PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

January 15, 2014

Small fish kill reported, reader questions answered

Chester Moore, Jr.
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Last week, the Texas coast dodged a major fish kill as the cold blast that hit the region moved in slow enough force to sort of ease the water temperatures down instead of put them into shock.

I predicted we would likely have some small-scale kills and that happened in the area of the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area off Lake Road in Bridge City.

Several dozen redfish were killed and the news hit social media like Facebook quickly. Verifiable reports of redfish stunned and/or dead in shallow water were all over the place along with photos. Again, it was a very small kill and by the time I got out to investigate, the fish were gone. I suspect they ended up on the grill somewhere.

The photo attached to this story came from the kill at the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge on Lake Calcasieu in 2012 when thousands of reds died as temperatures plummeted behind the weir system there.

Manmade structures like weirs are certainly not the only places where fish can get trapped or die but they seem to be where smaller kills typically occur.

The cold weather brought on lots of questions from readers as did the new year so I thought it would be good to share some of the exchanges here as we have done with our communication for years.

Q: Why don’t we see fish kills on freshwater like we do in saltwater? It seems freezes or red tides kill fish all the time on the coasts?

A: There are kills in freshwater. The biggest killer is golden algae outbreaks that have taken millions of fish at a time on lakes like Possum Kingdom. There are also freeze related kills in small ponds and freshwater marshes that are rarely reported. The big reservoirs in Texas, like the Gulf of Mexico, have deep enough water fish can easily get into a safe zone of sorts. Saltwater freeze kills are based on fish being trapped in shallows, often after a warming trend, and then being exposed to quickly falling temperatures.

Q: When fishing at the Chicken Coop area on Toledo Bend why is it that so many small crappie die when released? Is it because they typically bite during cold spells?

A: The reason is they are in deep water and the air bladder is distended. That is why for years the state required anglers to keep the first 25 crappie they caught so the smaller fish would not die.

Q: Are there any flathead catfish in the Adams Bayou area?

A: Yes there are but very few anglers catch them. Around 17 years ago I was bowfishing a stretch of the bayou near the Orange Boat Club and saw a 30-pound class flathead surf right in front of the boat. It stayed up top for a few seconds and then swam back down as we sat in awe. Flatheads pretty much will only eat live bait and I am not sure how many people fish that water body with live bait. If someone wanted to pursue them, I would recommend using small, live perch or extra large shiners.

Q: Are there beavers in Southeast Texas?

A: Yes there are and their numbers seem to be on the rise. I get beaver reports all the time and know of three dams in Orange County alone at the moment. Beavers can be a pest but they are definitely one of nature’s most intriguing creatures.

(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com. You can watch him Saturdays at 10 a.m. on “God’s Outdoors with Chester Moore” on GETV/GETV.org and listen to him Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI.)