RICHARD A. KING WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY
     The Life Cycle of the Atlantic Silversides
and Inland Silversides



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1Our The most important open water forage fish of the Barnegat Bay Estuary
Atlantic Silversides ( Menidia menidia )

Our primary Silversides, and the one seen in the program above.  More info below.
Inland Silversides ( Menidia beryllinia )

 Generally overlooked due to their similarity to the massive populations of the Atlantic species, Inland Silversides have large populations of their own, favoring areas of less tidal influence though I've never found them in fresh water.
The Two Spearing of the Barnegat Bay Estuary

Where as the Atlantic Silversides thrives throughout the lower and middle estuary, the Inland Silversides favors the lower salinities of the middle estuary (brackish water) and never leaves the Bay. But during the spring are often found mixed in with the Atlantic Species, easily distinguished by their smaller size, and shorter anal fin (16 rays in the anal fin compared to aprox. 24 rays in their cousins). But though an important forage fish, are greatly outnumbered by the Atlantic species. 

With a life cycle said to be only two years, the young of last year are now the breeders of this year. Having reached a size of 4'' to 5'', they begin returning to the bay in late winter (though I've actually seined large schools of gravid silversides in the middle estuary in Jan. in warm winters).  As the waters warm they travel throughout the bay and middle estuary, breeding as they go, eventually returning on the same path till  exiting for the inlet and surf in early July followed closely by larger game fish that pursued them into the bay.  For the rest of the year it's the young of the year (yoy) they left behind that will dominate the forage fish of the bay.
Life Cycle of the Young of the Year - Observations
1. Night-time - Swarm the surface waters of shallow sand bars, salt marsh and tidal pools after dark        closely followed by their predators.

 2. Day-time   -  Move into deeper waters in pre-dawn hours bringing with them their nocturnal predators.
(pre-dawn being the time of their greatest vulnerability) 

3. At a possible 3 1/2" by the flood tides of late Aug. and Sept., begin their greatest migrations into inlet and surf, though, depending on water temperatures, moderate populations will remain in the bay as late as Dec. 

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At 1/2" to 1 1/2" when the breeders left, these small spearing will be preyed on by the same species that fed on the breeders , though in smaller sizes.
But they grow rapidly, and by late Aug. and Sept. reach sizes of 3" to 3 1/2" creating great backlogs near inlets, preparing for their surf bound exit.
An Important Observation for Fishing in July
Through the years being an avid flyrodder , I've found on almost every occasion, that using a fly (or lure) no more than 1'' to 2'' was the difference between success and failure 

The images below were taken in the pre-dawn hours of the flood tides of Aug./Sept. as these immense backlogs pushed their way from their nocturnal habitat to the deeper waters of the Barnegat Inlet.
(Wherever the waters go from shallow to deep)

Though heaviest on flooding tides, scenes like this are repeated in the pre-dawn hours each morning throughout the tide cycle, though with relatively less intensity.
Though moat of these feeding frenzies involve weakfish and bluefish, all the bays predators will gain energy and growth
Take particular notice of the fish breaking water on the upper right hand side of this shot.  It's a fluke.
Be forewarned  though, directly after these flood tides, and evan though the water may remain high, the action will severely drop off until the backlog builds up on the new tide cycle.
Weakies at the Break
This composite scene was a common occurrence in the pre-dawn hours at the Little Bay break under the conditions described above.
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