New York State Department of Health: Hudson River Fish Advisory

It’s springtime on the estuary, and we are excited to get back on the water, as are many of the Hudson Valley’s residents. Anglers up and down the river are getting their gear together and waiting for the seasonal spawning run of Herring and Striped Bass. As the popularity of outdoor activities increases, it should be a busy and exciting season.

Clearwater holds a scientific collectors permit which allows us to use a variety of gear to catch aquatic creatures, from our “otter” trawl net (when deployed from the sloop, it moves up and down in the water column, like a swimming otter), to our 25-foot beach seines, to invertebrate D-nets and fish traps. All of our catch is cataloged by species and location, then released back into the water from where they came.

Recreational anglers have fewer choices in the type of gear, but many choices in how to catch those fish on rod and reel. Recently, the DEC has proposed a rule to use circle hooks, a type of hook that is less likely to “gut hook” a fish and is easier to remove from a fish’s mouth. This greatly reduces mortality in fish.

Clearwater recommends catch and release fishing for all anglers, but there are many fisherpeople who want to eat what they catch. Due to the legacy of contaminants in the river- PCB’s, heavy metals, and mercury, there are advisories on the consumption of fish from many of NY States waterbodies, including the Hudson River. The advisories depend on who you are, what you catch, and where you catch them (link to advisories).

Most prominently is that children 15 and under should not eat any fish from the Hudson River. Whenever we mention this to the students we always follow the advice with the reassurance that if they have eaten fish from the river it is not necessarily a problem. If you have eaten one fish or a dozen, what the health department is trying to avoid is a life-long exposure to these contaminants. As an example, from certain waters, adult males can consume up to 2 portions a month of Striped Bass. The health department also has a handy illustration on how to clean fish in order to remove some of the contaminants.

Whether you’re removing the cover on your boat, dusting off your chest waders, or mending your net, all anglers should be aware of these advisories. Commitment to a cleaner Hudson River is also a great tool to catch more fish, and healthier fish. Clearwater is actively fighting for all populations of the Hudson Valley. We are all eagerly awaiting the arrival of glass eels, herring, and striped bass that mark the beginning of spring. We’ll see you on the estuary!