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The Impact of Hurricanes on Fishing in the Carolinas

Waves crash on the shore
The southern half of the United States has historically experienced powerful hurricanes, but the extreme storms of the last two years have put the storms in the headlines more than ever. Humans understandably determine the severity of a storm by the amount of damage to buildings and vehicles, but the local wildlife are affected as well.
If you'd like to know how the recent storms could impact the local fishing, keep reading.
History of Carolina Hurricanes
North and South Carolina each have endured multiple hurricane hits in modern history. Since 1980, North Carolina has experienced billions in damage as well as many casualties related to the storms passing through the state. Hurricane Floyd in 1999 caused widespread flooding, and the impact of Florence in 2018 also included flooding and the loss of 39 lives.
Many consider Hugo to be the most severe hurricane to ever impact South Carolina. The powerful hurricane arrived at midnight in 1989 with 120 MPH winds that destroyed neighborhoods across the city of Charleston. Hugo was, at that time, the costliest storm to hit the United States.
Because hurricanes are a normal part of the local weather system, the native fish populations can survive them, though they are often impacted negatively.
Impact on Fish Population
Prior to a storm, the levels of fish may dwindle in estuaries and bays. Scientists believe this is a survival instinct triggered by the drop in barometric pressure. The levels of fish in rivers in a hurricane's path may also drop as the creatures swim downstream to calmer areas.
A hurricane can negatively impact fish due to tidal flooding, rising freshwater levels from excessive rain, and the pollution from water runoff in rivers, lakes, and ponds. Organic material and runoff polluted with waste products and agricultural chemicals can create dead zones in lakes and rivers. Ocean algae blooms, caused by turbulent waters, can harm some species of fish and make the water dangerous for humans.
Storm surge from the ocean raises the salinity levels in estuaries, which creates an unfriendly environment for many of the species of fish that normally call this area home. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that the population of fish drops. Researchers discovered that during this time, waters often fill with marine life more suitable to the conditions.
The dramatic rainfall totals that lead to inland flooding can also cause an issue known as hypoxia. The decomposition of organic material washed into the water can cause a drop in dissolved oxygen levels that prevents fish from breathing.
Benefits for Affected Fish
The effects of a hurricane can also bring some benefit to fish as well. The churning ocean waters that help to increase algae blooms and produce higher levels of zooplankton that harm some species of fish are also a food source for many others.
Flooded rivers increase the range of the fish in these waters and expose them to new feeding grounds along the banks that were once dry land. The fish also have new areas to explore when previously disconnected waterways connect after they overspill their banks. Some of these events encourage fish spawning that helps to boost their population.
Results for Fishing Charters
Damage to piers, boats and personal property can halt all fishing for a period of time as communities clean up or rebuild. Affected waterways can experience fish kills that temporarily halt all fishing or that force restrictions. Fortunately, many in the commercial and recreational fishing industry have found that improvements can happen quickly and the fish return.
At Carolina Princess, our captain has over 40 years of experience in the fishing industry and with North Carolina weather, including the aftermath of severe hurricanes. Contact us to schedule your adventure. 

Carolina Princess
604 Evans St.
Morehead City, NC 28557

Phone: 800-682-3456