TPWD News Release — Jan. 30, 2007
While long-term forecasts are mixed, there currently appears to be the potential of an extended freeze event on the Texas Gulf coast sometime between Feb. 4 and Feb. 11.
The TPW Commission in January 2005 approved a rule allowing the department to make 21 easily accessible, deep water refuges off-limits to anglers during freeze events.
According to Larry McKinney, Ph.D., 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 and an estimated 11 million fish were killed.
Historically, freezes along the Texas coast have occurred about every 15 years. “We don’t yet know how far south the Arctic air mass predicted for next week will reach, and we also can’t say with any certainty that we’ll have to implement the freeze event fishing ban,” McKinney said Monday. “But we’re getting ready for a worst-case scenario, and we’re asking anglers and coastal residents to please check back on our Web site over the weekend and to look for fishing ban notices at boat ramps and around deep water refuges if temperatures do dip below freezing.”
Fisheries managers will again evaluate weather forecasts Friday, Feb. 2, and if a freeze event fishing ban is planned for any portion of the coast, a notification will be posted under “Hot Topics” on the TPWD Web site.
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.
Game fish, including spotted seatrout, red drum, sharks, snook and triple tail may only be taken by pole and line, and it is unlawful to take or attempt to take a fish with one or more hooks attached to a line or artificial lure used in a manner to foul-hook a fish (snagging or jerking).
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.
McKinney urged anglers and coastal residents to report any fish kills or large numbers of sluggish or cold-stunned fish to 1-800-792-1112.
A complete list of coastal areas that may be closed to fishing during freeze conditions may be found in the TPW Outdoor Annual online.
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