Smelly red tide brings heaps of dead, rotting fish into downtown Sarasota waterways

Red tide is in full force, and it doesn’t look like it is going away any time soon.

On Thursday afternoon, downtown Sarasota smelled of rotten fish, even several miles away from the beach. This isn’t the first day it has smelled like that either, residents say.

Much like the rest of Sarasota, the stench was strong at the downtown Hyatt Regency at 1000 Boulevard of the Arts.

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“The smell has been around for a couple of weeks,” said the hotel’s general manager, Marcia Dmochowski-Clark. “Yesterday I was on St. Armand’s for lunch and people were eating outside ... I don’t know how they can do that.”

But Dmochowski-Clark did say that the hotel has been using an anchored buoy system to keep the piles of fish away from the marina and pool.

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Smelly red tide is causing heaps of dead fish to float into downtown Sarasota marinas near hotels and restaurants. Samantha Putterman sputterman@bradenton.com

“Every day they come by and clean it up,” she said. “We are working with the Ritz Carlton and we are both working to keep the area clean for our guests.”

A couple of weeks ago conditions improved, Dmochowski-Clark said, and they were able to take the barrier down and re-open their water sports activities. But by Monday, the fish were back.

“We’ve refined it (the buoy) over the past week or so to be more effective and it’s helping,” she said.

That refinement includes adding anchors to the buoys so that boats could still come through without damaging them.

That’s what Skylar Sostack said, who has been contracted to clear the fish from around the hotel. She’s been traveling down from Bradenton to do the nasty job for weeks.

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Sostack didn’t have to come down when conditions got better, she said, but had to start back up when hundreds of fish showed back up at the hotel in the last few days. On Thursday afternoon her friend Destiny Ibasfalean, who is from Cortez, came down to help her.

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Skylar Sostack and Destiny Ibasfalean, both from Manatee County, worked to clear heaps of dead fish near the Hyatt Regency in downtown Sarasota on Thursday afternoon. Samantha Putterman sputterman@bradenton.com

“You have to learn to not breathe from your nose at all, it’s like gagging,” Sostack said. “It seeps into everything; my phone even smells like fish when I go home at night. It’s just nasty.”

Sostack says she’s seen everything from pinfish to puffer fish to catfish float up in the marina.

Red tide isn’t just stinking up Sarasota — over the last day or so most of Bradenton has been smelling like a pile of dead fish.

The algae bloom sets off a distinguishable stench, one that readers told the Bradenton Herald they could smell from downtown all the way to U.S. 301 and State Road 70.

According to Spectrum Bay News 9 chief meteorologist Mike Clay, a west wind coming off the Gulf of Mexico contributed to the spread of the smell through much of Manatee County.

Clay said conditions could improve Friday as winds begin to shift more easterly.

Thousands of dead fish were spotted washed up against Marina Jack at Ringling Causeway earlier in the week, but the amount seemed to have dwindled by Thursday afternoon.

Workers, however, said there were tons of fish in the morning, including two large Goliath groupers, but wind direction and water current likely made the situation look better by the afternoon.

Though beach cleanup efforts had cleared dead animals from Lido Key on Thursday, the beach was empty. The putrid red tide stench, along with the brown water, likely kept beachgoers away.

Another deterrent: ‘No Swim’ advisories.

As of Thursday afternoon, five beaches in Sarasota County were placed under a ‘No Swim’ advisory issued by the Sarasota County Department of Health.

The beaches affected are: Lido Casino Beach, Brohard Beach, Venice Pier Beach, Siesta Key Beach and Longboat Key Beach.

The water quality is expected to be tested again Friday, officials said.

And when will Sostack and others get to stop having to clean up dead fish day after day? Well, not until it’s all over.

“It’s dirty work,” she said, “but someone has to do it.”

Follow Samantha Putterman on Twitter @samputterman.