A string of cars parked along the Palma Sola Causeway, a packed parking lot at Manatee Public Beach and shores packed with beachgoers Friday could only mean one thing — visitors are enjoying the island again.
For several months, local beaches were plagued by a persistent bout of red tide that kept tourists, locals and — most importantly — dollar bills away from Manatee County’s top travel destination. Weekend crowds, as well as an updated report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, confirmed that the algae bloom has largely dissipated from waters across the state.
Seasonal visitors Kelly and Rich Goodin were among the massive crowd Friday afternoon on Manatee Public Beach. The couple traveled from Springfield, Ill., to spent a few months in the area. Kelly said she arrived just in time to get a whiff of red tide’s stink.
“We dodged almost all of it this year, but I did get a chance to come out and see what it was about around Thanksgiving, and it was awful,” Kelly said.
But since then, the barren beaches lined with dead fish have become much more palatable. The waters were clear Friday as visitors frolicked in the water.
“Today’s perfect,” Rich said, gesturing toward the hundreds of people lining the coast. “What more could you want?”
Also visiting Manatee Public Beach on Friday, Daisy Broudy, a visitor from Massachusetts, lounged in the sun reading a book. She explained that while she was enjoying a sunny beach day, her husband was struggling to reel in any catches out on the water.
“He hasn’t caught anything because the red tide wiped out a lot of the smaller fish that the bigger fish would eat,” she said. “He’s hearing the same thing from his other fisherman friend, so it’s not like he’s making excuses for why he hasn’t caught any fish.”
Based on her husband’s experience with recreational fishing, Broudy wondered how local businesses were handling the rebound.
“We’re from a cold climate so this just wonderful to be here, but on the other hand it’s terrible if we don’t come because then the businesses can’t survive,” Broudy said.