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Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov [SL]

TPWD Website: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us

TPWD News Release — Jan. 31, 2005

Process in Place To Suspend Coastal Fishing During Freeze

AUSTIN, Texas -The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has adopted rules to protect game fish in coastal waters in the event of a freeze.

According to Larry McKinney, Ph.D. and TPWD coastal fisheries division director, Texas has about two million acres of bays and estuaries that are susceptible to freezes. He said that there were three major freezes during the 1980s, including one in 1989 when the temperature at Brownsville dropped to 16 degrees, for example, and an estimated 11 million fish were killed. Historically, freezes along the Texas coast have occurred about every 15 years and TPWD is taking proactive steps to try and minimize the impact to the fishery.

In addition to killing game fish in shallow bay waters, a hard freeze can also cause surviving fish to congregate in a few deeper areas where they become sluggish and prone to capture.

The high mortality that a freeze can cause may deplete fish stocks for years, according to McKinney. 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.

The commission action authorizes the TPWD executive director to close areas affected by freeze events until the freeze event is over. The executive director would provide adequate notice to the public regarding the closing of affected areas and similarly publicize the reopening of those areas to fishing when the freeze condition has passed. These closures would be limited to the deeper areas where fish are known to congregate in freezes and would end as soon as possible.

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