Hard Freeze Along Texas Coast Results in Mass “Cold-Stunning” Event

Cold-Stunned Fish - Texas Feb 2021
Photo from Facebook user Jen Thomasson

Featured image from Facebook user Jen Thomasson.

Not only has the Polar Vortex thrashed Texas and the midwest is causing significant damage to homes, vehicles, and public property, but now its effects are being felt by the inshore fish that call the Gulf of Mexico’s marshes and shallows home, including popular gamefish like snook and redfish. The fish of the area, reacting to the extreme temperatures, become cold-stunned or simply shut down entirely due to the cold, resulting in either mass fish kills like the one shown in the photos and video below.

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According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, “Texas has about two million acres of bays and estuaries susceptible to freeze. There were three major freezes during the 1980s, including one in 1989 when the temperature at Brownsville dropped to 16 degrees and an estimated 11 million fish were killed in the freeze event. The last time there was a closure due to freezing temperatures was in January 2018. That freeze did not kill significant numbers of fish.”

“The high mortality that a freeze can cause may deplete fish stocks for years,” said Robin Riechers, director of TPWD’s Coastal Fisheries Division. “Protection of the surviving fish during the few days when they are especially vulnerable to capture would likely shorten the time period for overall recovery of coastal species, especially spotted sea trout.”

Texas Parks and Wildlife is asking folks to report any freeze related fish kills or large numbers of sluggish or cold-stunned fish by contacting TPWD’s Law Enforcement Communications office at (281) 842-8100 or (512) 389-4848.

Fish aren’t the only Texas Coastal species folks are worried about. The region’s cold-blooded sea turtles are also finding themselves at the mercy of cold weather. As their internal temperatures plummet, the turtles become sluggish and become easy targets for predators on the hunt for easy meals.

You can read more about the fish kills and cold-stunning events at the links below:

Texas Parks and Wildlife Press Release

Trout Kill! Details On Coastal Kill Emerging – Fish and Game Magazine

AFFTA: “Climate Change Threatening Recreational Fishing”

Kyle Schaefer- The World’s First Carbon Neutral Fly Fishing Guide

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is Officially Expanding

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