October 13, 2017. Friday the 13th. A most portentous day in a most ominous month. Who knew what awaited Society staff and volunteers as they set out to once again sample Wreck Pond? Was some dark menace looming in the depths of the pond ready to snatch up would be seiners? Were the ghosts of a hundred Atlantic silversides lost in seine nets of past waiting to rise up and enact their revenge? There was only one way to tell. The Wreck Pond faithful steeled themselves against the ill-omen in the air, and waded into the cool pond waters…
…and caught some really interesting fish! As always, we caught an abundance of Atlantic silversides; however, mixed in the bunch (and, if not careful, easily missed because of their similar appearance) were a number of bay anchovies. We also caught stripped killifish, northern kingfish, white mullet, and several large snapper bluefish. Remarkably, we also caught one juvenile weakfish (Cynoscion regalis). This marks our first catch of a weakfish in Wreck Pond since we began sampling three years ago.
Weakfish were once an abundant and popular commercial and recreation fish along the coast of NJ and in the Delaware Bay. Overfishing occurred in the 1970s and 80s and regulations were passed in the 1990s and 2000s to reduce fishing pressure and restore stocks. Unfortunately, the population has yet to rebound to its historic levels due to natural mortality from predation, competition, and changes in the environment. Weakfish are preyed upon by striped bass and spiny dogfish, they compete with Atlantic croaker, and warming waters and reduced prey species such as bay anchovy are all likely contributing to high weakfish mortality.