, Port Arthur, Texas


January 9, 2014

Chester Moore column: Freeze brings Sabine fish kill concerns




    The cold weather that hit Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana earlier in the wee brought with it concerns of freeze-related fish kills.

    Anglers that remember the huge freeze related fish kills of 1983 and 1989 are concerned the current cold weather could produce a similar situation. Some 11 million fish were killed in 89 when the temperature plummeted to 16 as far south as Brownsville.

    In 2011, we reported officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) used power given to them by the legislature to temporarily shut down fishing in the Entergy Canal on the Neches River along with numerous areas along the coast.

    "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."

     Fast-moving fronts in particular are the ones that can cause major damage. The one that hit earlier in the week came in gradually.

     “The biggest problem with cold kills is the speed in which the temperatures drop fast, and fish become cold stunned and can't move ahead of it. Their proximity to deep water also plays a role. If fish are a long ways from a ship channel they can get caught with a fast approaching cold front,” said TPWD biologist Lance Robinson.

    Speckled trout, can perish in water below 45 degree while redfish are hardier and can take temperatures down to the mid-30s. Flounder (most of which are in the Gulf right now) can handle waters down to the lower 40s.

    “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 or "cold stunned" and prone to capture,” Robinson said.

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