‘Tis the season for spawning.

By April 26th, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Comment 1

SHADFEST10_illustration-450x244The major rivers and estuaries along the northeastern coast of the U.S. are preparing for peak spawning season of herring, eels, shad, and other fish.

Aquatic dwellers in the Hudson River, situated between NY and NJ, are fortunate to have the Hudson River Estuary Program and Scenic Hudson organizations looking out for them. Now through June 1, they are teaming with citizen scientists to monitor herring and American eel in Ulster County’s Black Creek Preserve.

Herring volunteers will observe the creek to see if, where, and when spawning runs occur. Those interested in eels will use nets and trap devices to catch juvenile glass eels, which are counted, weighed, and released unharmed. This data may help biologists discover why populations of these important fish are declining.

And if it’s spawning season, it’s time to celebrate the American shad, embarking on their long return from the ocean to the river where they will spawn at their own birthplace. For the Lenape Indians, the annual shad run delivered hundreds of thousands of shad–a staple of their diet–into their rivers, symbolizing the start of spring. Today, when shad return to the rivers to spawn, it’s a reflection of the vitality of the water: in the 1970s, polluted waters kept  shad away, resulting in a sharp population decline. Rivers are much healthier today but shad numbers remain low, despite valiant restoration efforts. Researchers are turning to citizen scientists to help and we’ll report on those efforts here, shortly.

In the interim, this mighty fish is being celebrated and digested at annual Shad Fests! Philadelphia, PA and Lambertville, NJ just honored his remarkable fish at their annual shad festivals. On May 16, Boscobel-Garrison, NJ will play host to the 20th annual Shad Fest . If you’d like to learn more about the shad, here’s a related article I wrote for Discover magazine.