Cold snap killing off speckled trout stocks

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Feb 12, 2014 - 02:27 PM
Photo: 28 dead speckled trout were collected from Dancing Creek in Dutton on Feb. 8 by Robert Gammisch.

28 dead speckled trout were collected from Dancing Creek in Dutton on Feb. 8 by Robert Gammisch.

Photo: Chris Pritchard of Gloucester collects a dead speckled trout from the frigid waters of Wilton Creek on Saturday, Feb. 8. He and Jon Lucy of Hayes, not pictured, gathered 109 dead trout from the bottom of the creek. The dead fish were taken to VIMS for examination.

Chris Pritchard of Gloucester collects a dead speckled trout from the frigid waters of Wilton Creek on Saturday, Feb. 8. He and Jon Lucy of Hayes, not pictured, gathered 109 dead trout from the bottom of the creek. The dead fish were taken to VIMS for examination.

Cold weather is killing speckled trout, and an unlikely coalition of commercial and recreational fishermen is taking the equally unlikely stance that the Virginia Marine Resources Commission needs to close the fishery temporarily.
 
Gloucester residents Keith Nuttall, an avid recreational fisherman and former VMRC patrol officer; Bill Mullis, a commercial fishing fleet owner; and Jon Lucy, a speckled trout fisherman and retired marine scientist, are concerned that unusually cold weather will have a long-term negative impact on the speckled trout fishery in the Chesapeake Bay.
 
Lucy said there had been a significant number of documented kills in North Carolina this winter, especially since the second snow, but it’s been hard to come up with numbers to determine how many have died in the Chesapeake Bay. It’s clear, however, that the number of speckled trout that have died in the winter has increased “by an order of magnitude” over the past two years. He knows of 100 fish that died in Wilton Creek on Saturday, Feb. 8, the same day that 28 fish died in Dancing Creek in Gloucester. Both creeks enter the Piankatank River. The fish have been taken to VIMS to be studied.
 
Nuttall said he has a special affection for the gamefish. He caught his first one in 1967 and, while he’s received his share of citations for various species over the past 47 years, he loves speckled trout the most.
 
Mullis said that, while the fish isn’t a primary species for the commercial industry, it’s often caught in nets set for other species.