Beautiful Fish: Alewife -By Al Bezanson


The alewife, like the shad and the salmon makes its growth in the sea, but enters fresh water streams to spawn. This “anadromous” habit, as it is called, forced itself on the attention of the early settlers on our coasts. In the words of an eyewitness, “experience hath taught them at New Plymouth that in April there is a fish much like a herring that comes up into the small brooks to spawn, and when the water is not knee deep they will presse up through your hands, yea, thow you beat at them with cudgels, and in such abundance as is incredible.”  And they are no less persevering in their struggles upstream today. Numbers of them are to be seen in many streams, any spring, alternately swimming ahead; resting in the eddy behind some irregularity of the bottom; then moving ahead again, between one’s feet if one happens to be standing in midstream. And they are much more successful than the shad in surmounting fishways of suitable design.

From Fishes of the Gulf of Maine by Bigelow and Schroeder (1953) online courtesy of MBL/WHOI


This Saturday, March 31st ,  help out with the alewife count right here in Little River.


One thought on “Beautiful Fish: Alewife -By Al Bezanson

  1. “What could be better than sitting beside a stream for ten minutes and counting alewives?” says NOAA Restoration Biologist Eric Hutchins to prospective volunteers.

    After eluding countless predators and roaming in the sea for several years somewhere between Newfoundland and North Carolina the trick is to get up between these boulders. Then, if you are an alewife, you will be counted. Eric told us the total count three years ago was 216 fish, two years ago 3,000 fish. Beyond this point there is still a ways to go to the pond where the fish spawn and hungry largemouth bass eagerly await.

    We saw just a few today, and when a fish made the leap over the rocks the onlookers gave a loud cheer. This alewife circled and circled but elected not to leap while we watched. When the water warms more there will be a greater chance for fish, says Eric.

    Liked by 3 people

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