Will We Be Prepared For The Next Freeze Kill?

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Big trout killed during the 2021 freeze (Photo Courtesy Kevin Whipkey)

Saying I was excited to go to South Padre Island was an understatement.

For the last four years, I have been mentoring a teen named Nathan Childress through our Higher Calling Wildlife program and we were headed down south to fish for reds, specks, and snook with Capt. Luis Flandez and Capt. Brian Barerra.

Nathan wants to be a game warden and establish a sporting life that puts conservation at the forefront.

We were 7 days out from leaving so I logged onto my favorite weather app to check out the 10-day forecast.

My heart sank.

The day of our arrival showed a high of 21 degrees and a low of 17. The next day was worse with a 19-degree high and 14-degree low.

As my mind immediately raced to the tragic coastal freeze of 2021 and the untold numbers of dead sportfish I could look no further. How would the coast, particularly the Middle and Lower Coast handle another tragedy so quickly?

Suddenly, I realized I downloaded an update for this app. The last time there was an update the temperatures went from Fahrenheit to Celsius and I had to manually adjust the settings.

And that’s exactly what happened this time.


The temperature was going to be 69 degrees, not 21. Much better.

But this incident got me thinking about the 2021 freeze, future events, and the status of not only the coast, but Texas wildlife habitat as a whole.

We are facing unprecedented pressures on our natural resources through population growth. From 2010-2020 we added four million people to the state. That’s people who take up wildlife habitat with homes and businesses and put pressure on resources such as water and yes, even our wildlife.

The next freeze will come. I hope it will not be this year or anytime in the next decade, but it will happen.

We also have to consider drought.

My friend Todd Jurasek lives near Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 2023, he saw streams dry up where he had caught smallmouths and brown trout for years. Fish populations are devastated in the areas he fishes in the Kiamichi Mountains.

The same thing has happened in parts of the Texas Hill Country, Panhandle, and the Trans Pecos. It doesn’t get the same kind of publicity as stacks of dead specks lining a shoreline, but it’s a loss nonetheless.

I have been studying this drought out West and officials with the National Weather Service say we’re in another La Nina pattern. This means a dry winter.

How much will it impact our resources? Frozen axis deer in a pile in the back of a truck caught our attention during the freeze, but what about areas where turkey nesting was negligible last year due to drought?

It’s time we all get involved where we can. It’s time we support conservation groups that share our values. It’s time we help push back the tide of habitat loss and resource degradation.

Amazing things are happening in Texas.

The fact the whitetail numbers have risen back to five million when four million new people have entered the state is astounding. The recovery of redfish is historically significant, and the tarpon fishing of the last few years has shown great promise.

There is no reason we can’t see more breakthroughs or at least stop the loss of wildlife and fisheries from getting any worse as human populations skyrocket.

The key is not waiting until the next freeze to get involved. The time to take action is now. I promise you the pursuit of this cause will bring you focus in your life—and joy.

Nathan, the young man I mentor, had an opportunity to dart and move an ibex with a friend of mine on his ranch near Rocksprings. It was part of his learning about game management and captive wildlife breeding.

“Mr. Chester, when you do something like this you want to make sure wildlife conservation keeps moving forward. Other people need to be able to experience things like this,” he said.

Yes, they do Nathan. Yes, they do.

Chester Moore


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