The news of the day is not happy, anglers, as the Arctic-like Bomb Cyclone's chill has triggered a fish kill in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake and along the coast, mostly affecting speckled trout but also with red drum and striped bass in the mix. Rudee has frozen solid, and fish can be spotted belly-up locked inside the ice.
Fish kills (called "cold stuns") like this aren't unusual, and happen every few years to one degree or another. But the severity naturally changes from even to event, and this one looks to be pretty bad. The phenomenon commonly affects smaller fish, which have a harder time dealing with sudden temperature changes. But large and even trophy-sized trout have apparently been affected, according to a report from the Virginia Pilot, in which Lynnhaven resident Mike Firestone is quoted as saying he's seen "many of them 30 inches or longer."
No one knows at this point how many fish are being affected since the entire area is pretty much frozen solid and there are countless fish locked in the ice. But judging by past cold stuns, it's a fair bet that the fish number in the thousands. In the last similar event, during January and February of 2014, fish were affected from the Pinakatank up inside the Bay all the way down through North Carolina, but the authorities never were able to determine exactly how many actually died off.
The news only grows sadder, as you head south. In response to confirmed cold stun kills throughout several bodies of water as far south as Topsail in eastern North Carolina, the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries issued a proclamation on Friday closing the commercial and recreational fisheries for speckled trout. It will remain shut down state-wide through mid-June, to get the surviving fish beyond spawning season.
For Chesapeake Bay anglers, this may well mean a tough speckled trout season next year. After the kill in 2014 the populations rebounded quickly, but 2015 was not exactly a banner year for trout. The impact on striper and red drum populations seems much less profound.
The bright side? It's tough to find one, for dedicated Tidewater anglers, but at least many inland lakes are frozen solid and are providing excellent action for anglers willing to brave the cold and fish through the ice. It's a small consolation, for sure, but at least it can give some fresh hope to anglers looking to break free of cabin fever.