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Team Trout

June 2018
Team Trout

Project ReSpeck aims to boost fish populations after the historic freeze

(Left to right) Joel LeVine of RedFin Charters, Daniel Nussbaum of Z-Man, and Dave Fladd and Ralph Phillips of Eye Strike Fishing are raising funds to retrofit tanks (like the one shown at top right) at the Waddell Mariculture Center for spawning spotted sea trout.

January’s snow left a beautiful winter landscape, but the accompanying cold snap created fatal conditions in Charleston’s creeks and rivers. Spotted sea trout—also known as “speckled trout”—are among the most vulnerable when water temps dip into the 30s. While humans were huddled around their fireplaces, trout were literally freezing to death.

In response to the fish kill, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) issued catch-and-release recommendations through this summer, but a few local fishing enthusiasts wanted to do more. Joel LeVine of RedFin Charters teamed up with lure-makers Z-Man (headed by Daniel Nussbaum) and Eye Strike (owned by Dave Fladd and Ralph Phillips) to form Project ReSpeck, an effort to raise $25,000 to retrofit four or five spawning tanks at Bluffton’s Waddell Mariculture Center.

“ReSpeck is the first project of a nonprofit fund that we formed, the Community and Professional Response (CPR) Initiative,” explains LeVine. “It’s aimed at benefitting the conservation and sustainability of our coastal fisheries.”

The initiative’s fund is managed by the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, so donations to ReSpeck (projectrespeck.com) are tax deductible. SCDNR is able to receive grant funding for specific purposes like the tank retrofits, which would help its scientists increase the number of trout they’re currently able to raise and release each year. “Stocking provides a small but positive boost to the wild population,” confirms SCDNR’s Phil Maier, noting that releases are spaced out to protect genetic diversity in the wild population.

Since January, ReSpeck has raised nearly $9,000, plus in-kind donations from area businesses such as Tidewater Photography, whose Chad McPeters designed logos for the CPR Initiative and ReSpeck. The group hopes to hit its $25,000 goal later this summer.

Until trout populations can rebound, charter companies like RedFin are “doing our best not to put any pressure on them,” says LeVine, who offers every client the option of giving to ReSpeck when they book a trip online. Likewise, Z-Man is donating a portion of its lure sales, and Eye Strike is giving 100 percent of proceeds from a high-end jighead it designed especially for this effort.

After ReSpeck, the team will turn to remediating other disasters—like this year’s sewage spill in the Stono River that harmed oysters—and finding new ways to support fish populations. “We developed the initiative so the community can focus on one issue each year that impacts our environment,” says LeVine. “I hope that creating collective goals can result in real change.”

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Photographs by (CPR Initiative founders) Natalie Moreau & courtesy of (spawning tank) South Carolina Department of Natural Resources & (trout) RedFin Charters