Throughout the summer – particularly late summer in August into September – I’m sent various photos of “exotic” species encountered by anglers in the New Jersey, Delaware Bay region. Often times I’m able to identify the catches right away, but in most cases I end up sending images over to staffers at the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife (NJDFW) for an assist in identification. They’re about 99.9% with their ID’s, but even in some cases the catches are simply too weird, even for the pros.
Capt. Mike Greene asked “Any idea what this is? Caught it out by the Ridge on a peanut bunker.” This one remains a mystery. “Got the pic, still trying to figure out what it is,” said NJDFW Fisheries Biologist and Artificial Reef Coordinator Peter Clarke, adding “Looks like a jack of sorts, just not sure what yet.” Jury is still out.
Caught this juvenile gag grouper at my shore house today in New Jersey,” said Tyler Walker over the Labor Day weekend, who reported this catch from the dock behind his house. “Thought it was very cool to see a tropical fish up here in Jersey,” Tyler added. Personally, I’d like to catch – and cook – his daddy!
Andrew Moseley caught a few ribbonfish at the Ocean City Reef site over the Labor Day weekend, adding “Absolutely one of the most beautiful fishes I’ve ever seen (alive),” Andrew said. After a quick check of Wikipedia Andrew learned the ribbonfish is prized by the Japanese, even if Americans consider it a “trash fish.”
Steve Coponi of Hazlet was out on the family boat LIV-VEN 4 REEL about 20 miles out of Atlantic Highlands working the pots for mahi with a Tsunami shad and snared this 3-1/2-pound tripletail that taped out to about 17-1/2 inches in length. According to Phil at the Tackle Box, Steve had to do a little fancy rod work to maneuver this exotic away from the pot line.
“Hey Jim here’s another weird one caught by buddy Dave Greenlaw in front of Fortescue, I think it’s a mangrove snapper,” emailed Steven Houghton. Again, I turned to NJDFW’s Peter Clarke who said, “that there is a pigfish.” Colorful members of the grunt family, the pigfish is rarely caught north of Virginia, making this an exotic catch for Delaware Bay
Joel Wakefield laid down the rod and reel for a quick dip in the South Jersey surf back in August and was able to grab hold of this flying fish. Not actually a “flier” in the bird sense, the flying fish uses its wing-like fins to glide considerable distances over the water’s surface, often to evade offshore predators like tuna and marlin.
Capt. Andy at Riptide Bait & Tackle in Brigantine emailed this photo over to us for ID in late August, but quickly answered the question by saying “it’s a houndfish!” An interesting catch that appears in The Fisherman reports annually, New Jersey is about the northernmost range for the houndfish which can also be found as far south as Brazil in the Western Atlantic.