It is now well known that some areas of Lemon Creek within Wildflower Preserve, Charlotte County, FL (owned by the Lemon Bay Conservancy) are filled with juvenile tarpon that thrive in its lowest oxygen waters which provide significant protection from predatory fish such as snappers, snook and jacks. There are however other predators such as otters and diving birds which are not deterred by the toxic creek waters. While watching from the lower boardwalk in Lemon Lake (fed by the tidal Lemon Creek but inside Amberjack Preserve) I noticed that an anhinga had caught a young tarpon about eight inches long and manipulated and then swallowed it. My photo shows the final process with the tarpon’s tail just protruding from the anhinga’s mouth.
This illustrates that in a healthy ecosystem, natural predation can impact species of special interest such as tarpon. While some would advocate killing or removing such predators, other would advise that this is part of the natural evolutionary process. Lemon Lake has not yet been studied as tarpon habitat and it would useful to initiate some fish surveys in this lake that undergoes large fluctuation in depth from dry to full when heavy rains fall and add to the tidal waters that enter via Lemon Creek. Bird predation on fish in Lemon Lake is a major feature that periodically draws wonderful flocks of aquatic birds, especially during dry-downs, so more information on the dynamics of this process would be helpful in managing the Lemon Creek ecosystem.