High-resolution spectroscopy using the Portable Hyperspectral Imager for Low-Light Spectroscopy (PHILLS) was applied to the problem of detecting potentially harmful algae blooms in the coastal environment. Data were collected on two aircraft passes, 30-min apart, over the tidally influenced part of the Potomac River. Use of two wavelengths, 0.676 and 0.700 μm, permitted the detection of surface algae accumulations while avoiding the need for atmospheric corrections, which are problematic in Case-2 water. The analysis identified algal accumulations derived from frontal processes, and narrow, linearly coherent streaks, derived from Langmuir circulation. The streaks increased markedly in number between the two passes and formed a two-dimensional pattern across the river, consistent with the advection time of surface material into windrows. The effect of wind on the patches is primarily a local reorganization of the algal material into new streaks. Spectra from within the streaks compared to those from ambient water showed absorption characteristics consistent with the presence of cyanobacteria. This interpretation is reinforced by available in-situ data. This study illustrates the value of high spectral and temporal resolutions in observing the spatial distribution of the algae, in identifying dominant functional groups, and in understanding the response of the algae to physical forcing.