Letter from William E. Johnson to Dennis Holcomb (July7, 1981)


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Letter from William E. Johnson to Dennis Holcomb (July7, 1981)

Alternative Title

Letter from Johnson to Holcomb (July7, 1981)


Lake Apopka (Fla.)
Water quality management--Florida
Environmental protection--Florida


A letter from William E. Johnson to Dennis Holcomb, dated July7, 1981. Enclosed with the letter is a report by Johnson, a biologist with the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC) regarding a fish kill in Lake Apopka that occurred in June of 1981. The report states that the fish kill was first reported on June 20, and described as "massive" by Holcomb, who was also a fisheries biologist with the GFC. Sample counts of areas of the fish kill estimate that the fish kill totaled 18 million fish, primarily gizzard and threadfin shad. The report also states that no largemouth bass were present in the kill, and it is assumed that none are present in the lake at the time of writing. 15-20 Sunshine bass were observed. Sunshine bass are a hybrid bass used to artificially stock lakes, and Lake Apopka was stocked with Sunshine bass fingerlings in May of 1981. The report concludes, based on water samples, that the fish kill was a result of oxygen depletion after a period of above-average temperatures and stormy weather conditions. Water quality data from the samples are also attached.

Lake Apopka is one of Florida’s largest lakes and was once considered to be one of the world’s best lakes for bass fishing. The lake’s sport fish population began to decline in the 1960s, with major die-offs occurring almost yearly. The lake’s problems are generally considered to be the result of over-nutrification from various sources. Twenty thousand acres of wetlands bordering the lake’s north shore were drained in the 1940s and used for highly fertile “muck farms.” These farms were routinely flooded to protect the fragile soil, and the fertilizer and pesticide-laden water was then discharged back into the lake prior to each growing season. Other sources of pollution include discharge from citrus processing operations, as well as treated wastewater from sewage plants. The nutrient-rich discharge promoted algae growth in the lake, turning the water to a green color, and blocked sunlight from reaching aquatic vegetation, which provided food and habit to the lake’s fish population. The lake’s bottom soil became increasingly “mucky,” also disrupting aquatic vegetation from taking root.

Restoration work on the lake began in the 1960s with attempts by various agencies to remove “trash fish,” such as gizzard shad, from the lake via seining, which would hopefully allow the lake’s sportfish to thrive. The Lake Apopka Restoration Council, an initiative formed under Governor Claude Kirk (1926-2011) in 1967, launched several studies to find methods to improve the lake, though no serious action was taken. Various methods were debated to restore the lake through the 1970s and 1980s, including “drawdown,” which entailed completely draining the lake to allow the mucky bottom to consolidate. Restoration attempts were stalled for lack of funding and research.

The Lake Apopka Restoration Council was reformed in 1985 under Governor Bob Graham (b. 1936), and, in 1987, the Surface Water and Improvement Management Act was passed. Together, these actions allowed comprehensive restoration plans to take shape, such as the Marsh Flow-way, a project by the St John’s Water Management District that uses natural methods to remove nutrients from the lake. The Friends of Lake Apopka, a citizen environmental advocacy group, began to push for further restoration efforts in the 1990s. The lake’s north shore muck farms were eventually purchased by the State of Florida, helping to reduce the amount of nutrient entering the lake.


Johnson, William E.


Original 8-page typewritten letter from William E. Johnson to Dennis Holcomb, July7, 1981: binder 1981, Friends of Lake Apopka Archives, Ginn Museum, Oakland Nature Preserve, Oakland, Florida.

Date Created


Is Format Of

Digital reproduction of original 8-page typewritten letter from William E. Johnson to Dennis Holcomb, July7, 1981.

Is Part Of

Binder 1981, Friends of Lake Apopka Archives, Ginn Museum, Oakland Nature Preserve, Oakland, Florida.
Friends of Lake Apopka Collection, RICHES of Central Florida.




678 KB


8-page letter on Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission letterhead






Lake Apopka, Florida

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History Teacher
Civics/Government Teacher
Science Teacher


Originally created by William E. Johnson.

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Contributing Project


King, Joshua

Digital Collection

Source Repository

External Reference

"History of Lake Apopka." St John's River Water Management District. January 28, 2013. Accessed June 5, 2016. http://www.sjrwmd.com/lakeapopka/history.html.


Johnson, William E., “Letter from William E. Johnson to Dennis Holcomb (July7, 1981),” RICHES, accessed July 21, 2024, https://richesmi.cah.ucf.edu/omeka/items/show/7966.