Stories from the Bay
By: Captain Al Modjeski, Habitat Restoration Director, American Littoral Society
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, the Society’s Delaware Bay Restoration Team began trapping for fish on Veteran’s Reef located slightly offshore S. Reeds Beach. As one of the crew said as we headed out from Smokey’s Marina, “ the bay looks like one of the Windows 98 Screensavers. It is so beautiful”. And it truly was a beautiful site. The heat wave had finally passed for the moment, the seas were gentle, and there was enough of a breeze to keep the greenheads partially at bay. Bug spray was still a welcome commodity.
Our 19 foot skiff, the R/V Great Auk, was recently de-winterized and was handling beautifully in the semi-glass conditions. We were able to position ourselves over the reef easily as we deployed 9 fish traps on and off the reef site. Besides myself, Shane our Habitat Restoration Coordinator, and Quinn, our Habitat Restoration Technician; we had a new crew member named Jack. Jack is going to be a senior at the Marine Academy of Science and Technology located on Sandy Hook and is working with Capt. Al and others on his senior project about reef biodiversity. He will be a familiar face at many of the sampling events in Delaware Bay and is learning a lot from all of our project team about ecological relationships between bay communities.
Once the traps were set, we had about 4 hours before we could retrieve the inshore traps. We leave the offshore traps set for 24 hours but pull the inshore traps since that reef segment will be exposed during low tide. This gave us time to try a new sampling method and to determine if we include it in future sampling efforts. Tides were at 7’ so we had an idea and opportunity to try. We had borrowed a 16’ otter trawl from our Fish Tagging Program and were curious if we could successfully deploy the gear and catch fish at a control site and then between the reef. I also wanted to figure out a good tow speed. Though we did not catch anything during the first tow, we lengthened our tow lines and increased our speed for the next tow. It was good to know that two people could deploy and retrieve the net easily. As the cod end of the net neared the side of the boat during our second tow, we could feel that it had a little weight and movement to it. As we released the cod end, out fell some small striped bass, a few peanut bunker (menhaden), some blue crabs, Atlantic silversides, and bay anchovy. This tow allowed us to figure out a good towing speed and also proved that we could incorporate this method into our sampling program when able. I was curious if we would catch more than 5 different species between the reefs but would not find out this go around. Shane reminded us that there were still racks in-between the reefs and that they would need to be removed before we could attempt a reef tow. Luckily, they should be removed by the next sampling event so stay tuned to see if there is a difference in species abundance between the reef and the control site.
As we neared the time to retrieve our traps, we took a quick trip through the adjacent salt marsh along Bidwells Creek and saw terrapins, a bald eagle, numerous egrets and noisy willets, and a few great blue herons. We also saw common and royal terns on the open water as we headed back to the traps. We got mostly blue crab in our traps that soaked for 4 hours. In our traps soaked for 24 hours we caught blue crabs and one silver perch. I am still curious on what we may get if we decide to trawl there.
"Our work on the bayshore is not just about wildlife, it’s about people, and how keeping nature strong keeps us all strong in the face of disasters like hurricanes."
We want to ensure that New Jersey's Hidden Coast remains a vital part of our livelihood for generations to come.
This is the final episode to our video series, "New Jersey's Hidden Coast." Catch a glimpse of the Bay, the horseshoe crab at the center of the bay's system, and the incredible relationship between horseshoe crabs and migratory birds, like the red knot. We reveal the real value of horseshoe crabs, the challenges to the ecosystem, and the potential for thriving regional economy along the Bayshore. We will show Hurricane Sandy as a catalyst for decisive action and the work being done to rebuild the area for both people and wildlife.
Catch up on the previous episodes, here on our blog or on YouTube. Explore the use of "living shorelines" instead of bulkheads and the importance of marshes to the marine ecosystem. Discover the on-the-ground, grassroots efforts of the community to build oyster reeds alongside veterans. And examine the future of the Bay and the work that needs to be done to preserve our conservation successes year after year.