Our Finned Friends: What Fishing on the Waterfront Means for Manhattan

(Photo above) Conservation intern Maria Gross, re-stringing a fishing pole

My last blog post I gave you a little introduction to the park I work in and my SCA placement. I also (hopefully) gave you some insight into me as a person and conservationist. I hold a firm belief that in order to achieve environmental greatness, one must begin at the source. This means making people care in a way that will change the course of their actions. In my opinion, one of the best solutions is to introduce people to the natural resources in their own backyard. Creating that connection can establish a strong bond that will hopefully lead to lifelong stewardship practices. I don’t expect everyone to dedicate their lives to rescuing pandas after coming to our programs, but I can hope for families and individuals to leave with a greater appreciation for their local resources.

On Sundays and Tuesdays the Hudson River Park’s Environment and Education department hosts a program called “Big City Fishing”. This free event allows anyone to show up and throw a line into the Hudson River. Since most people in the area may not have much exposure to a fishing pole, we offer free tutorials which are pretty simple due to the fact that we do not cast (too many people, too many hooks!).


Young boy fishing

We also use the opportunity to informally educate people about the Hudson and its importance by answering any questions people may have or engaging them in conversation. We also love to have people ID the fish they have caught using our “Fish of Hudson River Park” poster. Once a fish is taken off of the line, we place it into a holding tank where people in attendance are able to observe them.


Juvenile Black Sea Bass


Fish ID poster and holding tank

After a while, we normally release the fish; however, occasionally we’ll keep some for the tanks in our indoor classroom. No resident in our tanks is kept permanently, however.

What this program does is connect people to the river in a way that they would probably never experience otherwise. Short of scuba diving, there is not much else that will impact a child (or even an adult) in such a way more than pulling something living out of the Hudson. This is unfortunately due to the disconnect that many New York City residents have from their natural environment, which has occurred simply because of the lack of green space and opportunities available to residents within the metropolitan area. However, the amount of green space and “green” opportunities that have been created in recent years gives us conservationists hope that we can turn this problem around.

Our goal with this program, and all of our programs, is to create a connection with a natural resource, and this is a movement that has been steadily growing in past years. However, it still “needs legs” as my old college professor would say. Hudson River Park, as well as the SCA, aims to be a part of those limbs. Step by step we come closer to a future where people and the environment can coexist.