RICHARD KING WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY
Under construction -Last Edited 10/3/2015
Photos of the Unique and Mysterious Small Fish that lie Hidden Under the Dark Waters of the Barnegat Bay 




The Unique and Mysterious Small Fish that lie Hidden under the Dark Waters of the Barnegat BayUnder construction
The unique and Mysterious small fish that lie hiden in 
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Ever Wonder about what unique small fish live in the Barnegat Bay?
You might find them here.  Some are numerous each year while others appear only in trace amounts.  Still others may be numerous one year and not seen the next.  Take a look below, you might be quite surprised. 

From the common to the extremely rare, the photos below depict some of the many species of unique species  you might not expect to find in the Barnegat Bay.

Some may grow no larger than seen here.  Others are juveniles striving to reach adult hood.   But both are just as likely to re-enter the food chain as prey, (no predator will pass up a meal of opportunity).  Though none will grow much  larger than 6" in a single season,  together these unique predators represent an indispensable link in the food chains of Barnegat Bay.
GROUP 1 :  COMMON  JUVENILES

THESE ARE SOME OF THE MOST COMMON  SPECIES THAT WILL SPEND THEIR FIRST SEASON OF LIFE IN THE BARNEGAT BAY, TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE BAYS' RICH FOOD CHAINS AND PROTECTION. 
Winter Flounder ( Pseudopleuronectes americanus )
Sea Bass (Centropristis striata) 2.5"
Start to show up in late summer and early fall  
Black Sea Bass (Centropristis striata)) Juv. 4"
Born on the continental shelf individuals like this one later utilize the Barnegat Bay to mature in their first year. 
Blackfish (Tautoga onitis) 2.5"
Juvs. this size start appearing in my traps, and shrimp nets, from July into fall. similar in size and growth rate to the Black Sea Bass except that they were born here. 
Blackfish (Tautoga onitis) 3"
Adults migrate into the  bay to breed each spring where they spend their first year of life.
Cunner  (Tautogolabrus adspersus) Juvenile
Porgy (Stenotomus-chrysops) 2.5"

Born offshore,  juveniles like this begin showing up in late summer.  Adults may go to 18", but favor deep off shore habitats, while smaller fish may inhabit the bay. 


No. Kingfish (Menticirrhus saxatilis) 3"
Adults return each year to live and breed.  Juveniles like this one can be found each year by mid summer, and may reach 6" to 8" by years end. 
Black Drum ( Pogonias cromis )

Seined in late Jan. 2002 at the upper level of tidal influence of Toms River, the largest tributary of the Barnegat Bay Estuary.  Though large schools of Black Drum were known to inhabit the Barnegat Bay Estuary in the early years of the 20th century, I believe this juvenile to be the first indication of their presence here in many, many years. Also, as Black Drum are known to breed in the Spring, then how could small juveniles show up in late Jan.?  In this same seining juvenile Alewife Herring of a similar small size were also caught here along with gravid At. Silversides.  Could this be the result of an unusually warm winter?  
Black Drum ( Pogonias cromis )

This seine, taken in a later year (2006) in the lower reaches of the Barnegat Bay Estuary, would give credence to the theory expressed in the previous text.  More than a dozen years later, and Black "Puppy" Drum are being caught in ever increasing amounts, and at sizes much larger than the 6'' to 10"ers shown in this shot.
Juv. At. croaker (Micropogonias undulatus)

Like the Black Drum, At. Croakers thrived in the Barnegat Bay until the mid twentieth century, as told by those who came before me.  Though they're presently a "no show", in recent years they have shown up in fairly moderate numbers, ( though primarily in the surf ).  Juveniles like this one, though few and far between, show that they are at times breeding in the Bay.
"Spike" Weakfish (Cynoscion  regalis) Juv.
"Snapper" Bluefish (Pomatomas saltatrix)
 White Perch ( Morone american )
 Hog Choker ( Trinectes maculatus)
Northern Blowfish (Sphoeroides maculitus)
Northern Blowfish (Sphoeroides maculitus)
No. Searobin (Prionotus evolans )
Oyster Cracker (Opsanus tau)
Oyster Cracker (Opsanus tau)
GRUBBY (Myoxocephalus aenaeus )
GRUBBY (Myoxocephalus aenaeus )
The Feather Blenny (Hypsoblennius hentzi)
Though I've only found a few
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The Feather Blenny (Hypsoblennius hentzi)
Though I've only found a few
.
The Striped Blenny (Chasmodes bosquianus)

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The Striped Blenny (Chasmodes bosquianus)

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gobie,naked(Gobiosoma-bosci)web
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gobie,naked(Gobiosoma-bosci)web
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Family: Syngnathidae


.Family: Syngnathidae

Two of the most unique groups of organisms in the Barnegat Bay Estuary.
1.  The Pipefish
2.  The Seahorse
Both are heavily plated, and the most ungainly fish in the Bay, depending primarily on wind, and tidal currents to move, and organic structure ( Eel Grass & Macro Algae) to feed in and live. 
No. PipeFish (Sygnathus-fuscus) probable

I'd love to say for sure that this is definitely a No. Pipefish, but I can't.  As with so many other organisms, though they may share the same genus, family, and unique characteristics, that doesn't mean they're the same species, as with this one, and the two individuals below. 
 
Pipe Fish (Sygnathus Sp.)

Observations
Though said to feed on plankton, small crstaceans and larval fish, with it's small "slurp gun" like mouth, in my filtered bay tank they spent their time hunting gravid grass shrimp, sucking the eggs right out of their pleopod tails.
Bull Pipefish (Syngathus springeri) Possible 10"+

Again, can't say for sure that this is a Bull Pipefish, but definitely not a No. Pipe Fish.
But there are some interesting facts I can say for sure:

1.  In Bay Tank:  When water temp reached low 60's, Pipe Fish (and Lined Seahorse) began burying in sand.  Wintering, I believe.

2.  In the Bay:  Each Nov. for a week or more , large concentrations of Pipe Fish seem to pass through our tidal creeks heading toward inlet, and ocean.  How do I know?  Because for a number of years, in this time period, the stomach contents of our returning Striped Bass, caught in the rip currents of tidal creeks, were often packed with pipe fish (and sticks of the same size).  Water Temps aprox. in the low 60's.  Again, wintering I think.

3.  But these rapid transit concentrations aren't limited to Pipe Fish.  Throughout the fall, as water temp drops, rips and currents of tidal creeks come alive with multiple species seeking escape to survive the winter.   Most like Pipefish, and Sand Shrimp move into the sandy depths of inlet and ocean while juvenile common killies of 1" to 2'' move to deep mud bottoms within the bay.  But these natural express lanes also become perfect ambush points for fish like Striped Bass that barely have to open their mouths to feed.

4.  Also a good ambush point for the knowledgable Flyrodder.  On the right tide that is.


Lined Seahorse (Hippocampus erectus)

Come in a variety of colors, though I've only found two-Yellow, and Black.  grow to 6".  Feed on small crustaceans, and other invertibrates small enough to suck in, which might be a a lot larger than you'de imagine.  In my tank, I watched as they'de slide up behind small grass shrimp, and sucked them in with such force that it could be heard right through the glass.
Lined Seahorse (Hippocampus erectus)w.m
Lined Seahorse (Hippocampus erectus)w.m
Gray Snapper (Lutjanus griseus) 

Gag-(-Mycteroperca-microlepis-)
Gag-(-Mycteroperca-microlepis-)
Spotted-Scorpian-Fish-(Scorpaena-plumieri)

Traped  in the summer of 2003, this unique little juvenile remains the only individual of it's kind I've ever found.  They're called Scorpion Fish for the toxins they carry in their spines, and may grow to 18".  Knowing they exist somewhere in our vast oceans is one thing, but to catch one in your own backyard ( The Barnegat Bay) makes you wonder "what else there? ".
scrawled cowfish( Lactophyrs polygonia )
spotfin-butterflyfish--(Chaetodone-oclletus)
Spotfin-Mojjara---(Eucinostomus-argenteus)
Cusk Eel (Ophidion marginatum)


Lizard Fish ( Synodus intermedius )


Cusk Eel (Ophidion marginatum)
Lizard Fish ( Synodus intermedius )



                            Top                                    Botom
Needle Fish (Strondylura marina)  Hound Fish (Tylosurus crocodilus)

Needle Fish: Lower jaw longer than upper jaw.
Hound Fish:  Lower jaw even or shorter than upper jaw.
J
Conger Eel (Conger oceanicus) Juv. 6"
Has much larger eye than the Common Eel  (Anguilla anguilla) sometimes called Silver Eel
Though adults, with common lengths of 40", and maximum of more than 7 feet, it's unlikely to be found  in our inshore waters.  But like many oceanic species, send its juveniles into estuary waters for it's first season.  The individual here was one of many traped in the Barnegat Bay in the summer of 2004, ranging in size from 6" to 12".

But I have to say, like so many other unique fisn, you see them one year and their gone the next.  though they most likely have come into another area.
 

H

J
Conger Eel (Conger oceanicus) Juv. 6"
Differentiated from Common Eel by having a longer upper jaw than lower.
Also has a dorsal fin that originates in front of the pectoral fin.
Fins (especially in juveniles) have a light blue to silvery appearance.


 

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