Hows The Water

9.19.12 Fishing Limits

New York adopted the final changes to regulations that will reduce fishing mortality of river herring and create a sustainable fishery, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens announced. River herring (alewife and blueback herring) are anadromous fish that spend most of their life in the ocean but return to their natal rivers to spawn.

The list of waters where the harvest of river herring is prohibited are: the Delaware River and its tributaries, all streams in Bronx, Kings, Manhattan, Nassau, Richmond, Suffolk, and Queens counties, and Westchester County streams that are tributary to the East River or Long Island Sound.

“River herring are part of New York’s native fauna and need to be more intensively managed to provide long-term, sustainable populations,” said Commissioner Martens. “These unique fish are important to New York’s waters and many New Yorkers enjoy their return to tidal waters each spring.”

In the Hudson River, commercial and recreational anglers primarily use these fish as bait for striped bass, but some are taken for human consumption. Because information on the status of the river herring populations is available for the Hudson River and its tributaries and DEC can assess that status of these populations, a continuing fishery is allowed, though a reduced fishery. Since little data is available on stock status in other New York waters, implementing a moratorium on river herring fishing is required.

The adopted rule restricts the current fishery in the Hudson River, and all tributaries and embayments by:

  • Establishing a recreational open season and a daily creel limit.
  • Permitting angling only (e.g. no nets) in the tributaries and embayments.
  • Reducing the size of allowable nets in the Hudson River proper.
  • Requiring charter boats to register with the DEC to be eligible for a special boat creel limit.

The rules for commercial fishers include:

  • Increasing restrictions on net use and size.
  • Establishing a 36-hour no-fishing escapement period for all fishing gears.
  • Increasing monthly reporting requirements for their catches.

The Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a cooperative interstate fisheries management organization, of which New York State is a member, recently confirmed that coast- wide river herring stocks are depleted. The blockage of rivers by dams, habitat degradation and overfishing led to the depletion of the river herring stocks along the Atlantic coast.

In 2008, ASMFC adopted an amendment to the ASMFC Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Shad and River Herring requiring states to adopt measures that would reduce fishing mortality and allow the river herring stocks to rebuild. New York State promulgated these regulation changes to comply with the amendment and to protect the local river herring stocks.

For additional information about DEC Marine Resources- Hudson River Fisheries programs, visit or contact DEC’s Bureau of Marine Resources at 845-256-3071 or by email at