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The Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count

Exploring fish diversity in the river that flows both ways

Watch a clip about seining in the Hudson River and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

American eel netted at Ft Washington Park NYC 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. This year's Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count will take place on Saturday, August 13, 2016.

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 four years, 47 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 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 Atlantic 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.

lined seahorse netted at Brookly Bridge Park What was caught during the 2015 count?

The 2015 Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count was held on Saturday, August 15, 2015. The table below lists sites where fish count programs took place, ranging from Peebles Island State Park in Waterford, just above tidewater, to Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River. Participants caught 2,998 fish of 35 species, the highest numbers recorded during the four counts to date. Nine of these species were new to the count, including the lined seahorse (photo at right) netted at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Atlantic silversides were the most numerous catch. Striped bass narrowly beat out alewife for second place, 397 to 395, but there were probably many more young alewives among the unidentified river herring netted. For a complete account of the fish caught at all participating sites, download the 2015 Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count results (PDF 19KB). Check back in July for more information on this summer's fish count on August 13, 2016.

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).

Waterford/Saratoga Peebles Island State Park NYS Office of Parks/Hudson River Estuary Program
Castleton/Rensselaer Schodack Island State Park NYS Office of Parks/Rensselaer Land Trust
Athens/Greene Cohotate Preserve Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene County
Kingston/Ulster Kingston Pt Beach Kingston Parks & Recreation/Forsyth Nature Center
Staatsburg/Dutchess Norrie Pt Environmental Center Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve
Beacon/Dutchess Long Dock Park Scenic Hudson
New Windsor/Orange Kowawese Unique Area Hudson River Almanac/Hudson River Estuary Program
Cold Spring/Putnam Little Stony Pt, Hudson Highlands State Park Hudson River Almanac/Hudson River Estuary Program
Croton/Westchester Croton Pt Park Westchester Co. Dept of Parks & Recreation
Sleepy Hollow/Westchester Kathryn Davis Riverwalk Center, Kingsland Pt Park Teatown Lake Reservation
Piermont/Rockland Piermont Pier Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Yonkers/Westchester Beczak Center at Habirshaw Park Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River
Manhattan/New York Ft Washington Park Hudson River Estuary Program/NYC Parks
Manhattan/New York Hudson River Park, Pier 84, W44th St. & 12th Ave. Hudson River Park Trust
Manhattan/New York Hudson River Park, Pier 25 at the Lilac The River Project
Manhattan/New York Pier 42, East River Park Lower East Side Ecology Center
Brooklyn/Kings Brooklyn Bridge Park, Main St. section Brooklyn Bridge Park/Hudson River Estuary Program
Manhattan/New York Randall's Island, restored salt marsh, Harlem River Randall's Island Park Alliance

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