Hudson River Fisheries Unit
Migratory fishes including American shad, river herring, striped bass, American eel, and Atlantic sturgeon have historically supported important fisheries on the Hudson River. Effective management of these species must take into account their movements throughout the estuary and the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Hudson River Fisheries Unit of the Division of Marine Resources takes a river-wide approach to its work which covers the Hudson Valley portions of Regions 2, 3, and 4 of the NYSDEC. Research focuses on migratory fish in the 152 miles of the Hudson River Estuary from the George Washington Bridge in New York City to the Federal Dam located in Troy. The Unit also gathers data on resident species such as the shortnose sturgeon, black bass (largemouth and smallmouth bass), and many other fishes among the almost 200 other species that occur in the Hudson.
Managing Anadromous Fish
Anadromous comes from a Greek word meaning "running upward". These essentially marine fish spend many years in ocean waters until they mature and run up to the freshwater Hudson to spawn. After spawning, the adults return to the Atlantic and rejoin the larger, migratory coastal populations. Each new year's spawn of shad, herring, and bass spend only their first summer in the river before they join in the ocean migration. Because these fish range widely in the near shore ocean, they are managed on a coast wide basis. Each of the fifteen coastal states from Florida to Maine participates in cooperative interstate management of these species through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Long Term Monitoring Programs
The trend in abundance of shad over the last few years is one of a declining stock. Changing this trend is a high priority for the Unit, to be solved in working with the other states along the shad's coastal migratory route.
The Spawning Stock Survey, begun in 1985, collects American shad and striped bass on their spawning grounds from Newburgh to Catskill. The surveys uses a large 500 foot long small mesh seine to catch the wide size (and age) range of fish that make up the spawning populations. Length, weight, and scale samples are taken before the fish are tagged and released. Data on age structure (the number of fish of each age) allows the Unit's biologists to assess the health of each year's spawning population. The increase in fish older than age eight (when most female bass reach maturity) in recent year's indicates a healthy striped bass population in the river. We can summarize our findings for striped bass and American shad in the next two graphs.
Another gear commonly used early in the season is an electro-fishing boat. Fish are temporarily stunned, scooped up to be measured and tagged before they wake up and are released back to the river. The large numbers of tagged striped bass provide information on fish survival, movement and catch rates both in the river and on the Atlantic coast.
Unlike striped bass, the abundance trend for American shad indicates the current poor condition of the stock. Changing this trend is a high priority for the Unit, to be solved in working with many partners in implementing New York's Hudson River American Shad Recovery Plan. (PDF, 107 KB)
After adult fish have left the estuary, the Unit efforts turn to studying results of the spring spawning runs. From late June through early November, young-of-the-year (YOY) American shad, striped bass, and river herring are collected with beach seines from Tappan Zee Bay to Albany. This project targets the primary nursery areas for these important species.
In the spring of 2004 we initiated annual sampling to measure relative abundance of juvenile Atlantic sturgeon. Some recovery of the stock occurred after the fishery closure in 1996, but we still have a long way to go. We also conducted a sonic tag tracking study to understand habitat use. We implanted 34 sonic tags in juvenile Atlantic sturgeon to monitor their movement in the Hudson River Estuary on a weekly basis.
Since 2006, we also sample adult Atlantic sturgeon during their late spring /early summer spawning run. As with the juveniles, we equipped a small group of fish with tags to learn more about their seasonal in-river movement and their movement on the Atlantic coast. Two different tags were used - a sonic tags were used to track their in-river seasonal movement and a satellite tag to track their coastal ocean migrations.
For more information on striped bass recreational fishing please see the Striped Bass Fishing Guide for the Hudson River (183 Kb pdf file). The information brochure is located on the menu to the right.
A marine permit application for gill netting and scap netting in the Hudson is located on the menu bar to the right. A passport size photo and a copy of your driver's license must accompany the application.
The Unit also works with the Hudson River Estuary Program, supervising several large projects on Hudson River fishes. These current projects are listed in the Estuary Action Agenda. A link to the projects is located on the menu to the right.
More about Hudson River Fisheries Unit:
- Striped Bass Age 8+ Female Spawning Stock Index - Graph depicting age 8+ female striped bass in the Hudson.
- American Shad Spawning Stock Biomass - A graph depicting American shad biomass
- Young Of Year American Shad Abundance - Graph depicting yoy American shad abundance
- Young of Year Striped Bass Abundance - Graph depicting yoy striped bass abundance