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Coastal Fisheries Vulnerable During Freeze
AUSTIN –The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is concerned about the vulnerability of coastal fisheries during the freeze and remind the public that it is illegal to harvest fish by means other than rod and reel.
“It is illegal to pick up stunned or dead fish with a net or by hand,” said Robert Goodrich, TPWD assistant chief of law enforcement for fisheries enforcement.
Anglers are also reminded a temporary closure to saltwater fishing along parts of the Texas coast to protect resources during freezing weather conditions is in effect through noon Saturday, Feb. 5. A list of affected areas can be found on the TPWD Web site.
Anyone observing fishing activity in the closed areas during the freeze or taking fish by illegal means is urged to contact their local game warden office or call Operation Game Thief at 800-792-GAME.
In addition to the temporary fishing closure, TPWD officials are recognizing a voluntary suspension of barge traffic during the freeze along the Intracoastal Waterway in the Lower Laguna Madre by the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association as helping minimize any additional impacts to turtle populations.
“This is a significant voluntary conservation action by barge operators to assist in protecting the resource,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “We applaud their efforts.”
Biologists believe the combination of all these conservation efforts will help reduce the time needed for these resources to recover, should there be significant impacts from the freeze.
As temperatures are expected to remain at or below freezing during the next couple of days, game wardens and fisheries biologists have been monitoring beachfronts and bays for stunned sea turtles. At least a half dozen stunned sea turtles have already been rescued and transported to rehabilitation facilities.
Texas has about two million acres of bays and estuaries susceptible to freeze. 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.
State health officials are reminding people not to eat fish that may have died as a result of the freezing temperatures. Fish found floating or on the shore may have been dead for several days and could cause adverse health effects if consumed.
As of noon Thursday, at least one minor fish kill affecting between 2,000-2,500 hardhead catfish was reported in San Antonio Bay.
Anglers and coastal residents can 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.
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