Although no action has been taken at this point, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials have the power to temporarily shut down fishing on the coast in relation to freezes to protect fisheries.
This power was given to them by the legislature and in light of what has been a cold winter so far could be something we see enacted in the near future. And it has happened before.
The following is from a TPWD press release in 2011.
“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has issued a temporary closure to saltwater fishing along parts of the Texas coast to protect resources during freezing weather conditions. The closure takes effect at noon Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 and extends through noon on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011.”
“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. Those are the areas the department has temporarily closed.”
“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.”
According to TPWD 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 in the freeze event.
Temperatures in the next few days could go into the lower 20s along the Upper Coast area and although it seems as if the temperature dropped slowly enough to avert a kill, the possibility remains.
Report any freeze related fish kills or large numbers of sluggish or cold-stunned fish by contacting TPWD’s Law Enforcement Communications office at (281) 842-8100 or (512) 389-4848.