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Fish & Plankton

Striped Bass (Morone Saxatilis)

  • Striped Bass, also known as “the Slayers of Westway,” are a big part of why the Park exists today.   
  • Striped bass are found up and down the East Coast of the United States. They spend their adult lives in Saltwater but return to fresh water to spawn.
  • Can live up to 30 years
  • Striped bass are one of the most important game fish on the Hudson River. They are known as the "lazy" feeders because they are attracted to all types of bait;  they especially enjoy clams. 
  • There are more Striped Bass in the Hudson River then there are people in New York City (over 8 million!).

Blackfish

  • Blackfish are also known as Tautog
  • They like to live in places that are hard for fishers to reach, like rocks, ship wrecks, or anywhere a lure can get caught. Scuba Divers often encounter blackfish on their excursions; this stems from the tautogs' love of hard to reach places.
  • Their skin has a rubbery texture and is covered by heavy slime.
  • The species is easily over fished due to their slow growth and low reproduction rates.

American Eel

  • The American Eel is commonly confused with the electric eel, but this eel will not shock you!
  • They create a slimy residue which is used as a defense mechanism to protect themselves from predators.
  • American Eels live at the bottom of the Hudson River and its tributaries almost all year-round, but those of breeding age will leave to breed in the Sargasso sea. They are the only catadromous species in the Hudson River Estuary. This means that they live in a freshwater and estuary environment, but leave to spawn in the ocean.
  • Although they may not look it, these long snake-like creatures are fish!

Flounder

  • Flounder use camouflage (turn colors to blend in) as they lie on the bottom of the river bed. This allows them to better capture prey, as well as hide from predators.
  • They are born with one eye on each side of their head; as they grow older, one eye will slowly migrate until it is directly next to the other, giving flounder their characteristic look.  This adaptation helps the flounder swim and lie at the bottom of the river with a full view of the water above them.
  • There are three different species found in the Hudson River estuary -- the summer, winter, and windowpane. The hogchocker is also found (see description on this page!)

Silver Hake

  • Silver hake are strong swift swimmers with sharp teeth.
  • This fish can be found anywhere, from the very edge of the shore line, all the way down to 400 fathoms (2400 feet!). Older members of this species prefer deeper waters.
  • This species differs from its similar counterpart, the red hake, by having different coloration and habitat preference. Silver hake are also faster swimmers.
  • According to NOAA, the silver hake’s commercial catch data has shown a modest drop in recent years.

Atlantic Tomcod 

  • These fish are known for their unique adaptation characteristic of having developed resistance to the PCBs that were once dumped into the Hudson River.
  • Atlantic Tomcod are often concentrated in river estuaries. Tomcods are popular with fishers because they are fully available in the winter months when most other fish are difficult to find.
  • The three dorsal fins on the back of the tomcod are the easiest way to identify them. The barbel on their chin is used to find food.

Hogchoker 

  • Since this species has historically been present in abundance in the Hudson River, farmers used to use them as affordable feed for some of their livestock. This species received its unusual name because hogchokers often choked pigs when they were swallowed whole. 
  • These small fish use camouflage for protection.
  • Hogchockers thrive in brackish (a mix of fresh and salt) water, and do not do well in fresh water systems.

Scup

  • The Scup is also known as the porgy.
  • They have been known to live up to 20 years.
  • These fish are known for their fine flavor! This makes them a popular commercial fishery target.
  • The Scup can often be found swimming in schools.  Most of the fish within a school are normally only 3 to 4 years of age.

Common Sea robin

  • Sea Robins get their name from the large fins on their sides.
  • As they swim, these fins open and close rapidly, giving them a flight like appearance.
  • Sometimes these fish croak, sounding almost like frogs when they are caught.
  • They use their fins to “walk” on the bottom of the river.

Oyster Toadfish

  • The Oyster Toadfish is also known as the “ugly toad” or the “oyster cracker.”
  • The male toadfish emits a foghorn-like sound during the mating season to attract females.
  • They feed mostly on small crabs, small fishes, and other crustaceans.
  • They need very little food to survive and can live in the worst of conditions.
  • They rely on camouflage to capture their prey.
  • Unlike most fish, this species (the male) guards the nest of its young. Even after the eggs have hatched, males protect the larvae for weeks after larvae have emerged from their eggs.
  • NASA has sent oyster toadfish into space!

 Northern Puffer

  • The Puffer gets its name from its ability to inflate itself when it’s threatened.
  • This fish has strong jaws which it uses to crush the shells of crabs and shrimp.
  • Parts of the northern puffer are edible, although the skin and the organs are poisonous. Because of this, some people consider it a delicacy.
  • There is little known about the life cycle of this species.
  • The eggs of this fish hatch in a matter of days once they have been layed.

Atlantic Silverside

  • The silverside, like many other smaller fish, swim in schools.
  • They are favorite prey of many larger fish including striped bass and blue fish.
  • They are often the subjects of environmental research because they are very sensitive to change within the ecosystem.
  • These fish are often found in brackish (a mix of salt and fresh) waters.
  • Their silver color use used to distract and fool predators.

Bay Anchovy

  • You have probably had this fish on your pizza!
  • Anchovies are very small and run in large schools.
  • This fish is a large source of food for many different fish and bird species.
  • The anchovy is one of the most abundant species of fish found in estuaries on the East Coast.

Northern Pipefish

  • This fish’s body is very long and slender; it’s hard to misidentify it! Their shape mimics sea grass. The pipefish floats vertically in beds of vegetation swaying with the current.  This helps them hide from predators.
  • The Northern Pipefish is covered by a thick set of bony scales.
  • Pipefish have excellent vision which they use to spot the small prey they feed on.
  • Just like seahorses, the males of the species keep their young in a pouch!

Lined Seahorse

  • Even though these creatures may not look like it, they are fish!
  • The Seahorse is found in temperate and tropical waters all over the world, including the Hudson River.
  • Unlike most fish, the male seahorse receives eggs from the female and keeps them in a pouch.
  • Seahorses can easily die of exhaustion in stormy weather, they are not very strong swimmers.
  • Much like the penguin, sea horses remain monogamous. They mate for life!

Bluefish

  • Bluefish are strong and powerful with sharp teeth.
  • These fish are known to chase bait on a fishing line right up onto the shore!
  • This species has been known to bite the unobservant angler once they have been caught.
  • Bluefish feed on small fish such as anchovy and silversides.
  • They are a prize catch for recreational fishers and are highly sought after.
  • Baby Bluefish (known as snappers), will attack anything shiny.

White Perch

  • Although this fish has “perch” in its name, it is not actually a perch.
  • This species loves to eat fish eggs.
  • They are found in both brackish and freshwater throughout New York State.
  • Females can lay over 140,000 eggs in a span of one week!
  • Hard scales and spiny fins protect these fish from predation.
  • This species is recovering from a population loss in the Hudson River estuary.

American Shad

  • American Shad are a very controversial fish; they are prized by some and despised by others. Some anglers only use this fish for bait, while others enjoy catching them to be eaten.
  • This fish's eggs (called roe) are a gourmet delicacy enjoyed by many.
  • The American Shad's diet is made up of mostly plankton (tiny creatures that live in the water).
  • Shad swim up rivers to spawn, and then return to the ocean once they are done.
  • Although scientists have determined that shad do not remain in the Hudson River long enough to retain PCB’s (harmful chemicals from some forms of pollution), it is still illegal to take shad from the marine section of the Hudson River due to low populations.

Alewife

  • The Alewife is a small species of Shad.
  • Alewives are saltwater fish, though they can survive in fresh water and readily spread once introduced.
  • Once alewives have entered a closed freshwater system, they are often referred to as “saw bellies.”
  • This species is often caught and used for bait and human consumption.

Atlantic Menhaden

  • Menhaden are filter fish; they feed on plankton, much like a whale!
  • When removed from the water, Menhaden fall apart quickly. This unique quality is often harnessed and utilized in the making of fertilizer.
  • These fish have been known to swim in schools longer than 30 miles!
  • Menhaden have historically been known as porgy, bug head, and fat backs.
  • Harmful algal blooms (when algae grow to fast) have sometimes been blamed on a decrease in this species population.

Atlantic Sturgeon

  • This ancient fish species has been around for more than 120 million years!
  • The largest Atlantic sturgeon ever caught was 14 feet long.
  • These fish have been known to leap into the air and into boats.
  • The Atlantic Sturgeon was recently listed as federally endangered by the United States Fisheries and Wildlife Service.
  • This species comes through the estuary during its yearly migration.

Short Nose Sturgeon

  • This sturgeon Species has been listed as federally endangered since 1967.
  • Smaller than its counterpart, the Atlantic sturgeon, sometimes these species are hard to tell apart when their young are placed side by side.
  • The short nosed sturgeon is not only present in the Hudson River; it also lives in the Great Lakes!
  • This species comes through the Hudson Estuary during its yearly migration.