This past January, fisheries biologists and anglers knew bad news was on the horizon for spotted seatrout.
Sub-freezing weather, combined with snow, sleet and freezing rain, has often caused shallow, inshore areas where trout live to ice over. The oxygen-depleted waters that resulted from snow and ice melt often smothered trout that were caught in deep holes.
So when temperatures plunged into single digits in late December 2017 and stayed there for several days in January, anglers and biologists knew specks were at risk.
A report by the Weather Channel indicated that from Dec. 23 to Jan. 5, daily lows ranged from 5 to 9 degrees from Raleigh eastward. Dead specks floated in marshes, creeks and bays from Brunswick County to the Virginia line.
Steven Murphey, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, issued a proclamation on Jan. 3 that closed all harvests of spotted seatrout from Jan. 5 until 3 p.m. June 15, 2018 after reports of trout kills were received from all three of the Division’s trout-management regions.
Ricky Kellum, a guide from Jacksonville, said trout in the New River largely survived the cold-weather blast.
“We didn’t have any (trout kills),” he said. “It wasn’t like it was a sudden event. Our fish had time to get to deeper water.
“We didn’t have any floating trout. When I went up to the New Bern, dead trout were everywhere. We had to break the ice (at a boat ramp) and saw hundreds of dead trout.”
Kellum said the good news is anglers soon were catching trout around Pamlico Sound “at places that had dead fish.”
He said “trout fishing should be fine” this summer, especially in the New River.
“I caught trout, including some monster sizes, after that real cold spell, and I know there are plenty left,” he said.