Robert Castellano feeds the fish living in the pool behind his 9th Avenue home in Belmar Monday afternoon. Castellano believes that fish were from nearby Silver Lake that overflowed its banks during Superstorm Sandy nearly 6 months ago. BELMAR, NJ 4/15/13 POOLFISH0415D WITH VIDEO ASBURY PARK PRESS PHOTO BY THOMAS P. COSTELLO
Dan Radel, ASBURY PARK PRESS
BELMAR - Nearly five months after superstorm Sandy's floodwaters receded, Robert Castellano pulled the cover off his in-ground pool and discovered a tiny school of fish were living in it.
"I don't know how they got under the cover," Castellano said. "When the water was on top of the pool, it may have lifted the edges. Some are so small, they may have been just eggs. Or born in here."
The fish are one to four inches in length and swim in a school of about 15. Castellano believes them to be common bait fish called minnows or killifish - which survive in fresh or brackish waters. On Monday he fed them slivers of menhaden, an oily bait fish, as if his pool was an aquarium.
The hungry fish eagerly came to the surface for the free meal.
Castellano's house is at 504 Ninth Ave. His neighborhood, between the Atlantic Ocean and Shark River, was inundated with water for several days following Sandy. He had three feet of water in his backyard where his pool is located. It was nine days before he could return home there.
Fish were a common sight in the borough in November as backyards, homes and buildings dried out from Sandy. St. Rose High School, two blocks away on Seventh Avenue, found hundreds of pounds of dead fish. What amazes Castellano, is that his fish were alive all this time later.
"They're very quick," he said pointing to the fish as they darted from the surface. "I don't know what they've been eating, probably the algae. To survive in this water they have to have one heck of a will to live."
Castellano's pool is 12 feet wide by 20 feet long, but only three feet deep because of what he said is a high water table in his neighborhood. He had the pool winterized with chlorine chemicals when he closed it in September.
"It could be a phenomenon when people begin to open their pools," said Anthony Haddad, who also resides at the home.
On Monday, four days after Castellano opened his pool, all but one fish was still alive. The one that didn't make it was a different species. Castellano said it struggled at the surface before it died.
At no more than two inches in length, it was silver in color with a dark line down the center of its body. Castellano brought it to a local tackle shop, the Fishermen's Den, where it was identified by Bob Mathews.
"It looks like it's a white perch," Mathews said. "They're slightly anadromous fish - they can live in fresh and brackish water."
Both Mathews and Castellano believe all the fish in his pool came from the Silver Lake, one block from Castellano's house. Mathews said the perch and the minnows are resident fish there.
Castellano now plans to use a minnow trap to catch and return the minnows to the lake.
"What's amazing is the tenacity of these guys. It goes along with the what I see from the rest of the Jersey Shore people,'' Castellano said. "We are still digging out and surviving."