Alewife (Alosa pseudohargengus) and blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis), collectively referred as river herring, are ecologically, recreationally, and economically important species of migratory fishes that are found in the Hudson River. Adults spend most of their time in coastal waters and return to the fresh water of the Hudson River each spring to spawn before returning back to ocean waters. The Hudson River acts as a nursery for the newly hatched young of year river herring and in early fall they begin moving out of the estuary into near shore coastal areas. River herring are found very rarely in the New York portion of the Delaware River.
For more information on both recreational and commercial fisheries click on the links below. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact us at the email link to the right of the page.
- Full recreational fishing regulations for river herring (leaves DEC's website)
- Summary of recreational fishing regulations
- Full commercial fishing regulations (leaves DEC's website)
- Summary of commercial fishing regulations (PDF; 242 KB,***This table is a summary that is intended for convenience only. For a complete reference, consult New York State Environmental Law (ECL) and Volume 6 of the Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (NYCRR). Copies can be reviewed at the nearest library with a State Supreme Court reference section, on-line at for ECL (leaves DEC's website) and for NYCRR, or by contacting a Regional DEC Division of Law Enforcement Office.)
River herring are cooperatively managed along the Atlantic coast by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). In 2009, ASMFC adopted Amendment 2 for shad and river herring (leaves DEC's website) to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Shad and River Herring, which requires under federal law that member states demonstrate that fisheries for river herring (alewife and blueback herring) within their state's waters are sustainable. A sustainable fishery is defined as one that will not diminish potential future reproduction and recruitment of herring stocks. If states cannot demonstrate sustainability to the ASMFC, they must close their herring fisheries.
In order to comply with Amendment 2, NYSDEC drafted and ASMFC approved a 5 year (2012-2016) Hudson River Sustainable Fishery Management Plan (SFMP) (PDF; 1.15 MB) for the state's river herring stocks. Currently, only five states have approved plans that allow directed fisheries for river herring: New York (Hudson River only), Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and North Carolina. River herring fisheries in all other Atlantic coast states and jurisdictions are closed.
Long-term Monitoring Programs
Beginning in 2012, a 300 foot haul seine, as well as an electrofishing boat, are used from April to June to catch spawning river herring. Lengths, weights, and scale samples for ageing are collected from the fish before being returned to the river.
Since 1980, a 100 foot seine is used from July through October to catch newly hatched river herring. The fish are counted and measured and average catch rates are calculated.
In 2013, we internally tagged 25 river herring (13 alewives and 12 blueback herring) with acoustic tags. Acoustic tags give off a signal that can be picked up by stationary receivers that are placed throughout the Hudson River from the New York harbor to the Troy Dam as well as along the Atlantic coast. River herring from this study were detected of the coast of Massachusetts and as far north as Penobscot, Maine traveling over an estimated 500 miles. More information on this study can be seen at (link to poster; PDF 3.25 MB).
Beginning in 2013, the NYSDEC has placed an instream fish counting device in Black Creek. Black Creek is a small tributary located at river kilometer 135, just south of Kingston, NY and has a known river herring spawning run. The goal of this study is to gain a better understanding of river herring use of tributaries during spawning runs. Preliminary data indicates that between 205,885 and 590,680 river herring use Black Creek in a given year during the spawning season. More information on this study can be seen at (link to poster; PDF 1.45 MB).
Fish Consumption Advisory
Please visit the Department of Health's website for fish consumption advisories (link leaves DEC's website) from the Hudson and other waters of New York.