Thirty-five recreational fishermen recently attended an informational meeting held by Anglers for Offshore Wind Power at the Langosta Restaurant in Asbury Park.

Fishermen listened to a summary of wind-farm development plans scheduled for New Jersey, and Rhode Island charter captain Dave Monti presented to share his experiences with the Block Island Wind Farm through planning, construction and operation.

While Europe has had offshore wind farms for over 25 years, the five-turbine wind farm powering 17,000 homes and business since 2016 on Block is the only offshore wind farm in the United States.

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This unique project currently offers an opportunity for learning about offshore wind and how anglers can engage in the development process and make sure that future projects are designed and sited correctly.

I recently signed on with Anglers for Offshore Wind Power, (a project of the National Wildlife Federation), as the New Jersey recreational fisheries advocate. They sponsored the meeting and the group’s mission is to provide anglers with the information and resources needed to play a part in ensuring ocean wind farms are responsibly developed. Please check out the website and sign on to the groups principles if you agree and would like to participate in the upcoming wind farm decision making process

Capt. Monti spoke about the new habitat created and abundance of fish being caught in the Block Island Wind Farm Area, i.e., porgy (scup), black sea bass, summer flounder, cod, bluefish and striped bass. Turbine foundations there have acted as artificial reef structure creating new fish habitat.

Video footage of the bases shows mussel growth with scup and black sea bass feeding, and larger fish such as striped bass and bluefish circling the bases interested in feeding on the smaller fish.

Fishermen at the meeting said they question where the New Jersey turbines would be sited with concerns about them being in high-traffic areas, as well as in areas where scallops and ocean clams are presently harvested commercially. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has been collecting information about new areas where wind energy development could occur.

Both New York and New Jersey have expressed concerns about proposed sites, while both states still push for ambitious wind development goals.

Later on in the month, I was lucky enough to see for myself and check out what the fishing was like up at the wind farm. I packed my rod up, hopped on the Amtrak to avoid the traffic and took the four-hour journey up to Point Judith. We went out on the Seven B’s party boat and late October seas and winds were nasty! Very happy to be out on a big boat, instead of my 20-foot center console back home.

We used clam baits on double hook rigs with 8 to 10 ounces of lead in 90 feet of water. My braided line rod and reel setup really paid off, as the currents were very strong and the extra sensitivity was key. The black sea bass and porgies were stacked up around the turbine platforms, and we had a great time catching some really nice ones, along with several double headers.

Recreational anglers should know that the state of New Jersey plans to generate 3,500 megawatts of clean energy though wind power over the next 12 years (this is enough energy to power approximately 1.5 million homes). This is the largest offshore wind energy commitment of any state to date. Anglers for Offshore Wind Power’s mission is to make sure our concerns for safety and those to safeguard the fish and habitat are addressed as ocean wind farms develop. Pollution from fossil fuels is harming our fishing in multiple ways, and offshore wind is a clean energy source that can benefit fishing.  But it must be done right.

There are several projects on the table right now that Jersey folks need to be aware of — ranging from Sandy Hook all the way down to the Delaware Bay. These projects are going to happen a lot sooner than most people think so please get ready to move quickly and attend the meetings as they come up. We are talking about “steel in the water” as quickly as 2020. Basically, wherever you live in New Jersey you are going to be able to get on a boat and fish these platforms in the very near future.

Project names represent what they refer to as “lease areas” and are set for exploration by developers. They are drawn out very large now, but will shrink as actual sites are selected. All are in federal waters in the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone). From north to south, the areas are identified as Equinor and Hudson North — think a big triangle in the NY/NJ Bight off 17+ miles; Hudson South — think another triangle from Barnegat to Margate, then a smaller rectangle called U.S. Wind and Ocean Wind but these are closer to shore, about 10 miles off, and the lease area is roughly from Harvey Cedars down to Hereford Inlet.

Note that important information about these projects and public comment submission can be found here as it comes up. See the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s website.

Note that the “Fisherman’s Energy project” is now called the Nautilus project right off of Atlantic City is still under consideration at this time. This would be the only wind farm to be in state waters, located 2.8 miles off Atlantic City and would be a small wind farm.

 

About the Author:

Captain Paul Eidman is founder of Menhaden Defenders, a conservation advocacy group working to rebuild the Atlantic menhaden (bunker fish) population back to historic population levels from Maine to Florida. Eidman is a lifelong recreational angler and conservationist, and is owner and operator of Reel Therapy Fly & Light Tackle fishing charters, based in Monmouth County. Email him at paulyfish@reeltherapy.com.