In past years, I used to closely monitor and track winter water temps here in Charleston, trying to understand at what level trout die due to cold water. I used to get really obsessed by it, because a cold water kill means at least a couple years of poor trout fishing. In the past few years, however, I have taken a more laid back attitude towards it because, really, what can you do about it? Nothing.
Here is one of the charts I made several years back, and it clearly shows the cold water of 2010, the last year we had a cold kill.
Since 2011, we have had a long stretch of very warm winters, some where the water hardly got into the 50’s. That has made for some great trout fishing, both in numbers and in size.
Enter 2018. The chart tells the tale. We have had temps as low as 42F in the harbor and below the known stun/kill temp for trout of 46F for more than a week straight. In localized areas, the temp got much colder. I personally observed 32F water in the upper Ashley with ice chunks floating down river.
Fishermen have reported seeing hundreds of dead fish in the shallows where they were not able to escape to deep water in time. This includes not only trout, but redfish, sheepshead, black drum, flounder and mullet. Some guide friends have stated that they have never seen dead redfish and sheepshead due to cold water in their lives fishing here.
It’s nature’s way of cleaning house and the fisheries will be fine, they will just need time to rebound. Many have stated “why doesn’t SCDNR make a catch and release closure”. The answer is that they cannot. These calls are made by our state legislature (which most people think is absolutely ridiculous, but its a fact). DNR has the ability to enact an emergency closure, however, this closes fishing for the species, so in effect it shuts down fishing. Its a matter of wording as far as I understand it, but for this reason DNR is very hesitant to use it (for good reason). What they can do, and have done in the past couple days, is request voluntary catch and release by anglers. They have done this for seatrout specifically, but many of us think that doesn’t go far enough.
We all want our fisheries to recover as fast as possible. Guides, tackle shops, boating companies, lure makers, will all feel the effects of poor fishing. If we focus only on seatrout, this will put extra pressure on other inshore species. We believe this should go beyond the spawning season and through the entire year, as the fall is when a lot of fish can be caught and potentially harvested. We need all fish around if they are going to rebound quickly – especially the large fish as they release the most eggs and are almost all female. Studies have shown that a 15″ trout will make 9.5 million eggs in a spawning season, and an 18″ trout will make 17.6 million eggs. It’s clear to see how important larger fish are to the rebound of the species.
I was mulling this over last week and trying to think of a way to start a grass roots initiative to encourage catch and release of all inshore species when I got a call from Daniel Nussbaum at Z-Man. He was thinking the same way, and asked if we would like to join them in an initiative to release all inshore fish in 2018. It’s a voluntary effort and one that we will follow and hope you embrace as well. They designed some cool stickers with a hashtag #RELEASE2018SC. We will have them available at the Haddrell’s Point Shallow Water Expo this weekend and plan to have them at our shop as well. We hope you join us and put your stickers on your vehicles, boats, coolers, etc to let others know you are all-in with us on this initiative.
Thank you for your support!