4B Cold-stunned fish are not fair game during a freeze
If you’re planning to take advantage of the cold weather to sneak up on some extra fish, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a warning for you: It could be illegal.
While a hard freeze can cause fish to congregate in deeper waters, where they’re more prone to being caught, regulations allow TPWD to close those areas if biologists believe the weather will affect catches.
State law says, “When temperatures on the coast are predicted to fall below 32 degrees for three or more days, the TPWD executive director may close one or more of the (affected) sites for saltwater fishing until the threat from the freeze is over.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists and game wardens are closely monitoring the potential for a saltwater freeze along the Texas coast this week. If the situation begins to look severe enough, the agency may close certain fishing areas to protect the resource.
“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 has about two million acres of bays and estuaries susceptible to freezes. 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 died.
Anglers and coastal residents can report any freeze related fish kills or large numbers of sluggish or cold-stunned fish by contacting TPWD’s Upper Coast Regional Office at (281) 534-0100 or the Lower Coast Regional Office at (361) 729-2328.