Respect the Speck

Ladson, SC – Up and down the Intracoastal Waterway, the home-body tendencies of spotted (speckled) seatrout have forever made them beloved sportfish among anglers. Even while redfish, snook, tarpon and other popular species migrate to offshore waters during various seasons and stages of their lifecycles, seatrout feed, breed and otherwise swim shallow, near-shore waters all year long.

But such an allegiance to home can come with a dangerous risk.

In January, danger arrived along the East Coast in the form of a severe, weeklong cold-snap, one that caused water temps to crash into the 30s, subsequently killing incalculable numbers of seatrout, as well as shrimp, red drum and other marine animals.

Unlike most fish species, which move offshore during extreme weather, seatrout remain in shallow creeks, estuaries and backwaters. Larger trout, in fact, often react to colder water by swimming further up tidal creeks, hoping to find warmer conditions. When water temps rapidly drop to between 39 and 41 degrees and hover there for a sustained period, a “cold stun” occurs, causing swim bladder dysfunction and eventually, death.

In South Carolina, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) called the fish-kill the fifth worst since the 1950s. All along the Carolina coast, thousands of seatrout washed ashore, prompting great concern, and ultimately, positive action among the sportfishing community.

Following most cold stun events, recovery of the seatrout fishery has taken as many as five years, and that under ideal conditions. For Daniel Nussbaum, President of Z-Man Fishing Products, and other concerned individuals, the cold hard facts prompted meaningful action.

Spearheaded by Capt. Joel LeVine of RedFin Charters and in partnership with Z-Man Fishing and Eye Strike Fishing, the Community and Professional Response (CPR) Initiative formed and adopted the goal of restoring local stocks of seatrout. To this end, the group is aiming to raise $25,000—enough to purchase a new fish tank at the Waddell Mariculture Center in Bluffton, South Carolina. The tank would be capable of successfully spawning, raising and stocking up to 700,000 seatrout per year into Lowcountry waters.

“We determined the best, most impactful way we could help in restoring native stocks of seatrout in our local fishery was to set up a fund to build the tank,” noted Nussbaum. “We’re calling it Project ReSpeck, and anyone can contribute.”

Meanwhile, responding to sentiments suggesting a closed season, reduced bag limits or simply letting nature take its course in lieu of stocking, Nussbaum said, “Unfortunately, the DNR hasn’t closed the fishery because they are unsure about the full extent of the kill. Changing bag limits or halting harvest isn’t likely, either, because either one requires legislative action, unlikely in the near future.

“As such, Z-Man has pledged to donate a portion of sales of its Trout Trick® lures to the Waddell fund to help rebuild native seatrout stocks around Charleston, South Carolina.”

The owners RedFin Charters and Eye Strike Fishing, originators of the popular Trout Eye™ Jighead have also agreed to contribute a portion of their companies’ proceeds to Project ReSpeck.

“The Community and Professional Response Initiative was created by anglers to raise awareness and funding for our coastal waterway needs,” said LeVine. “Project ReSpeck is its first undertaking to address the urgent trout population loss.”

To donate via credit card and contribute to restoring seatrout populations, simply visit the CPR Fund at