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The Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count

Exploring fish diversity in the river that flows both ways

Pulling a seine net in the Hudson River at Beacon

The Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count is a one-day event each summer during which naturalists at multiple sites along the Hudson catch fish to show visitors the variety of slippery, wriggly, and fascinating creatures usually hidden below the river's surface. Fresh upriver and salty at New York City, the Hudson estuary and its watershed are home to more than 200 fish species, including several that migrate into the river from the Atlantic Ocean each spring to spawn. The count is organized by DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program.

How are the fish caught?

Depending on the site, seines, minnow traps, and rods and reels are used to collect fish. Seining typically involves two people hauling a curtain of net through shallow water. Participants in the Fish Count programs may watch from shore or jump into waterproof waders and help pull in the net. After the naturalists display and discuss the catch, the fish are released back to the river.

White perch, menhaden, and other fish caught in a seine net

What sorts of fish are found?

Over the last three years, 37 different species of fish have been recorded during the count. The most widespread species have been the striped bass and white perch, each caught in both fresh and brackish water. In 2014, young stripers were seen at sites from Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River in New York City to Schodack Island State Park on the Hudson about 12 miles south of Albany. Among freshwater species, spottail shiners have been the most frequent catch. In salty water, that honor has gone to the Atlantic silverside. However, the young of anadromous species (those that are born in fresh water but live in the ocean for most of their lives) are also abundant. These include the striped bass and three species of herring: the alewife, blueback herring, and American shad.

What do the results show?

Participating groups share results during the day to see how the Hudson's range of habitats and salinities supports an wide array of fishes, and to appreciate the estuary's vitality in both urban and rural settings. Much of the catch is young fish - offspring of parents that swam upriver in spring - underlining the importance of the river's nursery habitat. Of the 1,852 fish caught in 2014, 858 (46%) were young of the year herring; another 344 (19 %) were young striped bass. The results also show the year-to-year variability in the numbers and distribution of fish. In 2014, 50 Atlantic silversides were caught at sites as far north as Sleepy Hollow, just north of the Tappan Zee Bridge - this compares to only 5 netted in 2013 at one site (Brooklyn Bridge Park) and - in 2012 - 35 caught as far north as Piermont, just south of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

World Science Festival's New York City Fish Count - May 30, 2015

As part of this year's World Science Festival, educators from the DEC, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University's Earth Institute, and New York metro area agencies and environmental education groups will be participating in a NYC metro area fish count on May 30, 2015, at fourteen sites from Yonkers and Englewood, NJ, to Jamaica Bay and Staten Island. Use the link in the right hand navigation column to visit the World Science Festival website for details on this free event. Participants employing beach seines will report their catch by following the beach seine report link, also in the right hand navigation column. There should be one report per site, including all qualitative and quantitative observations. Results will be posted following the event.

When will the next Hudson River fish count take place?

Below is a list of of sites that participated in the 2014 Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count on August 2, showing the number of species caught at each site. For more information on the results, email the Hudson River Estuary Program at hrep@dec.ny.gov . The 2015 count is scheduled for August 15; check back with this page for details as they become available.

Town/County Site # of Species Partner Organization
Waterford/Saratoga Peebles Island State Park 10 NYS Office of Parks/Hudson River Estuary Program
Castleton/Rensselaer Schodack Island State Park 8 NYS Office of Parks/Hudson River Estuary Program
Coxsackie/Greene Coxsackie Riverfront Park 5 Hudson River Estuary Program
Athens/Greene Cohotate Preserve
8 Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene County
Kingston/Ulster Kingston Pt Beach 4 Kingston Parks & Recreation/Forsyth Nature Center
Staatsburg/Dutchess Norrie Pt Environmental Center 6 Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve
Beacon/Dutchess Long Dock Park 2 Scenic Hudson
New Windsor/Orange Kowawese Unique Area 7 Hudson River Almanac/Hudson River Estuary Program
Cold Spring/Putnam Little Stony Pt, Hudson Highlands State Park 8 Hudson River Almanac/Hudson River Estuary Program
Sleepy Hollow/Westchester Kathryn Davis Riverwalk Center, Kingsland Pt Park 5 Teatown Lake Reservation/Strawtown Studio
Piermont/Rockland Piermont Pier 7 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Yonkers/Westchester Beczak Center at Habirshaw Park 4 Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River
Manhattan/New York Inwood Hill Park tidal basin on the Harlem River 2 Hudson River Estuary Program/NYC Parks
Manhattan/New York Swindler Cove on the Harlem River 3 Hudson River Estuary Program
Manhattan/New York Pier 84, Hudson River Park 1 Hudson River Park Trust
Manhattan/New York Pier 42, East River Park 1 Lower East Side Ecology Center
Brooklyn Bridge Park, East River 5 Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy