Guest blog post by NRCM member David Wilkins
Editor’s Note: In October 2011, NRCM member and alewife activist David Wilkins wrote a blog post about his personal project to restore this native Maine fish to Webber Pond, near where he lives. As David wrote in his blog, “The run in Muscongus Brook and into Webber Pond was extirpated by 1970 or so as a result of the installation of a road culvert. Spawning adults could no longer gain entry into, nor pass through the length of this unnatural structure to reach the lake. The simple installation of a road culvert sadly ended this population, after having reproduced here for more than 10,000 years…Our Muscongus Brook alewife population continues today with the seasonal installation of a fish ladder at the culvert, and state stocking of spawning adults in the pond….We began stocking the pond in 2003, and returning adults arrived in June of 2007. They have continued each year since. Returning rates vary from about 2,000 to 5,000 fish each year. Given time and culvert removal, a restored Webber Pond may see 100,000 fish in the run.” David’s commitment to this restoration effort is a powerful reminder that, although humans can have a devastating impact on wildlife, they actions of dedicated individuals like David can also make a positive difference for Maine’s environment. Watch this short video about his efforts, made in 2010.
David recently sent along this update about the Muscongus Brook alewife run, based on his observations this season:
The Bremen alewife run in Muscongus Brook started about three weeks earlier than the traditional Memorial Day this year. It has been getting earlier these past few years, with this season taking the record. They arrived at the culvert on Sunday, May 5th and few have been very slowly dribbling into the brook since. I guess several hundred so far total. They are mostly good sized but I am disappointed in their scarcity so far.
From experience here they follow the moon cycles mostly entering the brook during the highest night time tides around the full or new moon tides.
The ladder is in and alewives are making it at least as far as the north culvert, where I only just saw a hand full this afternoon.
I am told that the south culvert will be replaced this July with a 14’ wide bridge. (However, I am still feeling like “I’ll believe it when I see it.”) This bridge project is utilizing modern construction techniques and will have weir pools inside to better facilitate upstream migration for alewives.
Here are some pictures from a recent afternoon, of the ladder at the south culvert—a small school and a couple lucky fish in the ladder.
David Wilkins is a sailor, boat builder, and naturalist living in Bremen, Maine. He studied wildlife biology at University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Fly-fishing, fish watching, and bird watching are some of his pastimes. Early exposure to declining commercial fisheries has led David to become a staunch fisheries conservationist today.
All photos courtesy of David Wilkins.
Learn more about the alewife at our Creature Feature.
NRCM’s short video about the alewife run on the Sebasticook River (a tributary of the Kennebec).
Watch our short video celebrating the 10th anniversary of removal of the Edwards Dam.