The State of Florida has released emergency fishing rules to protect the species impacted by record cold temperatures.
Following the recent cold weather of unusual duration, the water temperatures in the waters of Pine Island Sound dropped into the upper 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the Gulf temperature was in the low 50's. These temperatures are too cold for the non-migratory tropical snook which is at the northernmost part of its range in south Florida.
Extended periods of low water temperature cause snook to, at first, behave lethargically and become disoriented and eventually they become immobile and their organ systems shut down. Tens of thousands of snook have been reported killed on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts as a result of this event and the State Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has issued an emergency order to extend the current winter closure of snook harvest until Sept. 1. Harvest of tarpon and bonefish, which were also adversely affected by the cold, is also closed under the same emergency order until March 31.