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.
On October 6, 2017, Littoral Society staff and volunteers completed another seining event at Wreck Pond. While we did not match the excitement of last week’s sample (4 juvenile alewife caught!), we did catch a good number of species. As always, we hauled in hundreds of Atlantic silversides, as well as many northern kingfish. One mullet was caught on the Sea Girt side of the pond, along with several striped killifish. We also observed signs of “snapper” bluefish chasing and feeding on bait fish at the pond side culvert entrance, a common site the past few weeks.
Snapper bluefish caught in Baltimore County, Maryland. Photo taken by Jon Corcoran.
The search for juvenile river herring is underway at Wreck Pond. American Littoral Society staff along with volunteers began the 2017 summer/fall fish sampling earlier this month and will be conducting sampling events weekly until October.
On August 21, Society staff with help from up and coming young biologists, were at Wreck Pond for the Great American Solar Eclipse. Seine pulls were made earlier that morning as well as during the climax of coverage during the eclipse to document if there was any differences.
Although many of the same species were caught at both times, staff did notice a substantial increase in the amount of Northern kingfish during the eclipse.
If you are interested in volunteering for upcoming fish sampling events, please contact Zack Royle, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Wreck Pond team was happy to conclude another year of school outreach with successful field visits from Communications High School. Over the course of two days, 80 freshman from the vocational school enjoyed participating in scientific field work stations including: seining & fish sampling, macro invertebrates, water quality, citizen scientist monitoring, and nature walks. An exciting find during these trips was the first documented juvenile river herring of the year, presumed to be an Alewife! That means adults successfully spawned this year helping the Wreck Pond Alewife population to grow.
In total, American Littoral Society staff and volunteers welcomed nearly 200 students in 2017 from schools in the Wreck Pond watershed to enjoy a day of interactive field activities to further connect them to their surrounding environment. For more information on how to get students involved with the Wreck Pond project, please contact Julie Schumacher, Julie@littoralsociety.org
Another sampling event is in the books. Last week, the Society completed its third fish sampling event at Wreck Pond. We caught an additional 17 alewife bringing our total to over 30 caught for the season. We also snagged a couple of our “regulars” including white perch, white sucker, and gizzard shad (see the previous blog post). In addition, we caught one brown bullhead and one black crappie, our first captures of the year for each species. We were also able to host three budding marine biologists (or maybe ninjas) for bring your child to work day.
Fish sampling continues at Wreck Pond. Last Week, the Society completed its second sampling event. We caught an additional 11 alewife, bringing our total to 14 for the season. In addition, we caught several other fishes including white perch, common carp, mummichog, Atlantic silverside, and gizzard shad; as well as multiple blue crabs and one painted turtle.
Gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) were the most abundant species caught this past sampling event, and thus, I want to take a moment to highlight this lesser known fish:
Gizzard shad are members of the herring family. They live in freshwater lakes and reservoirs, but can also be found in slow moving rivers and streams and brackish estuaries. In general, they prefer shallow waterbodies with muddy bottoms. Gizzard shad are planktivores, feeding on phytoplankton when young and zooplankton when older. They will also feed on detritus when the zooplankton abundance is low. They are deep bodied fish with distinct rounded snouts and small toothless mouths. Gizzard shad are thus named because they possess a gizzard, an internal organ that is part of their digestive system. The gizzard is essentially a small sack filled with stones or sand (consumed by the gizzard shad) that helps break down the gizzard shad’s food. Gizzard shad typically spawn between May and June during the evening. They have high fecundity i.e. they can produce a lot of offspring. This, coupled with their fast growth rate, means that Gizzard shad can often become a large part of the ecosystem in which they live.
The Society recently completed its first fish sampling event of the year at Wreck Pond. Our spring sampling targets river herring that migrate into the watershed to spawn. We use a fyke net to catch fish. The net is set up underneath the railroad bridge for several days, and is checked in the mornings and evenings. All fishes caught are identified, measured, and weighed. River herring caught are additionally tagged with PIT tags to better track their spawning movement and behavior. During this past event we caught several white perch, a couple white suckers, one large carp, and three alewife.
At Wreck Pond, the Society has recorded its first recapture of an alewife tagged last year. Fish 576 “Samantha” was first caught in our fyke net on April 23rd of last year. She was subsequently measured, weighed, and tagged. Until recently, she was last recorded on May 24, 2016, passing by our antenna at the outfall pipe as she left the watershed for the Atlantic.
On March 25, 2017 at around 2:00am, Samantha swam through our antenna located near the Rt. 71 Bridge. We are heartened to see that Samantha survived the past year in the ocean and has once again returned to Wreck Pond to spawn. If you are interested in volunteering to assist with fish sampling contact Zack Royle at Zack@littoralsociety.org.
Early last week, Winter Storm Stella barreled through the Northeast US. While much of NJ was spared from substantial snowfall, many parts of the state experienced heavy rain and strong winds, with coastal areas also experiencing large waves and high storm surge.
In anticipation of the storm, Spring Lake officials closed the culvert and outfall gates around 10:30 Monday morning following low tide. Closing the gates largely prevented the high storm surge from flowing into the pond. Instead of snow, throughout Monday night and Tuesday, over three inches of rain fell in the area. This rain slowly collected in Wreck Pond until Wednesday morning when the gates were opened allowing water to flow out of Wreck Pond and into the ocean. Despite the heavy rainfall in a relatively short period of time, the communities around Wreck Pond faced minimal flooding. Water barely overtopped the bulkhead along 2nd Avenue. No houses were impacted by surface flooding, and we only have one report of flooding in a residents backyard along Black Creek.
Photos by Jay Amberg of Sea Girt.