State supports keeping “bent-range” marker, popular Miami bait spot

A last-ditch effort to save a popular and important bait-fishing spot off Miami Beach’s Government Cut got a boost this past week from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The commission, meeting in Kissimmee, adopted a resolution calling on the U.S. Coast Guard to work with the South Florida community to keep the so-called “bent-range” marker — scheduled for removal later this month — in place.

The Coast Guard hired Hallandale Beach-based Shoreline Foundation Inc. to take down the old navigational marker and several others that guide large ships into the Port of Miami and replace them with tall, thin poles. Unlike the old structures, the new ones don’t provide as much habitat for bait fish such as pilchards, threadfin herring and others.

Recreational anglers and charter boat operators, led by Miami maritime attorney/angler Bruce Marx, said removal of the “bent range” will create a potential safety hazard during the upcoming sailfish season, forcing fishermen inside congested Government Cut to catch bait. The situation is especially critical, anglers said, because of the recent demolition of another major bait-fishing spot, Bug Light located off Cape Florida.

Marx and former FWC chairman Rodney Barreto have been working feverishly to convince the Coast Guard to give the “bent range” a reprieve while pressing Miami-Dade County to assume jurisdiction over the structure. The Coast Guard said it’s willing to consider turning over the old marker to a government entity as long as the new owner obtains all the necessary permits and assumes all costs of maintaining it. Lee Hefty, director of the county’s Department of Environmental Resources Management confirms his agency is looking into the feasibility of helping keep the marker intact, but funding is a big issue.

Hefty wrote in an email to Marx that the county would “require some sort of partnership for funding.” Both Marx and Barreto have been talking to local fishing clubs and tournament organizations about donating the money.

Said Barreto: “Hopefully, the [Coast Guard] will just hit the pause button till we find out what can be done.”