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The best Key West bonefishing is not at the end of the Boca Chica runway, as was suggested in the 1975 movie “Ninety-Two in the Shade” (that honor would go to the backcountry and western flats, where bonefish populations have surged in recent years). Stu Apte had spent a lot of time on nearby flats chasing a world-record for permit, but over the years the fishing steadily declined along Boca Chica’s shoreline. Hard to know whether the fish were chased out by jets or by jet skiis, but prior to the area’s designation as a special management area by NOAA, you could find decent fishing there and enjoy (or not) having a 10,000-pound FA-18 Hornet drop in over your head after finishing an “adversary” training mission west of the Marquesas.
Back in the 1980s, prior to the real estate boom, the naval air station was an accepted part of Boca Chica’s culture. But now that nearby Stock Island — once considered a Key West slum — has absorbed the overflow of investors from the main island, the Navy has found that changes in runway usage can cause quite a backlash. As Cammy Clark notes in this morning’s Miami Herald, noise and “black gunk” have become a focus of citizens’ complaints.
“Last month, the Navy launched a comprehensive environmental impact study to determine the effects of the current Super Hornets and future aircraft on the area surrounding the base. Navigating the Navy, the base and the community through the two-year study likely will be the biggest challenge of Capt. Patrick A. Lefere, who takes over as commanding officer of NAS Key West next week.”