Fish are an integral part of the Florida Everglades Ecosystem. There are almost over 200 different species of fish that inhabit the marine coastline and freshwater marshes of Everglades National Park. Fishing is one of the most popular sporting activities among park visitors for this reason.
Anyone fishing in Everglades National Park will need to have the proper licensure and follow fishing regulations set forth by the state, as they would anywhere else in the state. It’s not all about sport fishing, though.
In previous years, the fish of the Everglades region have served as a staple for local inhabitants. The fish were caught and used as a source of food centuries ago, and while fishing is no longer done on an individual basis for more than sport, there are many productive estuaries in the Everglades region that drive the markets of commercial harvesting and fishing outside of the park itself.
When it comes to fish and other marine life, there are about 15 different endangered species that reside in Everglades National Park. Sea turtles, West Indian manatees, and crocodiles are a few of these. There are also some species of fish that are endangered or becoming sparse that reside within the safe haven of the Florida Everglades.
Fish are an essential part of the Everglades natural food chain and ecosystem. They feed on algae, crustaceans, and aquatic insects, and provide a source of food for larger predators such as wading birds, larger fish, and the infamous alligators of the Everglades. There have been more than 100 species of freshwater fish documented throughout south Florida and the Everglades, including:
• Brown Bullhead
• Channel Catfish
• Killifish varieties (gulf, bluefin, diamond, rainwater)
• Sailfin Molly
• Great Barracuda
• Everglades Pygmy Sunfish
In total, there are a documented 220 species of fish living in the Florida Everglades region. This includes both freshwater and marine species. During the drought seasons, these fish are all threatened by low water levels and unable to inhabit certain areas of the Everglades region, but during the rainy season they are in abundance. The lower water levels in marshes often leave the fish vulnerable to predators because they have nowhere to hide. Even worse is the water supply itself, which is engineered and managed by many systems of floodgates, pumps, and retention ponds. According to the brochure that visitors receive when they enter the Everglades National Park, “the Everglades is presently on life support, alive but diminished”. For fish and other creatures who call this subtropical wetland home, it might only be a matter of time before they, too, are living on life support or even seeking new homes because the Everglades can no longer accommodate the needs of their species.