Fish Parts Illustration

important fish identification characteristics

Clearwater’s Key to Common Hudson River Fishes is an introduction to dichotomous keys and a guide to the Hudson’s most common fishes. Start at the first page and decide if your fish matches the description in line A or line B. Click on the correct letter. Continue until you reach the page with the name of your fish, a picture, and some information about it.

Read the descriptions and look at the fish carefully. Some features are hard to see – a dorsal fin might be folded down and easy to miss. The trickiest ones will warn you to “Look Closely!”

The fish in this key are those caught most often during Clearwater’s programs from New York Harbor to Albany. However, more than 200 species have been found in the Hudson and its tributaries - some in salt water, some in fresh, some in both. If you catch a fish not included here, you might need an additional field guide to identify it.

Take care with your fish: handle fish as little as possible, keep your hands wet, don’t overcrowd fish, keep them cool, and provide oxygen if keeping fish longer than a few minutes. Release your catch as soon as possible! It is illegal to keep most wild fish in captivity unless you have a special license.

Take care of yourself: catfish and perch have sharp spines in their fins and bluefish can give a nasty snap!