After 14 weeks of fish sampling at Veterans Reef on Delaware Bay’s south Reeds Beach, the R/V Great Auk launched from Smokey’s Marina on Tuesday, Nov. 17 for the last monitoring event of the season with Alek Modjeski (Habitation Restoration Program Director) and Shane Godshall (Habitat Restoration Coordinator) on board. Winds at nearly 20 mph made for a choppy start and initial results threatened to make the trip a bust. All the traps on the inner reef were empty and the restoration team headed home for the day.
The weather looked better Wednesday morning, with a clear sky and a calm bay as Shane and Quinn Whitesall (Habitat Restoration Technician) set out. However, the initial traps were once again empty, except for black-fingered mud crabs (Panopeus herbstii). It was beginning to look as if there would be nothing significant from the entire event. However, the team noticed something flopping around in the second-to-last trap, which turned out to be a fish not previously seen on the reef. The subject had beautiful, wispy fins, and long barbels below the mouth. After pouring over a Peterson Field Guide the consensus was that the fast little swimmer was a juvenile spotted hake (Urophycis regius). After taking measurements and photos, the fish was released. Then we made our way back to Smokey’s Marina, already anticipating the next season of monitoring in the spring.