Growing fishery? NOAA to work on winter survey of menhaden off N.J. coast

The surprising news last weekend was not just the striped bass bite on the Ocean County beaches, but the numbers of menhaden off the coast here in January. NOAA has also taken notice of the baitfish and is collaborating on a survey of their winter population here.

The researchers that are working on it are from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s (UMCES) Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries. The winter population survey of menhaden will specifically look at the menhaden spending the season off the coast of New Jersey.

According to the Science Center for Marine Fisheries in Virginia which released a statement on the survey, the researchers believe New Jersey is home to a growing winter bait fishery but there have been few attempts to survey menhaden this far north and there is currently not a good count of how many menhaden are in the area. Data is also lacking on measurements like age and weight compositions.

The survey will launch from Cape May and use sonar equipment to estimate the number of menhaden schooling in the area while collecting info to estimate age, size, and weight, data that will be important for managing the fishery.

Weekend fishing

The winter storms keep coming.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a gale watch for today and Saturday. The coast could potentially see wind gusts reach 40 knots out of the north and seas build to seven feet.

Fishing report: Big tog landed, flurry of bass off Ocean County beaches

Capt. Matt Sosnowski on the Big Mohawk said they're not going to sail today or Saturday unless the forecast abruptly changes. Sunday is the next possible day he'll sail.

The Big Mohawk was out Thursday for blackfish. Sosnowski said they had a pick of fish around the boat in the morning when he gave his report while he was still out on the ocean fishing.

The blackfish is about the only species going now for the party boats that are sailing daily schedules. Capt. Bobby Quinn on the Ocean Explorer said he starting to see some codfish and ling on the pieces he's been togging in some deeper water.

Ice fishing

The cold chill as of late was enough to produce some surface ice on the rivers such as the Metedeconk in Brick. Nothing that is anywhere safe for ice fishing.

However, the ice is shaping up on the state's largest freshwater lake, Lake Hopatcong. Laurie Murphy at Dows Boat Rentals said the entire lake has a layer of ice on it now, but the deeper portions of the lake are not thick enough for walking on top of.

What's biting: get the latest fishing reports here

A few more nights of freezing temps though will certainly provide more layers as long as the wind doesn't howl too much to disturb the water.

She said there is about three to four inches of ice cover on the shallows and fishermen are beginning to poke around the ice at the state park. There's no word yet if anyone is having any luck catching anything.

When Jersey Shore native Dan Radel is not reporting the news, you can find him in a college classroom where he is a history professor. Reach him @danielradelapp; 732-643-4072;

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Growing bait fishery? NOAA to join on winter survey of menhaden off N.J. coast