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RobS 06-21-2007 12:14 PM

Fish Kill or Net Kill?
Dead menhaden wash up on shore

DEP: Appears a fishing trip went bad
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 06/21/07


Commonly known as mossbunker, bunker or pogy.

Oily fish considered inedible by humans.

Caught for use as bait, animal feed or as an additive.

Menhaden oil, which contains Omega-3s, is an FDA-approved health food additive.

Oil is used in foods such as pasta sauces, salad dressings and sports drinks.

Oil is also used in products such as lubricants, oil paint and lipstick.

Originally used as an agricultural fertilizer and for oil lamps.

Source: Menhaden Resource Council,

Hundreds of Atlantic menhaden ? an oily and bony fish that rarely, if ever, makes its way onto a dinner plate ? have washed up dead along the shores of Raritan Bay in recent days.

Called mossbunker, bunker or pogy by those who troll local docks, the menhaden appear to have died as part of a fishing operation gone wrong, said Darlene Yuhas, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Yuhas said DEP officials do not believe the menhaden died as part of a natural environmental occurrence or because of contamination in the water.

"Everything seems to point to this having been the result of a fishing operation," Yuhas said. "We've seen nothing that would suggest otherwise."

Law enforcement officers with the state Division of Fish & Wildlife's marine unit who investigated the fish kill found some of the menhaden had net marks carved onto their sides, Yuhas said.

With very few exceptions, the menhaden appear to be the only type of fish washing up dead, she said.

The officers did not collect water samples for testing because it is not part of their routine, Yuhas said, adding the investigation is not yet complete.

NY/NJ Baykeeper Andrew Willner accepts the DEP's analysis of what happened but said menhaden often die in mass numbers because of a lack of oxygen in the water.

"There's enough of it happening that makes this noteworthy," Willner said of the amount of dead fish.

Menhaden, algae-eaters that swim in very tight schools, sometimes get chased around by bluefish, a sea predator that eats smaller fish, Willner said.

Should they enter a section of water with less oxygen, the tightly-swimming fish can end up with very little air to breathe, he said.

Willner does not know whether menhaden enjoy snacking on Dactyliosolen fragilissimus, the type of algae that bloomed in Raritan and Sandy Hook bays and along parts of the ocean last month.

The bloom turned the water brown, but environmental officials at the time said they did not find the algae to be harmful to humans or to the ecology unless it sunk to the bottom and depleted dissolved oxygen.

Yuhas said DEP officials do not believe the menhaden died as a result of the algae bloom.

Given that menhaden swim in large, tight schools, fishing boats often capture them by using very large nets. One possibility is that a net broke, Yuhas said, releasing into the water hundreds of fish already dead either because they had been out of the water for too long or because they had been crushed by the weight of their kin.

Joe Branin, general manager of the Belford Seafood Cooperative Association, said the last time anyone fished for menhaden from his group was more than a month ago. He said there were no problems with the catch.

"There's a lot of recreational fishermen running around with cast nets," Branin said. "The only thing I know for sure is that this was not from our operation."

Given that they are considered virtually inedible by humans, menhaden are fished primarily for either their oil, which is used in a variety of household products, or for use as animal feed.

While humans wrinkle their nose at its overly-fishy smell and taste, there are few meals bluefish or striped bass like more than chopped bunker, said Nick Silvestri, a Holmdel resident who is a regular along the docks of Keyport and occasionally uses menhaden as bait.

Frank Russo, a Keyport resident who was chatting with Silvestri and others on the docks Wednesday, said he has been watching the menhaden wash up dead for over a week.

"You can almost see them gasping for air, swimming in little circles," Russo said. "Somebody better come out and do some testing on the water."

gottog 06-21-2007 12:31 PM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
More than likely a natural occurrence as there are LOADS of them in some very confined spots like marinas and last few days you can see they're struggling while swimming. Too many in a small area using up the oxygen and with increase in temps expect some more fish kills to happen.

Another disturbing sight I've been witnessing lately is quite a few anglers are snagging and releasing them. Pretty lame if you have to be reduced to that for sport. Take what you need to use, not waste.

Bob D'Amico 06-23-2007 04:22 AM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
What a screwball article, makes no sense at all just confusing. I wonder if the people "interviewed" were quoted correctly or out of context. How many bunker " marks carved onto their sides,..."?

Fish kills due to oxygen depravation happen all the time. This is too early in the summer for heat to be a factor. I wonder if there is any link between the brown algae bloom we're seeing throughout NY/NJ/CT waters?

RobS 06-23-2007 08:55 AM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
The state DEP seems to be a mess right now. I'm not sure if it ever was much better, but when Bradley Campbell got in..."serving at the pleasure of the governor"... he stated very clearly that "politics trumps science"...
Lisa Jackson has proven that true in her short tenure as well.

No doubt the article is confusing, and I haven't seen any followup.

Shipwreck 06-25-2007 09:45 AM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
For the last few weeks there have been WAY too many bunkies stuck in the back in small pockets. They are everywhere. Too shallow, too small a space and they run out of O2. Like Mike said.

He actually called this fish kill a week ago or so.

Why does the DEP get involved where they are not needed and ignore where they are needed?

BennyB 06-25-2007 10:26 AM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
I was in Perth Amboy for a while on Saturday. The amount of unmolested bunker back there is still insane. Just swimming in circles waiting to die. Loads of people just watching them. That marina is going to be stinking bad in a couple of days.

RobS 06-25-2007 10:29 AM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
well the good news is that maybe we'll have tons of little baby bunker swimming out from there in a few months ;)

gottog 06-25-2007 11:44 AM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
There's lil bunkies way, way in the back up the river/Kill already.

I think they got me sick.:( Never had a summer cold or flu...just gotta be the fact that I was snagging them.:smhair2:

BennyB 06-25-2007 11:52 AM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
GT, I was at IBSP a couple weeks ago with Shipwreck, FishTank, Bennyraw and others. The night before that was when I ran into you and SG at PA.

I was telling those guys I wish I had my camera so I could take some pictures of you snagging and livelining bunkies! :wow: :tongue: :D

gottog 06-25-2007 11:58 AM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
No proof...I'm just sick and delirious right now to even say I was doing that:doh2:

BennyB 06-25-2007 12:15 PM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
Yeah I know and I am far from being a credible witness. :doh2:

gottog 06-25-2007 01:34 PM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
Maybe it's just the "benny" thing as BennyRaw was down there too and saw me...atleast it was while trying to catch fluke. ;)

BennyB 06-25-2007 02:14 PM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
I saw one fluke caught there on Saturday. It didn't look like a keeper but the guy kept it.

I lost two chartruesse Spro bucktails over there. If you happen to catch them sometime in the future, you are welcome. Oh and they are even tipped with some gulp. ;)

Shipwreck 06-25-2007 02:38 PM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
Mike, how has the chartrues spro working for you this year.

I have not been getting that many hits on it yet. More white and yellow or white and pink.

gottog 06-25-2007 03:13 PM

Re: Fish Kill or Net Kill?
My only boat trip I used the "old" Spro Chratreuse/White BT and caught 2 keepers. T used the pink and had more.

From shore I'm either using cheap 3/8oz plain jigheads or bannanna head bucktails that Billy made for me, generally in all white.

As for tipping them, Gulp 4" grub seemed to have produced from better to worse in: glow, white, pink, yellow.

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