The Ocean’s talking. Is Anybody Listening?

Anglers Conservation Network / Hurricane Sandy / New Jersey / News / Rec. Fishing Disaster Aid / Recreational Fishing / River Herring / Striped Bass
The Ocean’s talking. Is Anybody Listening?

In my last blog I wrote about Hurricane Sandy and how it slammed into and opened up Wreck pond to the sea on October 29, 2012. Barely two months later, on December 27, 2012, a Noreaster hits and opens up a new inlet at Lake Takanassee in the same way (Above image), just a few miles to the North.  Local residents of the surrounding towns are not happy about the floods that came with this event, but they are happy because the new opening allows the floodwaters to rapidly retreat out to sea. Local Striper fishermen look at this destructive event from an entirely different perspective, and see a long awaited ray of hope. Finally, the vital species of forage fish that feed our striped bass and other gamefish will be able to enter these waters like they used to and spawn and multiply.

IMG_9226

I visited LakeTak, as locals call it, right after Sandy hit to see the damage it had done to the old US Life Saving station. Although the historic landmark was completely leveled, I found it amazing that, other than dumping tons of sand into the back end of the lake, the spillway and its one of a kind open wooden cradle survived. IMG_8704

Unfortunately,this Nor’easter a month later finished what Sandy started. The waters came up hard and fast decimating the dunes that separated the lake from the beachfront. The old wooden retention wall and the old brick spillway was exposed to the air for the first time since the early 1900’s and the lake was flowing right over it, down the beach and into the sea.

Lake Takanassee has an amazing complex and unique watershed upstream that runs 10 miles west through woods, behind strip malls, residential neighborhoods. The waters of Whale pond brook have great dissolved oxygen levels which are ideal for river herring to thrive in. Designed and created by mother nature herself, the dense vegetation and gradual sloping of this boggy stream cleanse the waters that empty into it from the streets and yards surrounding it.

Lake Tak has dropped 10 feet and has stopped draining somewhat and has seemed to have found its new level. I am thinking that a temporary dam just like the one at wreck pond will need to be erected to prevent the lake from draining completely. County officials will most likely take advantage of this draw down and go ahead, dredge the lake and remove hundreds of yards worth of years of yucky sediment and debris.

These natural events cut out years worth of red tape and procedural BS overnight. Now, authorities have no choice but to engineer a new system that will allow for stormwater relief, and hopefully with angler advocacy and correct funding, they will include migrating fish passage as a priority.

river_herring_2

For the past four years, the Anglers Conservation Network (ACN) “River Herring Rescue” program has been struggling (in vain) to find adequate funding to encourage angler participation, erect fish ladders and improve upriver habitat for River Herring to be able to return to native spawning sites.

The image below shows a fish ladder installed at the dam at Lake Carasaljo in Lakewood NJ.4 18 11 pix from camera 015

In the past decade, River Herring population levels have gone from bad to worse, and just last year, they were labeled “a species of concern” which is a notch below “endangered”. Joining many other east coast states, in 2012 New Jersey issued a moratorium on all directed fishing towards them. Populations are crashing from a variety of reasons, but the past decade of pair trawling tactics for atlantic herring, squid, mackerel and butterfish has the river herring caught up mercilessly by the ton and dumped at sea as bycatch.

Although it would be optimum to remove the dams completely, here in Jersey we have to adapt to many of the dams that have been built as our residents simply cannot live without the manmade lakes. The least we can do at this point is to provide egress for our fish when they need it the most. In some of the better spots, I have watched dozens of herring swim up the ladders and out into the lakes to spawn. The benefits of a successful, spawning population of local river herring to our local ecosystem, wildlife and recreational fisherman are immeasurable.

IMG_9305

Just recently completed, above photo shows that Wreck pond now has an emergency temporary low head dam built, that flows into a stream that flows down the beach to the sea. At times of incoming tides, raw seawater will still flow into the end of the pipe and into the lake, but now at astronomical high tides, the incoming tide will now flow over the dam as well.                        IMG_9306Alewife and Blue Back herring, (collectively called river herring) arrive in the early spring, with the Alewives first, then as water temps rise, the blue backs show up. Swimming up the coast, they “home” in on the freshwater outflows and with any luck, will choose to swim into the new beach inlet and over the low head dam.  IMG_9291

From there, they begin a trek westward up and into the fresh waters and can make it as far as the dam behind the Old Mill Inn. They search for a suitable place to spawn and the adults swim back out, the young hatch and live in the stream till fall when they swim out for the first time to the open sea.IMG_9289

Unfortunately, The above shows the pool that the herring dead end into. ZERO accomodation was made for fish to migrate into the calm waters above this spillway, where the Alewives prefer to spawn. This ignorance by the engineers and subcontracted firms is commonplace here in NJ and its hard to comprehend how they can spend so much to fix a problem and not take the extra small step to put a fish and eel ladder in the plan.

Important to note that the 60 billion dollar Sandy Aid package (Bill 152) has been hung up in congress until recently. Among all the line items in this package sits funding needed to accomplish the restoration and improvement of the above waterways with the future and our fish in mind. Shoreline restoration includes many things, rebuilding in a sensible manner, restoring wetlands and working with nature instead of against her. We have the know how to to accomodate the massive surge of rain and seawater contained in the “100 year” storms that are now occurring with increasing frequency but we have to provide the funding to make it happen.

political_pork-450x337

Many of the current republican leaders from outside our area that dominate congress just decided and voted that this was PORK and they cut the line items out completely. They made it pretty clear as to where this all stands in the scheme of things. We are currently waiting for the senate to decide. If the house majority has its way, its clear that the majority rules and they will award the project to the lowest bidder and just rebuild it like it used to be and then do it all over again when the next storm hits and then start the process over again at double the expense year after year wasting even more taxpayer dollars. Our only hope is that the Senate will shuffle back in the fisheries aid package and shoreline restoration components… and the President will somehow sign off on it. We shall see!

 

Join ACN Today!

 

 

Capt. Paul Eidman
Capt. Paul Eidman


Reel Therapy Fly/light tackle fishing guide/Marine conservation advocate in the Sandy Hook NJ Area. Founder of Anglers Conservation Network and Menhaden Defenders.