MIDDLE TOWNSHIP _ Hundreds of thousands of dead fish are washing ashore along the Delaware Bay and the leading theory is they perished from low dissolved oxygen levels in the water.

The fish, juvenile menhaden, also known as "peanut bunker," were not washing up last night, according to a Rutgers University biologist based here the oyster research station Cape Shore Laboratory.

"My field manager (Matt Newman) was here fishing last night and there weren't any dead menhaden, but he saw them jumping out of the water," said Gregory DeBrosse, facilities manager of Cape Shore Laboratory.

DeBrosse arrived at 7 a.m. and saw the water and beaches were full of dead fish. He theorized the fish were up in the tidal tributaries and the recent hot weather lowered the dissolved oxygen levels in the water, leading to the fish kill.

"This happened in the 1970's once at the same time of year," DeBrosse said.

The fish were spread out on beaches from Pierce's Point in Middle Township to the Villas section of Lower Township. DeBrosse does not expect any impact on the millions of oysters being cultivated in the waters off the Cape Shore Laboratory.