WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries wants to remind the public to report any cold stunned spotted seatrout they may see in North Carolina coastal waters.
During the winter, spotted seatrout move to deeper, warmer waters in coastal waters and the ocean. Cold stun events occur when there is a sudden drop in water temperature or during prolonged periods of cold weather, making fish so sluggish that humans can harvest them with their hands.
Many fish that are stunned die from the cold or fall prey to birds and other predators. Studies suggest that cold stun events can have a significant impact on spotted seatrout populations.
No cold stun events have been reported so far this winter, but if there are concerning weather conditions in the upcoming weeks as previously described then a cold stun event could occur in coastal creeks and bays.
Anyone seeing a trout cold stun event should report it to the N.C. Marine Patrol at 1-800-682-2632 or to division spotted seatrout biologist Tracey Bauer at 252-808-8159 or Tracey.Bauer@ncdenr.gov.
Under the N.C. Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan, if a significant cold stun event occurs, the Division of Marine Fisheries will close all spotted seatrout harvest until the summer.
A significant cold stun is determined by the size and scope of the cold stun event and an evaluation of water temperatures in areas where cold stuns have been reported. Monitors that continuously log water temperature are deployed statewide in coastal rivers and creeks prone to cold stuns.
Closing harvest allows fish that survive the cold stun event the chance to spawn in the spring before harvest re-opens. Peak spawning occurs in May.
Under N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission rules, the spotted seatrout season automatically closes in inland waters when it closes in adjacent coastal waters.
Click here to learn more about cold stun events and how they impact spotted seatrout fisheries management in North Carolina.