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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. Over the fish count's six years, participants have found 65 varieties of fish. The record number of individuals counted was 2,994 in 2015.

The 2017 Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count

hogchoker

The sixth annual Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count took place at 18 sites on Saturday, August 5, 2017. The species count reached a new high - 48 kinds of fish were found, while the count of individual fish totaled 1,325. The most commonly caught fish was the striped bass - 479 of them. Almost all were young fish born this past spring in the freshwater Hudson. Striped bass were also the most widely distributed fish, found at 13 sites ranging from Valentino Pier in Red Hook, Brooklyn, to Coxsackie in Greene County. Among the oddities found were a feather blenny at Pier 25 in Hudson River Park, Manhattan, and a bowfin at Peebles Island State Park in Waterford. A large and very orange goldfish brought a smile to the faces of participants at Peebles Island, as did an odd-looking flatfish called a hogchoker, netted at Kingston Point. For more details, download the 2017 Great Hudson River Fish Count results [PDF, 49KB] . The table below lists the location, times, and leaders of fish count programs that took place on that day.

Locations for the 2017 Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count
Location TIme Site Organization(s)
Waterford 10am-12pm Peebles Island State Park Hudson River Estuary Program, DEC
Castleton 10am Schodack Island State Park Rensselaer Land Trust/NYS Parks
Coxsackie 10am-12pm Riverside Park DEC/CDMAS/Coxsackie Riverside Festival
Kingston 5 pm Kingston Point Park Hudson River Estuary Program, DEC
Staatsburg 10am Norrie Point Environmental Center Hudson River Research Reserve
Poughkeepsie 6 - 7pm Waryas Park Scenic Hudson
Beacon 8 - 10am Long Dock Scenic Hudson
New Windsor 5:30pm Kowawese Unique Area Hudson River Almanac/DEC
Cold Spring 3:30pm Little Stony Point Hudson River Almanac/DEC
Croton 2:30pm Croton Point Park Westchester County Parks
Sleepy Hollow 1 pm Kathryn Davis Riverwalk Ctr, Kingsland Pt Park Teatown Lake Reservation
Piermont 11am-1pm Piermont Pier Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Yonkers 2 - 4pm Beczak Center at Habirshaw Park Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River
Manhattan 11am-3pm Hudson River Park, Pier 84, W44th & 12th Hudson River Park Trust
Manhattan 11am-1pm Hudson River Park, Pier 25 at the Lilac The River Project/Lilac Preservation Project
Manhattan 2 - 4pm Randall's Island, Harlem River N of 103rd St bridge Randall's Island Park Alliance
Brooklyn 1 - 2:30pm Brooklyn Bridge Park under Manhattan Bridge Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy
Brooklyn 12:30-2:30pm Valentino Pier, Red Hook Hudson River Estuary Program, DEC

World Science Festival Great Fish Count held on 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]). For more information, use the link to the World Science Festival website in the right-hand navigation column.

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