In 1984 NJ’s Division of Fish & Wildlife officially began the NJ Artificial Reef Program. Currently today there are 17 reef sites where one quarter of all fishing trips in NJ occur.
All would agree that fluke, black sea bass, tautog as well as many other species benefit from the structure and the habitat artificial reefs create. As these sites age they evolve. Some materials collapse, shifting sand covers pieces and some sink into the sand. To keep the state’s network of reef vibrant and prospering new deployments are vital.
Due to funding and staffing, the Reef Program was dormant for a number of years. Then the program started up again. Between 2015-2019 there were 209 deployment with the majority (182) focused on the souther sites (Cape May, Ocean City, Townsends, Wildwood). But the sites local to Long Beach Island have had little to no enhancements in 15 years.
“Teenagers in the Association’s Junior Mates Program learned of the situation and asked what could they do. This humble beginning sparked a grass roots campaign which snowballed into an intensive campaign by the BHCFA. These efforts attracted the attention of concerned individuals and groups on the local and even national levels.” Jim Hutchinson Sr shared and continued.
“The group’s original reef replenishment goal of $100,000 was reached thanks to the efforts of the mates, local community involvement, and matching funds from the Ann E. Clark Foundation and the Sport Fishing Fund. The Sea Shell Resort & Beach Club’s Striped Bass Derby generously donated $50,000.”
Three New Vessels Added To Little Egg Reef
Finally! After two years of hard work from the captains and mates of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association (BHCFA), there’s new materials on the Little Egg Reef.
On Thursday January 14, 2020 Captain Pete Clark (NJDEP Fisheries Biologist & Reef Coordinator) and Captain John Lewis (BHCFA President) oversaw the sinking of three vessels; a 140-foot barge, a tugboat and a push boat.
The tug boat and push boat were towed up from Norfolk, Virginia on the barge. All of which were cleaned twice and cleared by the US Coast Guard prior to sinking.
Now with the new substrate on the Little Egg Reef native species of epifauna and flora will grow. Soon they will be home to crustaceans, mollusks and bait fish. Once established predatory/game species will move in and support recreation anglers for many years to come.
Lewis gave special words of praise to the Junior Mates for the efforts and participation. “Kids today take a beating for various reasons. Our kids have adopted a ‘can-do’ approach and worked their tails off to implement their ideas and dreams.”
This article contains content provided by Jim Hutchinson Sr & Jr, the Fisherman Magazine and the NJ DEP Fish & Wildlife.