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Coastal Lakes Recovery

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The devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy along the New Jersey coastline was unprecedented and for some towns and their residents, rebuilding efforts will continue for years. Eleven freshwater coastal lakes in stricken areas also suffered the wrath of the storm as record high tides inundated these freshwater systems with saltwater, sediment and debris. Restoration of these lakes—like the community-wide rebuilding efforts—will take time.

Lake Takanassee in Long Branch was hit the hardest. The outlet structure separating the lake from the ocean failed; what little is left is now completely open to the ocean. As the time frame for rebuilding the outlet structure is uncertain, Takanassee has been removed from Fish and Wildlife’s trout stocking program. In its place, nearby Franklin Lake (West Long Branch) will be stocked with trout beginning in 2014.

Ten other waterbodies—Carteret Park Pond (Carteret), Deal Lake (Asbury Park), Fletcher Lake (Asbury Park), Hooks Creek Lake at Cheesequake St. Park (Matawan), Lake Como (Spring Lake), Lake of the Lillies (Pt. Pleasant), Silver Lake (Bradley Beach), Sunset Lake (Asbury Park), Sylvan Lake (Bradley Beach) and Wesley Lake (Asbury Park)—all experienced freshwater fish kills due to saltwater intrusion. The salinity of freshwater is usually less than 0.5 parts per thousand (ppt). Water between 0.5 ppt and 17 ppt is considered brackish and the average ocean salinity is 35 ppt. After the powerful storm, salinity levels of the above lakes recorded in January by Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologists ranged from 0.20 to 11.8 ppt.

Freshwater fish can tolerate some brackish water. The severity of the fish kills varied with the salinity and the species. For example, Deal Lake experienced a large die off of Carp and to lesser extent, Northern Pike. Some Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish and sunfish survived the ordeal, evidenced by angler catches. Lake of the Lillies and Sunset Lake suffered more extensive fish kills.

In addition to extensive fish kills, Fletcher Lake, Lake Como, Sylvan Lake and Wesley Lake were also infiltrated with large amounts of sand and debris. Fish and Wildlife conservation officers inspected over 40 coastal waters to assess debris, sedimentation and infrastructure effects caused by the storm.

Recovery of these waters will take time as most of these waters have little fresh water inputs to offset the elevated salinity levels. Some lakes only receive runoff via local storm drains. Fortunately, the abundant spring rains in 2013 greatly assisted the recovery of several waters. Follow-up measurements taken in June 2013 showed considerable improvements in salinity levels with seven lakes dropping below 0.5 ppt. In July 2013 the following lakes were able to be restocked:

Deal Lake – 8,000 Largemouth Bass (2-4" fingerlings); 5,000 sunfish; 1,580 Northern Pike (6")

Sunset Lake – 1,500 Largemouth Bass (2-4" fingerlings); 3,000 sunfish.

Lake of the Lillies – 2,000 Largemouth Bass (2-4" fingerlings); 10,000 sunfish.

Brown Bullheads, Black Crappies, Golden Shiners and Fathead Minnows were also stocked in the above three lakes. The fish were produced and distributed by Fish and Wildlife’s Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery, which celebrated its 100th year of operation in 2012.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has obtained funding from the federal Sandy disaster relief package to dredge Lake Takanassee, Fletcher, Sylvan and Wesley lakes. Once the fish habitat has been restored these lakes will also be restocked with a variety of freshwater fish species.

It will take two to three years for the fish populations to develop fully. The recently stocked sunfish, Golden Shiners and Fathead Minnows will reproduce and build a forage base for the developing Brown Bullhead and bass population. Anglers can anticipate good populations of catchable size bass, sunfish and catfish in the future.

Coastal Lake Salinity Levels in parts per thousand (ppt):

1/29/2013

6/19/2013

Carteret Park Pond

Not recorded

7.6

Deal Lake

0.74

0.13

Fletcher Lake

0.2

0.14

Hooks Creek Lake

11.8

9.6

Lake Como

0.42

0.2

Lake of the Lillies

6.61

0.28

Silver Lake

4.43

2.34

Sunset Lake

3.01

0.26

Sylvan Lake

0.92

0.2

Wesley Lake

0.6

0.11

Regulations in red are new this year.

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