lake O is not advised “if you want to keep your arms and legs.”

    “Just don’t do it at night,” advised Jack Fulce.

    There are way more gators in the lake today than there was back in the day that is for sure,” added Billy Johnson.

    “If they would give a few more gator tags out a year we wouldn’t have as much of a problem. The gators don’t fear people anymore because they’re not getting culled. I’ve seen gators in the lake that easily top the record for biggest gator in Florida. There’s too many,” opined Sierra Story.

    “I grew up in the 2000s, so it was always interesting for me to listen to my Dad and Grandpa talk about how they used to swim in it years ago! I could never, not with them gators!” posted Marissa Kerce Walker.

    According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the posters are correct. There are a lot more alligators in the lake than there were in the 1960s and 1970s. By the 1960s, alligators were scarce in Florida. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 prohibited alligator hunting, allowing the species to rebound. FWC estimates there are now about 1.3 million alligators in Florida. The state’s alligator hunting program, which resumed in 1988, sets quotas each year in attempt to keep the alligator population at a manageable level. In addition, the state’s Nuisance Alligator Program allows licensed trappers to remove alligators if a complaint meets the qualifying criteria.

    In 2021, FWC issued 15,080 tags to hunt alligators but only 52.8% of hunters were successful for a total harvest of 7,955 alligators. Of those harvested, 80% were male gators.

    That same year, 9,442 nuisance alligators were harvested. Of those nuisance alligators harvested, 66.7% were males. According to FWC, nuisance alligators are killed because relocation of alligators is not feasible. “Relocated alligators often try to return to their capture site. They can create problems for people or other alligators along the way. If an alligator successfully returns, capturing it again would be necessary and likely more difficult the second time,” the FWC website states.

    People concerned about an alligator should call the FWC toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).

    Are there alligators in Lake Okeechobee?
    Lake Okeechobee supports over 3,800 different arthropods, including insects and arachnids, along with around 400 species of nematodes. But what's more interesting is that the lake has at least 30,000 alligators due to its size and availability of suitable habitats. more
    Is Lake Okeechobee a man made lake?
    Welcome to the Lake Okeechobee Lake Okeechobee is the second largest fresh water lake in the US. The lake covers over 730 square miles and is connected to both of Florida's coasts via the man made Okeechobee Waterway. The Lake is 33 miles wide from north to south, and 30 miles wide from east to west. more
    Is there a lake underneath Lake Superior?
    Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes, and it's also one of the deepest lakes in the world. But did you know that there's an underground lake beneath it? Lake Inferior was discovered in 1870 by William Bitter, who found an entrance to the lake. Bitter's work was to conduct an underwater survey. more
    What lake feeds Lake Mead?
    This flow is Lake Mohave's only major water source. From there, the Colorado River continues on for hundreds of miles toward the Gulf of California. more
    Does Okeechobee lake have alligators?
    Lake Okeechobee supports over 3,800 different arthropods, including insects and arachnids, along with around 400 species of nematodes. But what's more interesting is that the lake has at least 30,000 alligators due to its size and availability of suitable habitats. more
    Is Lake Michigan or Lake Huron better?
    The total volume of the lakes is about 5,475 cubic miles, more than 6,000 trillion gallons. The Great Lakes are Superior, with an area of 31,820 square miles (82,414 km) shared by the United States and Canada; Huron, with an area of 23,010 square miles (59,596 sq. more
    Is there a lake beneath Lake Superior?
    Lake Inferior: The Underground Lake Beneath Lake Superior Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes, and it's also one of the deepest lakes in the world. But did you know that there's an underground lake beneath it? Lake Inferior was discovered in 1870 by William Bitter, who found an entrance to the lake. more
    Is Lake Erie the dirtiest lake?
    “Lake Erie, the smallest and shallowest of the five lakes, is also the filthiest; if every sewage pipe were turned off today, it would take 10 years for nature to purify Erie. Ontario is a repository for Buffalo-area filth. more
    Is there a lake under Lake Superior?
    Lake Inferior: The Underground Lake Beneath Lake Superior Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes, and it's also one of the deepest lakes in the world. But did you know that there's an underground lake beneath it? Lake Inferior was discovered in 1870 by William Bitter, who found an entrance to the lake. more
    Is Lake Mead a natural lake?
    It's Not Natural Interestingly, Lake Mead is not a product of long-ago melting glaciers or underground springs. Before its creation, the area was populated by Native American cultures as far back as 10,000 years ago. Back then, it was a wetter, cooler environment where the Colorado River abundantly flowed. more
    Is Lake Superior colder than Lake Michigan?
    Lake Superior still has some surface water with temperatures in the high-30s. The water temperatures are slightly colder than the long-term average on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. more

    Source: www.southcentralfloridalife.com

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