Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Two Fish Ladders -- Nequasset (Woolwich) and Damariscotta Mills (Nobleboro)

They're here. 

Despite a slow start to spring, the alewives have heeded the call of nature, and they're climbing up coastal creeks and rivers all over New York and New England.  And I had a front row seat to the spectacle this week!

I volunteered to count fish at the Nequasset fish ladder.  The Kennebec Estuary Land Trust is working with local authorities to restore the ladder, and is collecting baseline data (before the renovation) to see how many fish are using it.  The first week I was scheduled to count, they contacted us and said "no fish, we're on hold".  Last week, the first full week of May, I went out and counted -- but there were no fish to count.  It's pretty boring staring at the water for ten minutes at a time, when there's nothing to see.  But this week, when I pulled up and parked, I could tell there were going to be fish, because this is what I saw:

Fat and happy gulls, waddling around up on the roof.
And when I arrived at the ladder, it was immediately apparent a switch was flipped, because this image greeted me:

Fish caught in a tidepool at low tide

Fish gathered at the bottom of the ladder.
And when I counted, this is what I counted:

There's a fish!
And there's a fish!
Made it!  Fish pop over the final rung of the ladder, into Nequasset Lake; prime breeding ground.
I had almost 200 in a ten minute period!  Amazing, and not at all boring.  It was a bit hard to concentrate, given the noisy neighbors:

After counting, I simply enjoyed the surroundings:

Downstream; fish house and dam.  Smokehouse to the far left.
The fish ladder.  Note the smoke rising from the smoke house.
Hard won success!  Now, to find a mate.
Of course, I'm a glutton for punishment.  I figure this is a once-a-year event -- why miss a moment of it?  So yesterday I dragged a comrade (and our dogs) on a "marine biology adven-cha", up to Damariscotta Mills.  This is one of the biggest alewife runs, and the ladder is designed so people can get a great view:

A bit of a bigger operation than Nequasset!

I just loved this.
The Damariscotta fish ladder.  Fancy!

Looking down from the top.
Also counting.  Can you see the fish streaming out of the ladder?  Look hard.
This looks something like a theme park!
Waiting for that perfect shot -- an eagle swooping down.  Lots of big lenses were apparent.
At both these ladders, harvest of alewives is allowed.  They're taken for smoking and for lobster bait.  Stay tuned; next week I'll share some photos of the harvest; they only harvest from sunrise Thursdays to sunrise Mondays.  It's time for another adven-cha!

I'll be there!
GETTING THERE:  To get the Nequasset fish ladder, from US 1, turn south on Nequasset Road at the Town Hall.  At the bottom, park near the small bridge (DO NOT block the bridge or cross it, the bridge goes to a private residence).  Walk west along the water (~100 feet) and to your left, you will see a gate on a dirt road, with two large concrete blocks on either side.  Follow the dirt road to the ladder; ~100 yards.  To get to the Damariscotta Mills fish ladder from US1 north, take the Damariscotta exit to business Route 1. Go straight at the stop sign just past the Congregational Church. Take Route 215 north for approximately 1.6 miles. Look for a parking area just past the Austin Road on the left. Or, take the next left into the Fish House parking lot. Follow the path behind the fish house and you are there. Coming south on Route 1, take the Damariscotta exit and take a right on Rt 215 across from the Louis Doe Home Center. The parking lots decribed above are about 1.3 miles on the left.

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