Saturday, April 20, 2019

Shad Migrating and Spawning in the Millstone River

Fishermen standing in the Delaware River above Chester, NJ with the bleaching mills,
smokestacks, and church spires of Gloucester along the shore. - James Fuller Queen, 1820 via Picryl 

American Shad were found migrating and spawning in the Millstone River for the first time in 173 years after the removal of the waterway’s Weston Mill Dam in Manville in summer 2017.

The dam blocked the migration of shad and other migratory fish, and the dam's removal marks an important step in the restoration of the Millstone River and the larger Raritan River Basin.

Great efforts are being made to restore migratory routes of anadromous fish species (those which live in the ocean but spawn in fresh water), including river herring and American Shad.

A flurry of dam removals have taken place along the Raritan, Musconetcong, and Millstone Rivers in recent years, with more on the way, including those along the Paulins Kill (i.e. Columbia Lake).

Shad fishing on the Delaware River has been hot the last few springs - in fact, even novice shad fishermen are currently catching more than a dozen per trip while wading its banks. This is not the case throughout the state, as fishing for American Shad is prohibited on all other New Jersey waters, as populations recover.

The 38-mile-long Millstone River, a tributary of the Raritan River, boasts a wide array of fish diversity with more than fifty species found in recent years. Migratory species, including American Shad, Gizzard Shad, Blueback Herring, Striped Bass, and American Eel, have been documented passing the Island Farm Weir fish ladder on the Raritan River near its confluence with the Millstone River, approximately 1.5 miles downstream of the former Weston Causeway Dam.

Efforts continue to restore American Shad and other migratory fishes by reconnecting historic migratory pathways. The Millstone River's Weston Causeway Dam was removed during the summer of 2017. The Weston Causeway Dam, located just downstream of the Wilhousky Street bridge in Manville, was the first impediment to fish passage on the Millstone River. The 133-foot long and five-foot high dam was originally built to provide power at the Weston Mill. The site included a gristmill, sawmill, the dam, and associated waterpower features. The dam had no current purpose; the mill buildings were claimed by arson in July, 1983. In recent years, the dam had partially failed.

Juvenile American shad from Millstone River - NJDFW photo

Juvenile American shad were captured for the first time upstream of the recently removed Weston Mill Dam on the Millstone River by sampling crews conducting biannual monitoring of this natural resource damage (NRD) restoration project. The American Cyanamid Superfund Site is one of several contaminated sites along the Raritan River and its tributaries.


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