Saturday, June 4, 2016

FISH RESEARCH: WSF's The Great Fish Count (June 4, 2016)

Synopsis: The World Science Festival's "The Great Fish Count” was a free citizen-science event, in partnership with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and environmental education programs at each specific sites. The event covered the five boroughs of NYC and sites in NJ, for a total of 15 Hudson River sites that were surveyed simultaneously. Its focus was on the ecology and diverse fish fauna of the Hudson River. Anyone was allowed to participate! Volunteers tried on waders (waterproof overalls), hauled a seine net, and discovered aquatic life in NYC and NJ waters. The event brought together ecologists, environmental scientists, and the public for a real scientific research endeavor. 

Project: World Science Festival's The Great Fish Count
Host: World Science Festival
Organizers: World Science Festival, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and environmental education programs at specific sites.

Date: June 4, 2016
Location: Multiple sites; this report only covers the Bloomer Beach site in Englewood, NJ. 

(Photo Credit: Peter J. Park)

Bloomer Beach Site Director(s): Peter J. Park 
Assistants: Kuan Chiu, Tyric Martin, Pamila Ramotar-John, and Kishi John 

Participants: General Public
Methods: Seining 

Environmental Variables:
Air Temp: 27.8 C (82 F)
Water Temp: 23.33 C (74 F)

Salinity: 15ppt
Dissolved Oxygen: 8ppm

Species Caught (and Released):

Fish Species:

Bay Anchovy (Anchoa mitchilli)
(Photo Credit: Peter J. Park)

White Perch (Morone americana)

(Photo Credit: Semi Park)
Northern Pipefish (Syngnathus fuscus)
(Photo Credit: Andrew Wu)
  Atlantic Tomcod (Microgadus tomcod)
(Photo Credit: Andrew Wu)

Other Species:
Blue Claw Crab (Callinectes sapidus)
(Photo Credit: Semi Park)
Shrimp (2 species)

"Grass" Shrimp (Photo Credit: Peter J. Park)
Sand Shrimp (Crangon septemspinosa) (Photo Credit: Andrew Wu)

Follow-Up: Larisa M. Downes, author of the blog Science Savvy Kids wrote an article on about her experience at this event as WSF team member. Check it out:

Additional Info: All procedures and activities described above were permitted by the NY DEC.

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Margie Turrin (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) and Stephen Stanne (NY DEC) for inviting us to participate in this event!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

FISHING STORIES: Nyack College Fishing Club Meets Stasheo's Custom Jigs!

We recently got fish with Bill "Stasheo" Kruk, owner of Stasheo's Custom Jigs.

Bill is one of NYC's most renown Largemouth Bass anglers. His custom-designed jigs have caught big bass all across the US and overseas. He has landed countless 5+lb Largemouth Bass (a benchmark among experienced bass anglers), with many lunkers caught (and released) in some of NYC's iconic lakes, including in Brooklyn's Prospect Park and Manhattan's Central Park!

Our goal was to explore a set of lakes on Long Island and Westchester County. We specifically targeted one species - Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides). Interestingly, our angling experiences from lake-to-lake were strikingly different. For example, a couple of lakes had fish full into spawning behavior, while other lakes had nothing but empty nests (indicating that spawning was done in those lakes). These differences presented unique challenges.  Each body of water had to be fished differently and as quickly as possible, given our short stays at each lake. As expected, the fishing in some lakes were better than others. We did catch fish though, mostly using jigs. Curiously, topwater presentations did not prove effective, despite some textbook conditions.

Fish Facts: An excerpt from one of our previous blog posts, The Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) is the largest member of the Family Centrarchidae (The Sunfishes) which includes the Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu), Bluegill Sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus), Pumpkinseed Sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), and Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus). This fish is not a true bass, in the biological sense.  Rather, its closest evolutionary relatives are sunfish, making it a large sunfish.  It has been called a “bass” because its physical and behavioral attributes appear similar to those of a true bass like the striped bass (Morone saxatilis) or black sea bass (Centropristis striata). Largemouth bass live in almost any slow-moving or still body of freshwater (e.g., ponds, lakes, rivers, streams) in the continental US.  

The optimal habitat for Largemouth Bass is shallow water with lots of structure and vegetation. The Largemouth Bass is predominantly a sit-and-wait ambush predator that frequents structure such as weeds, fallen trees, or rocks. This fish will consume almost any organism that will fit into its large mouth.  It feeds on a variety of vertebrates (e.g., fishes, amphibians, rodents, birds) and invertebrates (e.g., insects, worms, crayfish). The Largemouth Bass is extremely popular in the US, and after being introduced to Asia, it is becoming increasingly popular there. From fishing tournaments to fishing tackle, the pursuit of this fish has entranced fishermen. With more than about 60 million largemouth bass fishermen (recreational and professional combined) in the US today, this inedible fish has achieved the status of most prized and popular among all gamefish.

On this trip, we really got to apply our knowledge of bass biology with the bass fishing tips that Bill shared:

- Lure Color: Largemouth Bass have very good vision. Lure color choice is extremely important. In clear water, use natural colored baits. The fish can see, and so try to match the prey that they are accustomed to seeing. In murky water, use colors that stand out. Natural colors may not be as effective as bright colors, such as chartreuse or white. That said, be open - remember that bass are predators and they are used to targeting natural prey that camouflage well in their environment. Don't be surprised if you catch a fish on a green lure in murky green water.
- Lure Enhancements: Bass have other senses too! Lures that toggle, swirl, rattle, or pop may give your lure just the added attention it needs to be noticed. Water vibrations will excite the fish's lateral line sense, a system of sense organs, unique to fishes, that allow them to detect underwater vibration and movement. Also, consider using scented lures (or apply the scents separately). While bass are not known for their odor detection abilities, they do have nostrils and a pair of well-developed olfactory brain lobes. 
- Stay in the Strike Zone: Many times, fish will not venture far from their ambush holding spots. Cast accurately, under brush, branches, and any structures that might have a bass lurking or in hiding. If the lure is too far, a big bass is unlikely to waste excessive energy (if they are big, they will naturally be inclined to conserve energy, just like when we get big and older!) or take the risk of losing its hide-out to another bass.
- Be Versatile: Experienced bass anglers, like Bill, carry a suite of lures that have proved effective. When fishing a new body of water, carry a set of lures that cover reasonable ranges, whether that be range of colors, range of water depth, or range of senses to trigger in a fish. Eventually, if you fish a lake often, you will learn what the fish prefer, and you may be able reduce your tackle down to just the few things that really get the fish to bite on any given day.

Although most bass were caught on jigs (lures that mimic an escaping crayfish), chatterbaits and plastic worms also got the fish to bite. Even though we ended the day early in the afternoon, lots of Largemouth Bass were caught and released. It was not easy - each catch was earned.

This exploratory trip marks a memorable one for the club. Thanks to Bill, we will
soon be fishing with our very own Nyack College Fishing Club Stasheo's Custom Jigs! They will be custom-painted in school "Nyack Warrior" colors crimson and gray! We look forward to growing as anglers while supporting our NYC local lure makers!

Thank you Bill for taking time out to share your expertise with our club. You are truly a guru of NYC's urban angling. It was a pleasure to show you some of our fishing spots. Thank you for sharing some of yours. We look forward to fishing with you again soon!