Big Lake, Sabine spared severe fish kill

It appears we have dodged a bullet in our little corner of the world on Sabine and Lake Calcasieu in regards to Winter Storm Uri. I was not aware that we had to watch out for named storms other than those of the tropical variety, but apparently we do. At the time of writing this article the only fish kill that I have witnessed or seen reported in our immediate area was in the Keith Lake chain, which is west of the ship channel from Sabine Lake. In that area it was redfish and black drum and the numbers visualized were approximately two to three dozen, a far cry from the devastating impact the storm had on the coastal fishery in south Texas.

The fisheries with the shallowest bay systems were affected the most. Unfortunately, the fish kill appears to have been exacerbated after the freeze by barge traffic as well. Thousands of speckled trout along with redfish, snook, black drum, sheepshead and baitfish perished as a result of the frigid temperatures that inundated Texas during February. As a result, many fishing guides and recreational anglers are pledging practices to conserve the fish, notably the speckled trout. Pledges have varied from releasing all trout over twenty inches to using barbless hooks only to catch and release all speckled trout until the summer of 2022 or some combination thereof.

More bad news

The Coastal Conservation Association has also taken action and removed the speckled trout, flounder, sheepshead and gafftop divisions entirely from the 2021 star tournament. To my understanding, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is still currently collecting data and only time will tell if there are any regulation changes as a result of the fish kill. Although the fishing community as a whole does not always agree when it comes to the management of the fishery, I believe we can all agree that the south Texas coastal fishery is hurting and is going to need more than just thoughts and prayers.

Shorelines were lined with dead speckled trout in south Texas. This picture was taken by Capt. Danny Neu just north of Arroyo.
Shorelines were lined with dead speckled trout in south Texas. This picture was taken by Capt. Danny Neu just north of Arroyo.

I believe we were spared of a severe fish kill based primarily on a couple of factors. First, two to three days prior to the freezing weather it had already cooled off to temperatures in the 40s. This cold snap already had fish on the move to warmer water prior to the sharp drop of the mercury. Secondly, both Sabine Lake and Lake Calcasieu are much deeper systems compared to that of say, the Laguna Madre. We also have a rather abundant access to deep-water whether they are in the rivers, canals, bayous, ship channels or other manmade locations such as terminals.

Looking ahead

Hopefully, we will be done with the named storms for a good long while around here! As far as our fishing goes we are right on track. One of my favorite parts about the spring bite has got to be fishing slicks. They are a result of fish feeding on oily baitfish. The oil from the baitfish rises to the surface and a sheen appears on the water. The scent is unmistakable; to many it is a very sweet, sugary smell similar to watermelon or fresh cut grass. Casting topwaters at slicks and watching trout explode is well worth the price of admission. I recommend either a pink and gold or clown Super Spook.

In closing, remember we are all stewards of a precious resource. Enjoy it responsibly.

Capt. Adam Jaynes can be found at justfishsabine.com.

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