Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Return of the Mummichogs!

I stood on the bridge that spans Beczak’s marsh channel. Ahead of me was the low marsh—the mucky portion that leads to the sparking Hudson. Behind me was the high marsh, lush with grasses. And below me, the tidal pool rippled with dozens of little splashes. It could only mean one thing—the return of the mummichogs!

Mummichog is the Native American name for “fish that travel in schools.” These small fish, no bigger than 4 inches, travel together in and out of Hudson River marshes with the tides. At low tide they swim in circles trapped in Beczak’s tidal pool, and as the water level rises they swim out to the river. Mummichogs find their favorite foods in marshes, too—small fish, crustaceans and plant matter. But there’s another important reason for the splashes in our tidal pool.

Marshes provide a safe haven for mummichogs to lay their eggs. This process is called spawning. Mummichogs spawn from April to August. They deposit their eggs at the bottom of the shallow water. There the eggs hatch and turn to tiny fish, around 7mm long. The small mummichogs wander around the marsh on their own until they reach 15-20mm long. At this point they will start swimming in schools and venture from Beczak’s marsh into the Hudson River.

Vicky Garufi
Education Program Manager