The recent freezing weather that coated the lower Valley in ice Friday morning and left road signs and brush strung with icicles took a deadly toll on fish and sea turtles in the Lower Laguna Madre that Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists are just beginning to assess.
Wily Cupit, TPW Coastal Fisheries Biologist, says, "We are just starting to get reports of fish starting to float to the surface. We are guessing we are going to have a moderate fish kill in this area. It is hard to say what kind of numbers|the water is still fairly cold so this may take another day or two before we really see the full impact."
Initial surveys by Coastal Fisheries biologists have turned up several hundred dead trout just south of the South Padre Island causeway, and this is most likely just the first of many more that will begin to surface as bay waters warm.
While the extent of the fish mortality remains to be seen, a record number of sea turtles standings have occurred in the states southernmost bay system. But, thanks to Jeff George of Sea Turtle Inc. and a host of volunteers including state and federal wildlife workers the vast majority of those stranded turtles have been saved and are being released back into the Gulf as waters warm.
Jeff George, Director, Sea Turtle Inc., says, "This is epic. Texas has never seen this many cold stranded sea turtles| live that came in and have managed to survive and are getting ready to be released is about 775. Dead fortunately only about 50 right now."
While the record sea turtle rescue is a wonderful success story it remains to be seen how the bay's fragile fishery fared in the frigid weather.