Fish in New Jersey's Wreck Pond can now climb further into the watershed thanks to a ladder over the Old Mill Dam.
This summer the American Littoral Society installed the fish ladder in order to give anadromous fish, like alewife and blueback river herring, which spend most of their lives in the ocean but lay eggs in fresh water, renewed access to a former spawning area.
Returning from the Atlantic Ocean to coastal rivers every spring, these small, silvery fish helped support important recreational and commercial species, such as cod, haddock, and striped bass.
The ladder is the next step in the ongoing effort to restore Wreck Pond and its watershed.
The pond itself became badly polluted and prone to flooding after its natural inlet from the Atlantic Ocean was closed off decades ago. That also limited access for migratory fish. The dam itself, which was built over a century ago, became a further obstruction.
In 2014, the Littoral Society led an effort to fix the first part of the problem with construction of a fish passage that reconnected the 73-acre coastal lake to the ocean through a 600-foot box culvert.
Construction of the fish passage was funded by U.S. Department of Interior through a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additional funding for the Wreck Pond project came from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, as part of the Flood Hazard Risk Reduction and Resiliency grant program, and the Borough of Spring Lake.
The passage was designed to improve water quality in the pond, provide better flood control to the surrounding area, and allow fish to move into and out of the pond.
The 60-foot-long fish ladder is designed to help migratory fish scale Old Mill Pond Dam in Wall Township and Spring Lake Heights, NJ.
The 60-foot fish ladder, which was funded through the US Fish and Wildlife Service, will enable fish to scale the dam and go deeper into Wreck Pond Brook.
River herring are classified as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) species of special concern and US Fish and Wildlife Service trust resources. That means their numbers are declining and appear to be in need of concentrated conservation actions.
Over harvesting and the blockage of their historic spawning rivers by dams and other obstructions have played a significant role in population decline.
From the beginning of the Wreck Pond restoration, Littoral Society staff and volunteer community scientists have been monitoring river herring abundance and behavior in the pond.
Monitoring work has included the use of PIT tags. These Passive Integrated Transponders (aka PIT tags) are small radio transmitters that are implanted on adult alewife captured in Wreck Pond. Specialized antenna set up around the pond and watershed can then track movement of the fish.
The monitoring work will now be extended to cover the area beyond the fish ladder.