With my natural time clock still waking me up everyday at 5 am-ish I couldn't help this morning to get up and hit the beach. Yes, I know there is a slim to none chance of catching a fish today but its still nice to hold onto my routine.
As I walked the beach and read the water I thought to myself of all the changes that anglers can expect this coming spring. Besides what Mother Nature brings to us, man will be creating a lot of changes also. Recently completed, current and future projects along the Jersey Shore will have a great and negative impact for those that fish, surf, and maybe even swim in the waters along the northern Jersey Shore. Even though the southern Jersey beaches aren't part of my daily beat, from what I've been reading those areas will see "improvements" in the near future also.
Beach replenishment, or "nourishment", is happening as I write and as most anglers have put away their gear for the winter. The False Hook on Sandy Hook was dredged this past fall so we can expect that area to fish differently this spring. Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach replenishment projects have been completed, and in some cases already reversed, during this past fall. Long Branch from Pier Village to Monmouth Beach is almost completed and the phase from Pier Village south to Lake Takanasee will begin, even without a concrete plan on how to improve and fix Lake Takanasee.
As I took the top picture that I took this morning I wondered what all my trips down to the beach this past year would have been like if the sand was out to the tips of the groins? Where would the structure be? How would the current move? Where would the predator fish lay in wait? Where would the baitfish seek protection and in turn get caught up in the hard surf and currents?
As the heavy equipment is readied t the 8th Ave parking lot in Asbury Park for that phase of the project anglers who fish from 8th Ave to the Shark River Inlet will be in for a big surprise, and disappointment. Some anglers call certain "beats" home. That's what they know, that's where they fish, that's where they feel safe. That's where their wives, family and friends know thats where they'll be when leave in the dark to fish a certain time or tide.
Pumping sand onto a beach is a big deal. There are outflow pipes that exit into the ocean just about every block or so. Some of these pipes, or flumes, exit out in the middle or ends of the groins, others closer to the beach ends. How will changing the landscape and terrain effect the natural movement of water in, out and around these man made waterways? Three of them lead to lakes which are spawning grounds for herring and shad. Lake Takanasee, Deal Lake, and Lake Pond were known for historic river herring runs that were magnets for striped bass. At this time there is a plan and monies allocated only for Wreck Pond to construct a fish ladder or passage for the andronamous baitfish.
The 8th Ave to Shark River Inlet contract will be followed by the Belmar to Manasquan Inlet replenishment contract. Remember, these "emergency" contracts are meant to return the beaches to pre-Sandy conditions, period. That means no changes in the groins, ie notching, shortening, or removal. It also should not impede on the publics right to access the beaches either.
With this winter a little different than the last two years anglers have been away from and lost touch with the waters they fish. In the early spring the waters will come alive and the striped bass and bluefish will make their way north and into the back bays and rivers looking searching for a meal before heading out and up to spawn. Hopefully the changes that man are making to their natural landscape will not alter the normal migration for the baitfish and predator fish alike. With fishing shut down January 1- March 1st in the back and the rivers, and things slowed to a crawl or stop out front, its going to be a long wait to spring. And when we wake up from our fishing hibernation we might make our way down to the water and not like to see what we've done to the landscape and have to relearn our fishing grounds again.
Some older anglers say this will be the end of striper fishing for them. This human intrusion takes months to ruin, and sometimes a decade or so to correct by Mother Nature. An angler who has fished the Jersey Shore for 40 years, may only have a few good seasons left in him, and he won't make the fifteen years it will take for the beaches to get back to a "normal" life.