The Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count
Explore fish diversity in the river that flows both ways
The Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count is a one-day event each summer during which naturalists and visitors at multiple sites along the Hudson catch fish to show 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 available waterproof waders and help pull in the net. After the naturalists display and discuss the catch, the fish are released back to the river.
What sorts of fish are found?
Over the last five years, 56 different species of fish have been recorded during the count. The most widespread have been the striped bass and white perch, each caught in both fresh and brackish water. In 2015, 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 2015, 1,175 Atlantic silversides were counted, including 20 netted at Little Stony Point in Cold Spring - some 55 miles north of New York Harbor. In 2014, only 50 silversides were caught at sites as far upriver as Sleepy Hollow, just north of the Tappan Zee Bridge. Even fewer were netted in 2013 - 5, all caught at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The 2016 Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count took place on Saturday, August 13, collecting 2,177 fish of 45 species at 19 sites. The species count was a new high, while the number of individual fish fell below last year's record total of 2,994 fish. Notably, the count took place during a heat wave; the average of water temperatures reported was 84o F, five degrees higher than last year. For a complete account of the catch, download the 2016 Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count results (PDF 34KB). The table below lists sites where fish count programs took place, ranging from Peebles Island State Park in Waterford, just above tidewater, to New York Harbor.
||Peebles Island State Park||NYS Office of Parks/Hudson River Estuary Program|
||Schodack Island State Park||NYS Office of Parks/Rensselaer Land Trust|
||Cohotate Preserve||Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene County|
|Stuyvesant/Columbia||3pm||Nutten Hook Unique Area
||Hudson River Research Reserve/RiverHaggie Outdoors
||Quiet Cove Park
||Hudson River Research Reserve
||Long Dock Park||Scenic Hudson|
|New Windsor/Orange||2:30pm||Kowawese Unique Area||Hudson River Almanac/Hudson River Estuary Program|
|Cold Spring/Putnam||12:30pm||Little Stony Pt, Hudson Highlands State Park||Hudson River Almanac/Hudson River Estuary Program|
|Croton/Westchester||1pm||Croton Pt Park||Westchester Co. Dept of Parks & Recreation|
|Sleepy Hollow/Westchester||11am||Kathryn Davis Riverwalk Center, Kingsland Pt Park||Teatown Lake Reservation|
|Piermont/Rockland||3-5pm||Piermont Pier||Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory|
|Yonkers/Westchester||2-4pm||Beczak Center at Habirshaw Park||Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River|
||3:30-5:30pm||Inwood Hill Park
||Hudson River Estuary Program
||11-1pm||Ft. Washington Park
||Hudson River Estuary Program
|Manhattan/New York||12-4pm||Hudson River Park, Pier 84, W44th St. & 12th Ave.||Hudson River Park Trust|
|Manhattan/New York||11am-1pm||Hudson River Park, Pier 25 at the Lilac||The River Project|
||11am-2pm||Randall's Island, Little Hell Gate salt marsh
||Randall's Island Park Alliance
|Brooklyn/Kings||10:30am-12pm||Brooklyn Bridge Park, Main St. section||Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy|
|Brooklyn/Kings||10am-12pm||Valentino Pier, Red Hook||Hudson River Estuary Program|
World Science Festival Fish Count in NYC
DEC educators also help to organize an annual Great Fish Count on estuarine waters in the New York City metro area as part of the World Science Festival. The 2016 Great Fish Count, held at 15 sites in all five boroughs on June 4, found 24 species and about 2,600 individual fish. Most abundant was the bay anchovy, thanks to one haul of an estimated 2,000 fish at Lemon Creek Park on Staten Island. Second in abundance, and most widespread, was the Atlantic silverside - 270 caught over nine of the fifteen sites. To see a table showing species and numbers caught at all sites, download the 2016 World Science Festival Fish Count results (PDF 48KB).