MOREHEAD CITY – The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries closed all coastal and joint waters to commercial and recreational spotted seatrout harvest at 3 p.m. today due to widespread cold stun events.
Cold stuns are natural events that occur when there is a sudden drop in water temperature or prolonged periods of cold weather that makes the fish sluggish. Many fish will die from the cold. Others fall prey to birds and other predators. Studies suggest that cold stun events can have a significant impact on spotted seatrout populations.
The division has confirmed significant spotted seatrout cold stun events in six water bodies from Surf City to Manteo. The division is still receiving and verifying more cold stun reports and collecting associated environmental data. These efforts will continue regardless of the closure so that the division may evaluate the magnitude of the cold stun event for use in future stock assessments.
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 harvests until the spring. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission automatically closes spotted seatrout season in inland waters when it closes in adjacent coastal waters.
The intent of the closure is to allow the fish that survive the cold stun event the chance to spawn in the spring before harvest reopens. Peak spawning occurs in May.
The spotted seatrout season will remain closed until June 15, when it will reopen by proclamation.
Commercial seafood dealers have until Friday, Jan. 12 to dispose of unfrozen spotted seatrout in their possession that was caught prior to the closure.
For more specifics on the closure in coastal waters, see Proclamation FF-1-2018.
Fishermen should continue to report any cold stun events they see in coastal waters.
To report a cold stun event or for more information, contact division spotted seatrout biologist Steve Poland at 252-808-8159 or Steve.Poland@ncdenr.gov.
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