The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Spawning Season in the Mousam River

Posted by | July 3, 2013

Every spring the rivers of Maine are home to a unique phenomenon. As the water temperatures rise above 12.8°C (55° F) alewives begin their annual migration upstream to the lakes and ponds where they were born. This evolutionary strategy is known to biologists as anadromy and is shared with nine other native species including Atlantic salmon and rainbow smelt.

Damariscotta Mills Fish LadderHistorically, the schools of spawning fish in our rivers numbered in the millions, and were a significant economic and nutritional resource. Even today, some coastal Maine towns have an annual alewife harvest where these fish are caught by the thousands to be sold for lobster bait, or even smoked and sold to adventurous gourmands or locals with a taste for traditional fare. One notable alewife run takes place in mid-coast Maine at Damariscotta Mills. The fish ladder that bypasses the dam at the outlet of Damariscotta Lake is a great place to see these seasonal visitors.

Alewives are not strangers to the rivers of southern Maine — they move up the fish ladders at head-of-tide dams in the Saco and Salmon Falls Rivers each spring. In Kennebunk, the Mousam River also has a small run of these migratory fish, though without a fish ladder to help them past the Kesslen Dam at the Lafayette Center, they don't get very far. The new access to the river at Rotary Park is a great place to see alewives and two other species of migratory fish, American shad and blueback herring, in the spring when they are trying to move upriver. We were able to capture a school on camera there this spring.

Hearing in Kennebunk

On July 16, the Kennebunk Light & Power District will hold a public hearing on the future of the three Mousam River dams they own. The three dams are subject to federal relicensing; this meeting is the first step in that process.

These aging dams, including the Kesslen Dam, all lack fish passage and essentially halt the movement of migratory fish into the Mousam watershed.

Bruce Read, Laudholm Trust chairman of the board, writes:

Fisherman I am, and this is SO core to our mission! Please come to this meeting if you can!

The hearing will be Tuesday, July 16, at 6:30 pm in the rooms 300-301 of Kennebunk Town Hall. (Enter from the parking lot and go to the 3rd floor.)

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