Friday, February 4, 2011

Coastal Fisheries Freeze Closure Extended

Coastal Fisheries Freeze Closure Extended

AUSTIN –The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has extended until noon on Monday, Feb. 7, the closure to fishing along parts of the coast to provide additional protection to the resource.

A list of affected areas can be found on the TPWD Web site

The fishing closure only affects those deepwater thermal refuges the department has identified and does not extend to boat traffic. All other areas will remain open to fishing this weekend, but anglers are reminded that fish may only be caught using rod and reel and it is illegal to pick up stunned or dead fish with a net or by hand at any location.

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.

“This freeze event has lasted longer than was projected earlier in the week and temperatures are not expected to get much above freezing today,” said Robin Riechers, TPWD coastal fisheries division director. “We realize an extension through the weekend may inconvenience some anglers and we appreciate their patience and cooperation, but our primary concern is to give fish holding in those thermal refuges a chance to recover.”

While fisheries biologists have observed only minor impacts to fish populations from the freeze thus far, there is growing concern about sea turtles along the lower Texas coast. As of 10 a.m. today, more than 400 cold stunned sea turtles have been recovered in Texas, mostly green sea turtles found in the lower Laguna Madre.

“Only a few more and this will be the most recorded during a cold stunning event since the STSSN (Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network) was established in 1980,” according to Donna Shaver, head of sea turtle science and recovery at the National Park Service’s Padre Island National Seashore.

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 Fahrenheit 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.

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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