The record-breaking freeze that hit eastern North Carolina the first week of January was so cold that it killed a massive number of fish in tidal creeks and estuaries along the coast.
Hardest hit was the spotted seatrout, a fish especially popular with recreational anglers who, along with commercial fishermen, are now banned from fishing for them until the middle of June. The moratorium is meant to give surviving fish a chance to replenish by spawning this spring.
Recreational fishing accounts for about three-fourths of the nearly one million pounds of spotted seatrout caught each year in North Carolina, according to the state Division of Marine Fisheries. It supports an industry that includes seatrout-specific bait and tackle, as well as chartered boats, and in 2016 had a $54 million economic impact in the state, according to the fisheries division.