Alewives & the Damariscotta Mills

investigating the alewife windvane


Today the Mexicali creative crew and three lovely models took a field trip to Damariscotta Mills, home of Maine’s oldest and most productive alewife fishery. We had a great time, took some wonderful pictures, and were lucky to encounter friendly people who graciously allowed us to traipse across their property for our picture-taking. Everybody had a good time and we were all happy that the sun was shining! Here are some of the things that we did:

playing ukulele on the fish ladder

blowing bubbles on the lawn

doing crazy yoga poses

being terribly serious at all times

meeting Moxie, the adorable pup

running from the giant osprey

 

 

looking at alewives from the fish ladder

“Why are they looking at married women drinking hoppy beer in the water?” you might be asking. For those of us just coming into the know, alewives are a type of fish! They spend the majority of their lives at sea, but come to freshwater to spawn. Using their sense of smell to guide them, the alewives migrate upstream from the ocean to calmer waters in rivers, streams, ponds and lakes. The fish ladder is a stone-built structure that allows the alewives to swim all the way upstream even though there is a dam at the top of the river.

Look closely and you will see many alewives swimming upstream!

Historically, alewives were a common sight in Maine rivers. Historians say that alewives used to be the most abundant migratory fish in this area, until the expansion of human production and progress led to the building of more and more dams that put a stop to the alewives’ ability to get where they were trying to go. Alewives tie our oceans, rivers, and lakes together, and play an important role in our ecosystem. For example, alewives are the only hosts of a mussel called the alewife floater mussel, which lives in the coastal lakes and rivers of the Atlantic. When alewife migration has been halted by dam production, the alewife floater mussel disappears as well. This may seem to be something that does not affect us humans, however this fact may alter something else, which changes something else, and on and on until who knows what happens? Change is certainly not a bad thing, but when it is due to humans disrupting the lives, natural habits, and habitats of animals, it just doesn’t seem right.

 

The alewives undertake their long journey to spawn every year in May and June. The Fish Committee of Nobleboro and Newcastle puts on a festival annually during Memorial Day weekend to celebrate the “running of the alewives”. Everybody gathers to marvel at the mass migration of the fish, and there are activities, music, food, and fun! All of it is to benefit the restoration of the fish ladder, which has been deteriorating steadily over the years in ways that quick fixes can’t salvage. Learn more about their restoration efforts and how you can help here, and check out the Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder Restoration Project here to learn more about the mills, alewives, and where to go if you want to go see them swimming upstream!

Thanks to our three wonderful models and the folks who let us legally trespass for a good photo! All clothing, jewelry, and accessories in these photos can be found in Mexicali Blues stores, with some items also available at MexicaliBlues.com.

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