Long Beach Island, NJ — As summer comes to an end, it’s time to think about fall fishing – including the Sea Shell Resort and Beach Club’s 23rd annual Striped Bass Derby, held at the end of October. The three-day, all-tackle, all-boat fishing tournament draws fishermen and women from up and down the East Coast, and, in its more than two decades in existence, has generated nearly $400,000 for local nonprofits.
This year’s derby will benefit the Beach Haven Charter Boat Fishing Association’s Junior Mates Program rebuilding Long Beach Island’s artificial reefs. “This is a grassroots project, steeped in the tradition of charter boat and recreational fishing in and around Long Beach Island,” notes a release from the Derby Committee – Harvey Kelsall, Bob Smith, Rich Conaway, Rich Ferguson and David Cowles – and Derby Coordinator Tom Hughes.
“Started in 1984, the New Jersey Artificial Reef program includes a series of 15 sites where rock and dense man-made material is placed on the ocean floor to create a habitat for fish,” the committee explained. “These reefs become home for all types of small bait fish, which in turn attract larger predatory fish. These fish become the quarry for our fishermen. The reefs also attract a plethora of other organisms that attach themselves to the reef, creating a diverse and healthy aquatic ecosystem. This reef system provides an incredible boost to our local economy.”
As artificial reefs eventually sink into the sand, they need to be constantly reinforced with additional reef material. “This material consists of old trains, tanks, concrete, sunken boats, bridge pieces and other materials,” stated the committee. “The problem is that while many of the artificial reefs in New Jersey have continued to have additional material placed on them, the two reefs around southern Long Beach Island have had no new material placed in more than 14 years. If something is not done soon, these reefs will simply disappear under the sand.
“A dedicated group of local charter boat captains and local fishing enthusiasts, along with other environmentally conscious individuals, have taken on this project.”
The short-term goal is to acquire two tugboats, currently located in New York Harbor, and strip them of all toxic and non-environmentally friendly components. The boats would then be transported to LBI and sunk off Beach Haven or Holgate: the sites of the Garden State South and Little Egg artificial reefs.
The cost of this endeavor is $100,000.
“It would be a tremendous start to their efforts to rebuild the reefs of Long Beach Island,” the committee remarked. “It is our hope that, together, we can show this wonderful organization just how much we appreciate their efforts.”