It’s February and we’re smack in the middle of trophy trout season, but I have a more serious topic to discuss – the winter storm of Christmas 2022. As you read through this issue you will find nearly all our writers mentioning it. How close did we get to another devastating fish-kill, like happened in February 2021? I would say dangerously close.
During events such as these, I and several friends make careful observations of air and water temperatures in our home bays. We also make reconnaissance trips after the storms to survey damage. To say we came within a gnat’s whisker of a repeat of February 2021 would be no exaggeration. We were lucky, very lucky.
Here in Seadrift, the air temperature plunged to 17°F in the morning hours of December 24, and remained below freezing almost forty-eight hours. The north wind was horrific. Depending where you took measurements, the water temperature declined more than 40 degrees. We saw skim ice along shorelines where the tide had vacated. Carancahua Bay had ice almost bank to bank.
Luckily, a number of factors played key roles in preventing a widespread fish-kill. First, the tides were running above average when the storm arrived. Second, the bay water temps were also running well above average for late-December. Third, the powerful north wind created a huge surge of water along the south shorelines and in the back lake areas of the barrier islands where many fish were staged. And finally, the air temperatures began to moderate in what could be called the nick of time.
The reason I mention all this is to emphasize how truly fragile our spotted seatrout fishery is, and why we need to continue our conservation efforts during the current state of its recovery from February, two years ago. The fishery is on the mend, no doubt about that, but it still has a long way to go. I have no ability to say how bad it could have been if a repeat had occurred, but devastation in an amount we’ve never seen was a possibility.
Mother Nature is said to cover all her bases and spotted seatrout are a very prolific and resilient species. They are also our most popular inshore game fish. I am very thankful everything played out the way it did, and I’m very hopeful that Texas anglers will practice even greater conservation as our fishery continues to recover. If you love fishing for speckled trout as much as I do, releasing all that we catch for another year or two ought not be that big a deal.
Fish dinners can wait, we have more serious business at hand!