We've gone solar!
As many of you are aware, we use passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags to monitor the alewife that make their way into Wreck Pond each year to spawn. Tagged fish are tracked using antennas positioned throughout the pond and larger watershed. Each antenna is powered by 2-4 marine 12volt batteries. Because of the power demands of the antennas, these batteries need to be replaced each week. The old batteries are then charged to be reused the following week. At around 50lbs each, moving and swapping batteries is not easy feat. And the task becomes even more daunting when you have 6 or 7 antennas going!
This year, to alleviate some of that work, reduce our time in the field, and become more eco friendly, we incorporated solar panels into our antenna set up. The panels charge our batteries in the field while they are powering the antennas. This has extended the life of our charged batteries and allowed for fewer battery swaps.
While we cannot yet conduct our spring fish sampling, in the next week we will be restarting our PIT tagging antennas. To prevent contact, staff will be assigned individual antennas to monitor once a week. Hopefully, we will detect some repeat spawners, as each year we typically catch several alewife that were tagged the previous year and have returned to Wreck Pond once again to reproduce. Let's hope that trend continues! Stayed tuned for weekly updates on the PIT tagging results. Some underwater camera footage is in the works as well.
A PIT tagging computer.
An addition is coming to Old Mill Dam. Later this spring, we will be installing a fish ladder over the Old Mill Dam spillway. Our PIT tagging work has shown that, currently, alewife reach the bottom of the dam during their spring spawning runs. The installation of the ladder will make available almost a mile of extra, good spawning habitat. The ladder will be an Alaskan steeppass design (see image below). After construction, we plan to install additional PIT tagging antennas on the fish ladder to assess its utilization by alewife. We are currently waiting for permit approval from the NJDEP, and anticipate construction to start end of March or April. This project is the result of collaboration with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Additionally, Wall Township, The Mill Lakeside Manor, and Atlantic Lifts, Dock & Bulkhead have been instrumental in getting the project to this stage. Stay tuned for more information as we get closer to the anticipated construction time period.
We spent the morning seining at Wreck Pond. The temperatures were low, the winds were gusting, and the water was flowing; but we braved the elements and pulled our seine net in the name of science. We didn't catch much, just a handful of Atlantic silversides. Yet, even so, these data will help us better quantify the assemblage of fish found in Wreck Pond during these winter months. Despite the weather, fun was had by all including a new volunteer (she picked quite the day to start) and our trusty staff morale officer, Manny, sporting his winter coat.
Welcome to winter seining. This year we are expanding our normal seine sampling to include the winter months. Typically, we seine once a week between the months of June and November to try to catch migrating juvenile alewife leaving Wreck Pond for the Atlantic Ocean. However, this year, we will continue to seine once or twice a month through February. The goal behind this additional work is to get a better idea of the winter assemblage of fish found in Wreck Pond. Our first seine event took place yesterday. We caught lots of Atlantic silversides, a handful of very small summer flounder and spotted hake, a larger winter flounder, and one sand eel.
Ammodytes americanus or sand eel is a small lance shaped fish common in the Western North Atlantic. They primarily feed on plankton. Towards dusk, sand eels will bury themselves in the sand likely as a way to avoid predators such as striped bass and bluefish.
And just like that, summer is over.
It has come to our attention that we here at the Society have been remiss in our blog posting. Our sincerest apologies. It has not been for laziness. These past few months have been busy and exciting. From fyke sampling, to seining, to growing oysters, to constructing living shorelines out of Christmas trees, we have been hard at work protecting and restoring our coast. And in that excitement and hard work – with several grueling days mixed in – a few things got left to the wayside, or rather, postponed. With that said, dear blog reader, we have some catching up to do:
We have stepped up our citizen science monitoring game. No longer will you see graduated PVC pipes installed throughout the pond. This summer all PVC piping was replaced with metal tide gauges/water level meters. These meters are sturdier and more accurate, and dare we say, easier on the eyes. We have also replaced our analog thermometers with newer, digital versions. Both improvements should allow for easier and more precise measurements, improving the usefulness and accuracy of our data. If you would like to learn more about our citizen science program or volunteer to become a citizen scientist, please contact Julie Schumacher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our fyke net surveys ended mid-June. This year we caught 207 alewife, just a few shy of Capt. Al Modjeski’s 2006 record of 229. Despite falling short of the record – we’re coming for you next year Modjeski! – our results are a hopeful sign that the work we are doing is resulting in positive change.
Just as the death of a flower precedes the growing of new fruit (or whatever new beginnings analogy you may like), so too does the end of our fyke net surveys herald the start of our seine surveys. The primary goal of our seining is to catch juvenile alewife before they leave Wreck Pond for the ocean, providing confirmation of spawning success in Wreck Pond. This is not an easy task. Studies tell us that the majority of juvenile alewife in a watershed emigrate in one or two large pulses. If we miss these pulses, we miss most of the fish. Obviously, timing is critical. For several years we only hit dribblers into the infield, catching one or two juvenile alewife, here or there. However, in 2018, we knocked one out of the park, capturing over 140 juvenile alewife in a single seine pull. Currently, we’re at the plate, dialed in, waiting for that perfect pitch. Every Thursday we take a swing (seine). If you are interested in volunteering, contact Zack Royle at email@example.com.
Baseball analogies aside, while we have yet to catch any juvenile alewife, we have noticed some differences in species caught this year as opposed to prior years. Particularly, for much of the summer, we were catching large schools of juvenile white mullet, a subtropical marine fish that can often be found along the Atlantic coast and in brackish estuaries. Mullet feed on algae, plankton, and detritus from mud found on the bottom of estuaries. Additionally, we have caught multiple juvenile northern sennets. Also know as the northern barracuda, northern sennets have elongated bodies and large jaws. They are a schooling species that feed on small fish, squids, and shrimps.
Northern sennet (Sphyraena borealis)
This week starts our 6th sampling event at Wreck Pond. We've had a very successful year so far, catching 199 alewife to this point. This is more than we have ever caught since we began sampling, and only second to the most ever caught using the same methodology (229 in 2006). Hopefully, we can catch a couple more this year to break that record. Besides alewife, we have also caught lots of white perch, white suckers, and gizzard shad. If you are interested in volunteering during a sampling event, contact Zack Royle at firstname.lastname@example.org
In our work at Wreck Pond, we often come across different animal tracks (deer, fox, racoons, etc.). This past week, we decided to set up a trail camera to capture some images of these animal residents. Check out some of our results below:
Before being tagged, all captured herring are scanned to detect if they had been tagged in a previous season. One fish that was captured during this sampling event showed what looked to be a scar from a previous tagging, however, no tag was detected when scanned. Due to the location and precision of the scar, the team feels confident that this fish had been previously tagged and has returned to the pond in the 2019 season.
Other fish sampled included white perch, gizzard shad, striped killifish, and grass carps. Additionally several Spring-time fowl have arrived back at the pond including: ospreys, double-crested cormorants, egrets, and oyster catchers. The team is happy to welcome Spring and all it's seasonal residents back to the pond!
Sampling Event #4 begins with a net set on the evening of 4/17/19 with sampling events happening twice a day between 4/18/19 and the morning of 4/21/19. For more information on our sampling events or the Wreck Pond project, please contact Zack Royle, email@example.com