Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

River Herring

Alewife (Alosa pseudohargengus) and blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis), collectively referred as river herring, are ecologically, recreationally, and economically important species of migratory fishes that are found in the Hudson River. Adults spend most of their time in coastal waters and return to the fresh water of the Hudson River each spring to spawn before returning back to ocean waters. The Hudson River acts as a nursery for the newly hatched young of year river herring and in early fall they begin moving out of the estuary into near shore coastal areas. River herring are rarely found in the New York portion of the Delaware River.

Example of a river herring

Current Fishery

* These tables are a summary that is intended for convenience only. For a complete reference, consult New York State Environmental Law (ECL) and Volume 6 of the Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (NYCRR). Copies can be reviewed at the nearest library with a State Supreme Court reference section, on-line at ECL (leaves DEC website) and NYCRR, or by contacting a Regional DEC Division of Law Enforcement Office.)


River herring are cooperatively managed along the Atlantic coast by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). In 2009, ASMFC adopted Amendment 2 for shad and river herring (leaves DEC website) to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Shad and River Herring, which requires under federal law that member states demonstrate that fisheries for river herring (alewife and blueback herring) within their state's waters are sustainable. A sustainable fishery is defined as one that will not diminish potential future reproduction and recruitment of herring stocks. If states cannot demonstrate sustainability to the ASMFC, they must close their herring fisheries.

Hudson River Fisheries Unit staff collecting fishes with a beach seine

In order to comply with Amendment 2, DEC drafted and ASMFC approved a 5 year (2017-2021) Hudson River Sustainable Fishery Management Plan (SFMP) (PDF; leaves DEC website) for the state's river herring stocks. Currently, only five states have approved plans that allow directed fisheries for river herring: New York (Hudson River only), Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and North Carolina. River herring fisheries in all other Atlantic coast states and jurisdictions are closed.

Long-term Monitoring Programs

Hudson River Fisheries Unit staff obtain length measurements

Beginning in 2012, a 300 foot haul seine and an electrofishing boat are used from April through June to catch spawning river herring. Length, weight, and sex information is recorded and scale samples for aging are collected from the fish before being returned to the river.

Since 1980, a 100 foot seine is used from June through October to catch newly hatched young of year river herring. The fish are counted and measured and average catch rates are calculated.

Additional Research

In 2013, the DEC internally tagged 25 river herring (13 alewives and 12 blueback herring) with acoustic tags. Acoustic tags give off a signal that can be picked up by stationary receivers that are placed throughout the Hudson River from the New York Harbor to the Troy Dam as well as along the Atlantic coast. River herring from this study (leaves DEC's website) were detected off the coast of Massachusetts and as far north as Penobscot, Maine traveling over an estimated 500 miles.

River herring fish counter in Black Creek, a Hudson River tributary

Beginning in 2013, the DEC has placed an in-stream fish counting device in Black Creek; a small tributary located south of Kingston, NY. The goal of this study is to gain a better understanding of river herring use of tributaries during spawning runs. Results indicate the spawning run in Black Creek has been comprised exclusively of alewives and spawning patterns are influenced by environmental factors such as moon luminosity, ordinal day, and the difference in water temperature between the main-stem Hudson River and Black Creek. Recently, DEC staff explored the feasibility of using an egg mat survey in lieu of an in-stream fish counter and found egg mats can provide reliable alewife abundance estimates but require a relatively large sample size and additional time and effort to process samples.

Fish Consumption Advisory

Please visit the Department of Health's website for fish consumption advisories (leaves DEC website) from the Hudson and other waters of New York.

  • Important Links
  • PDF Help
  • For help with PDFs on this page, please call 845-256-3171.
  • Contact for this Page
    Hudson River Fisheries Unit
    21 South Putt Corners Road
    New Paltz, NY 12561
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to Hudson River region