As temperatures drop, the public is asked to report to the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries any cold-stunned spotted seatrout they encounter in coastal waters.
During the winter, spotted seatrout move to relatively shallow creeks and rivers, where they can be vulnerable to cold-stun events, officials said Monday. Studies suggest that cold-stun events can have a significant negative impact on spotted seatrout populations.
Cold-stun events can take place when there is a sudden drop in temperature or during prolonged periods of cold weather, making fish so sluggish that they can be harvested by hand. Many fish that are stunned die from the cold or fall prey to birds and other predators.
While no cold-stun events have been reported so far this season, concerning weather conditions in the upcoming weeks could lead to a cold-stun event in coastal rivers and creeks, officials added.
Spotted seatrout cold-stun events can be reported at any time to the North Carolina Marine Patrol at 1-800-682-2632 or during regular business hours to the division spotted seatrout biologist Lucas Pensinger at 252-808-8159 or Lucas.Pensinger@ncdenr.gov.
If reporting a spotted seatrout cold-stun event, officials ask for the specific location, date and time the cold-stun was observed, along with contact information.
Under the state Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan, if a significant cold-stun event occurs, the division will close all spotted seatrout harvest within a management area until the following spring. Closing harvest allows fish that survive the cold stun event the chance to spawn in the spring before harvest reopens. Peak spotted seatrout spawning occurs from May to June.
A significant cold-stun event within a management area is determined by assessing the size and scope of the cold stun, and evaluating water temperatures to determine if triggers of 41 Fahrenheit for eight consecutive days or 37.4 F during a consecutive 24-hour period are met.
Data loggers are deployed statewide to continuously measure water temperatures in coastal rivers and creeks that are prone to cold stuns.