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.