Blueback herring are similar in
appearance to alewives. Like alewives, these fish have a short
jaw, but unlike alewives, bluebacks have a small eye. If a
blueback herring is gutted, the black body cavity lining is
another distinguishing feature.
Blueback herring are the last
herring to arrive in New York's estuaries, from mid-May to
June. While they used to be found only in tidal portions of
the Hudson River and its tributaries, in recent years
bluebacks have expanded their range (via travel through locks
of the Barge Canal System) to include the upper Hudson (above
the Troy dam) and Mohawk rivers. A few fish have been reported
in Lake Champlain, Oneida Lake, and some have traveled through
to Lake Ontario.
Blueback herring are found all
along the eastern Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to Florida.
They follow the same general pattern of migration as other
herring, moving north in the early summer and south in the
Bluebacks are also similar to
alewives in that they spend two to three years at sea before
returning to their natal waters to spawn. It is thought that
they also move off the coast and use the Continental Shelf as
their home range in the sea.
Bluebacks are an important
commercial fish along the Atlantic coast. They are valued for
pickling by commercial and recreational fishermen alike.
Scapping in the tributaries to the Hudson River and in the
Mohawk River is the main method of fishing for these ten to 14
inch herring. Angling can be successful in areas where these
fish concentrate, such as below any dams in mid to late May.
In the Mohawk River, young bluebacks have become an important
forage fish for valued game fish such as smallmouth bass and
walleye. Adult bluebacks in spring make excellent bait for