Archive for May 13th, 2013


Happy Mother’s Day

May 13, 2013

Alewives and kids

image-4 The tradition in my family on Mother’s Day is a trip to see the alewives in Damariscotta Mills. If you’ve never seen them it is a sight to behold. There are millions of fish that swim up from the ocean to spawn each year. For the last few years there have been people working to re-build a “fish ladder” which is actually several beautifully created round rock pools filled with rushing water that go up the side of a hill. This makes it easier for the fish to climb, hence the name “fish ladder”.

The term is “the fish are in” when the alewives start their ascent and even though we have been visiting the alewives for over 20 years I am always amazed. The pools are shallow enough so when the fish are in you can easily see the fish swimming against the current. There is a part of me that cheers them on. It is easy for me to think about each of them as students in our classrooms. For some it is easy and others difficult and some appear to just glide right on up.

The restoration of the fish ladder started in 2007 and the progress from year to year is slow and steady. You can walk along next to the fish and when you get to the part where the ladder actually starts you can walk over part of the ladder and get a really close view of the fish in the pools and swimming up between pools. You can walk up to the top of the ladder where the fish swim through a small chute into the lake. They have volunteer counters and a few days ago the count in a ten minute period was 1009.

The Towns of Newcastle & Nobleboro have harvested alewives since the 1700s and, by balancing conservation and economic goals, they have carefully tended the Damariscotta River alewife stocks. You can see the harvest take place at 5AM and 5PM each day which will last as long as there are fish. We had a taste of the alewives that are smoked right there – bony but plenty of meat.

You can learn more at I highly recommend a trip to see the alewives! You won’t be disappointed, if the fish are in! Even in the rain it was fun. On Memorial Day weekend the alewives festival is planned with music, food, and perhaps a bit of alewives dancing!

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