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The Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count

Explore fish diversity in the river that flows both ways

American eel netted at Ft Washington Park NYC

The Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count is a one-day event produced by the Hudson River Estuary Program each summer, during which naturalists and visitors at many sites along the Hudson explore the diverse, slippery, wriggly, and fascinating creatures usually hidden below the river's surface. The Estuary Program also helps to organize the World Science Festival's Great Fish Count in the New York City metro area each spring.

How are the fish caught?

Depending on the site, seines, minnow traps, and rods and reels are used. Participants may don waders to help haul a seine - a curtain of net used in shallow water - or try their luck with a fishing rod. After 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?

Fresh upriver and salty at New York City, the Hudson estuary and its watershed are home to more than 200 fish species. To date, 56 of these have been recorded during the count. Most widespread have been 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 about 12 miles south of Albany. In fresh water, 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 striped bass and three species of herring: 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 a wide array of fishes, and to appreciate the estuary's vitality in both urban and rural settings. Much of the catch is young fish, underlining the importance of the river's nursery habitat. Of 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, only 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.

lined seahorse caught in NYCLast year's Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count collected 2,177 fish of 45 species at 19 sites. The species count was a new high, while the number of individual fish fell below 2015'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 the previous year. For a complete account of the catch, download the 2016 Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count results (PDF, 34 KB).

When will the 2017 Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count take place?

The sixth annual Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count is scheduled for Saturday, August 5, 2017. Bookmark this page and check back for a list of sites and times. In the meantime...

World Science Festival Great Fish Count - June 3, 2017

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. This year's edition found 28 species and about 1,034 individual fish (download the 2017 World Science Festival Fish Count results [PDF, 49 KB]). The table below lists the 17 sites that hosted free count events. For more information, use the link to the World Science Festival website in the right-hand navigation column.

Locations for 2017 World Science Festival Great Fish Count
Location TIme Site Organization(s)
Yonkers 2pm - 4pm Beczak Center at Habirshaw Park Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River
Englewood Cliffs/NJ 3pm - 4:30pm Englewood Boat Basin/Palisades Interstate Park Nyack College/Palisades Interstate Park
Manhattan 9am - 10:30am Inwood Hill Park Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory/NYC Parks
Manhattan 11am-1:30pm Ft. Washington Park Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory/NYC Parks
Manhattan 11am - 2pm Hudson River Park, Pier 84, W44th St & 12th Ave Hudson River Park Trust
Manhattan 11:30am - 1:30pm Hudson River Park, Pier 25 at the Lilac The River Project/Lilac Preservation Project
Manhattan 11am - 1pm East River Park Lower East Side Ecology Center
Manhattan 11am - 1pm Randall's Island, Harlem R north of 103rd St bridge Randall's Island Park Alliance
Bronx 11am - 3pm Concrete Plant Park, Bronx River Bronx River Alliance
Queens 10am - 1pm Gantry Plaza State Park, East River Region 2, DEC
Queens 11am - 1pm Frank Charles Park, Howard Beach National Park Service
Queens 10am - 1pm Bayswater Park, Edgemere Rockaway Waterfront Alliance
Brooklyn 11am - 1pm Kaiser Park, Coney Island NYS Marine Education Association
Brooklyn 10am - 12pm Bush Terminal Piers Park, Sunset Park The Nature Conservancy/Billion Oyster Project
Brooklyn 10:30am - 12:30pm Valentino Pier, Red Hook Hudson River Estuary Program, DEC
Brooklyn 10am - 11:30am Brooklyn Bridge Park, DUMBO Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy
Staten Island 11am - 2pm Lemon Creek Park Hudson River Estuary Program, DEC/NOAA
Watch a clip about seining in the Hudson River and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.