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          Atlantic Silversides { Menidia menidia }
Edited 03/15/2016
 Last Edited 11/05/2015

Happening Now: March to July

At. Silversides have been, and continue entering the Barnegat Bay Estuary.
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These, the Juveniles of last year, are now 4" to 5"adults.  They are here to breed, and are the only forage of their size, and population in the Estuary at this time of year.   Find their concentrations, as they cycle through the Bay, up into the tributaries, and back again, and you'll find the Striped Bass that are dependant on them.   Then in late June/Early July they all exit back to the inlet, and surf.

See More Below


These are the 4" to 5" breeders  of May in the lower Barnegat Bay Estuary.
 
The Silversides Family:  Atherinidae 
Of all the genre of forage fish throughout our coasts it seems to be the silversides ( commonly called 'spearing' ) that dominate with massive populations, and year round presence.  Of the many species of this family that exist around the world there are two I've found here in the Barnegat Bay Estuary.  In the order of their importance: The Atlantic Silverside, and the Inland Silverside.
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The Atlantic Silversides
(Menidia menidia)
To 6''
January to December                               Habitat: Surf, Ocean & Estuary
 Our most important inshore forage fish, and by far most patterned salt water fly.  From as far back as I can remember, January to December, if you happen to see what was commonly lumped together as "baitfish", there's a 90% probability that what you were actually seeing were Atlantic Silversides (Menidia menidia).  And whereas populations of other forage are often  inconsistent, there's never been a time I can remember when populations of silversides have been anything but immense.  Reaching a  max. length of 6'' in a short two year life span, and massive replenishing populations through All seasons, some of which have no other forage of its type or size, make it the premiere food source for all our most important game fish, like Striped Bass, Bluefish, and Weakfish..   So important and complex is their life cycle, not only to our most prized game fish, but ultimately to Salt Water Flyrodding it self.
Appearance:
Greenish back with a pearl to white belly, and a  bright sliver stripe running from the pectoral fin to tail.  An appearance and profile similar to most of our fly patterns                                                                                                                                                                                                    
  Seasonal Occurrence
Migrate to Surf: Early July
Adults:  Begin re-entry into  the estuary in early spring having spent the winter in the adjacent surf, growing from juveniles to adults of 4 to 5 inches.  Now as the waters warm in April they begin their passage through the bay up into the tributaries, breeding as they go, and back again, exiting in early July, bringing with them the larger Striped Bass that gorged on them throughout the Spring.  This cycle each spring was the way Salt Water Fly Rodding, for many of us, began. 
In spring, water temperature matters.   Early spring finds the silversides moving up through our deeper waters, along with the Striped Bass that follow them.  As the waters warm to about 55 degrees, around mid April, they begin moving through our shallows. 
Migrate to Surf: late August to September
Juveniles:  Found throughout the Bay, and brackish tributaries from spring to Dec., depending on water temperature - larval in spring - 3/4 to 1 1/2 Inch by early July.  3 to 3 1/2 inches by the flood tides of Aug. and Sept. creating massive backlogs near inlets before moving into the adjacent surf, and ocean, though they'll remain numerous in decreasing numbers till the end of the year.   Even at their smaller size in early July  their immense numbers feed the the same species of game fish that followed the breeders, though in smaller size.  But unlike the adults the juveniles are nocturnal favoring deep water and channels during daylight hours, but moving into shallow coves, creeks and sand bars, at night.  Then, each morning, just before grey light, they'll pour out of these creeks into their deep water daytime habitat .  This is their daily time of greatest predation.  Of the most fantastic sights I can imagine is watching their immense backlogs making their final exodus into the inlets and adjacent surf in the predawn hours of the flood tides of late August, and September.
Size Matters
It's been my experience that the difference between success, and failure in flyrodding these night time shallows, and creeks in early summer, has been the size of the fly.  Any spearing pattern under 2'' produced fish, while anything larger  didn't.  And though the target fish here were usually Striped Bass, this has also held true for Bluefish in the daytime.  But as summer moves on, and the juveniles grow larger, the size of the fly becomes less of a factor.
Jay,  these are actual shots of the pre dawn sights described above.
You probably can't use them, but I had to include them anyway.
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alternate image

The Atlantic Silversides

(Menidia menidia)

To 6''

January to December                               Habitat: Surf, Ocean & Estuary


 Our most important inshore forage fish, and by far most patterned salt water fly.  From as far back as I can remember, January to December, if you happen to see what was commonly lumped together as "baitfish", there's a 90% probability that what you were actually seeing were Atlantic Silversides (Menidia menidia).  And whereas populations of other forage are often  inconsistent, there's never been a time I can remember when populations of silversides have been anything but immense.  Reaching a  max. length of 6'' in a short two year life span, and massive replenishing populations through All seasons, some of which have no other forage of its type or size, make it the premiere food source for all our most important game fish, like Striped Bass, Bluefish, and Weakfish..   So important and complex is their life cycle, not only to our most prized game fish, but ultimately to Salt Water Flyrodding it self.



Appearance:

Greenish back with a pearl to white belly, and a  bright sliver stripe running from the pectoral fin to tail.  An appearance and profile similar to most of our fly patterns                                                                                                                                                                                                    


  Seasonal Occurrence

Adults

Move In : Late Feb. Early March| Breed  | Migrate Back to Surf: Early July


Adults:  Begin re-entry into  the estuary in early spring having spent the winter in the adjacent surf, growing from juveniles to adults of 4 to 5 inches.  Now as the waters warm in April they begin their passage through the bay up into the tributaries, breeding as they go, and back again, exiting in early July, bringing with them the larger Striped Bass that gorged on them throughout the Spring.  This cycle each spring was the way Salt Water Fly Rodding, for many of us, began. 

In spring, water temperature matters.   Early spring finds the silversides moving up through our deeper waters, along with the Striped Bass that follow them.  As the waters warm to about 55 degrees, around mid April, they begin moving through our shallows,where most breeding begins.

Juveniles

          .75" to 1.50"                                          3.0" to 3.5"

          Early July                             Begin Exit (HeaviestAugust/Sept.

Juveniles:  Found throughout the Bay, and brackish tributaries from spring to Dec., depending on water temperature - larval in spring - 3/4 to 1 1/2 Inch by early July.  3 to 3 1/2 inches by the flood tides of Aug. and Sept. creating massive backlogs near inlets before moving into the adjacent surf, and ocean, though they'll remain numerous in decreasing numbers till the end of the year.   Even at their smaller size in early July  their immense numbers feed the the same species of game fish that followed the breeders, though in smaller size.  But unlike the adults the juveniles are nocturnal favoring deep water and channels during daylight hours, but moving into shallow coves, creeks and sand bars, at night.  Then, each morning, just before grey light, they'll pour out of these creeks into their deep water daytime habitat .  This is their daily time of greatest predation.  Of the most fantastic sights I can imagine is watching their immense backlogs making their final exodus into the inlets and adjacent surf in the predawn hours of the flood tides of late August, and September as seen in the images below.

BA

It Begins


Just before gray light.

Behind them, the shallows where they've spent the night.

  

Ahead, the deeper waters of the inlet and Bay where they'll spend the day. 

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If they can get through the "Gauntlet" 

where the predators wait!  

BA

Like Weakfish, Blues, and Lucky Flyrodders in the know.

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At least 5 weakies can be seen in the image below, but what I didn't expect was the white triangle in the upper right hand  corner.  It's a fluke crashing the surface. 

BA

Scenes like this seem to climax about an hour before sunrise, but good action may start hours earlier.  


And though this action took place on the waxing flood tides of August, and September {when these emense backlogs begin exiting into the inlet, and surf} variations take place throughout the pre-dawn hours of summer where ever the water currents go from shallow to deep.

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Size Matters

It's been my experience that the difference between success, and failure in flyrodding these night time shallows, and creeks in early summer, has been the size of the fly.  Any spearing pattern under 2'' produced fish, while anything larger  didn't.  And though the target fish here were usually Striped Bass, this has also held true for Bluefish in the daytime.  But as summer moves on, and the juveniles grow larger, the size of the fly becomes less of a factor.