Can Wind Farms be New Jersey’s Next Great Fishery?

Can Wind Farms be New Jersey’s Next Great Fishery?

This article comes from the Bent Fishing Podcast’s “Fish News” segment, where hosts  Joe Cermele and Miles Nolte go head to head to find and report the most interesting and amusing fishy stories across sources from far and wide—from respected scientific journals to trashy tabloids.

Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind is developing a 183,000-acre wind farm 10 to 20 miles off the Jersey coastline between Barnegat Light and Atlantic City. This wind farm is about six years away from being up and running, but Doug Copeland, Atlantic Shores’ manager has some good news for fishermen: “You’re welcome to fish by the structures; we just ask that you don’t tie up to them.” 

Thanks Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, but let me tell you something, we planned on it already.

We were already going to fish there, no matter what. As for people not tying their boats up—that’s a fine rule, but best of luck with that. New Jersey Transit has a hard enough time policing anglers that will trespass anywhere to get a shot at some stripers: on railroad tracks, over land, and across bridges where there’s usually a guy in the bridge house on look-out. Jersey folks will do what it takes to catch fish, so don’t be shocked if some folks tie off to your turbines. Just a heads up. 

Ørsted, a corporate leader in offshore wind production, has developed the first coastal wind farm in the United States off the coast of Rhode Island. Ørsted spokesperson Gabe Martinez claims the farm has already “become a bit of a recreational fishing hot spot.” 

How well turbines attract fish still demands more study. Wind farms can create structures in the ocean that act as artificial reefs, creating habitat for marine wildlife. However, NOAA recently conducted a study on how sensitive black sea bass are to noise pollution. It turns out bass do have a sensitivity to sounds created by wind turbines, but long-term ramifications are yet to be determined. Scientists speculate that there could be changes in feeding and breeding grounds, migration patterns, or reduced growth and reproduction. 

Many anglers, both commercial and recreational, have raised concern that the electromagnetic fields wind farms create will scare fish away. Developers claim that cables will be buried at least 6 feet below the ocean floor, so this won’t be a problem.

Look, I’m all for alternate sources of energy. But I do hate looking at those things, so at least they’re far enough offshore to not be an eyesore. That said, I’m excited. There will be mahi and cobia for sure, but it will also create one of those mystery fishing areas where all kinds of oddball shit will show up. For example, there are king macks caught off the Jersey coast every summer, but it’s pretty random out there in the open. These wind farms are going to provide exactly the kind of structure they need to cling on, just like down South on the oil rigs. We’ve never had anything like this here and rig fishing in the Gulf is one of my favorite things. I’m pumped to potentially have comparable fisheries off Jersey. 

To catch all the Fish News stories and so much more, listen to the full Bent show here or wherever you listen to podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe!

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