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First Investigation of Stream Health (FISH) Protocol

Do you enjoy viewing wildlife, fishing, taking nature walks, paddle sports, and other streamside activities? Consider becoming a citizen scientist. You can help observe our changing environment while doing the outside activities you already love. The only tool you need is a pencil or your smartphone. First Investigation of Stream Health (FISH), helps you to monitor how local streams and the habitats around them are changing over time.
After restoring your stream side property, how can you measure the success of your efforts?

After restoring your stream side property, how can you measure the success of your efforts?

FISH is a simple, family-friendly activity that asks easy to answer questions about what you see around a stream. Recording with FISH helps you and others understand how the health of the stream habitat is changing over time. 

You can participate in FISH using the paper FISH survey, the FISH website entry form, and using FISH mobile apps.

FISH is designed to be taken out to a stream restoration site (riparian buffer planting, stream bank fencing installation, live staking, etc.) There you will make observations about various stream health indicators like water clarity, growth of vegetation, and signs of wildlife.

The FISH Protocol survey should be completed at least once a year in the spring, but additional observations made in the summer and fall might also be valuable to you. Trained FISH participants are asked to complete the survey for at least three years, but are encouraged to monitor for up to ten years or more.

If you use the paper survey, we encourage you to enter the results from your surveys online. You can also maintain your own hard copies so that you can see first hand the successes of your efforts.

The original FISH Protocol was developed by Penn State Extension and the Penn State Agriculture & Environment Center as a project of the Conewago Creek Initiative. The website and mobile apps were developed by Chesapeake Commons as part of the Greening the Lower Susquehanna project. Both projects were funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

Additional Resources to help you with FISH

When making observations, it may be helpful to refer to some additional resources as a guide to identifying what you see. Here are some resources you might consider:

Identifying Stream Bugs (Macroinvertebrates)

Identifying Fish, Reptiles, and Amphibians

Interpreting Results