The Arrival of the Alewives

by Catherine Schmitt

The alewives are running.

Jeffrey Pierce, Executive Director of the Alewife Harvesters of Maine, reports that alewives are appearing coastwide. I contacted Jeff because of an interest in tracking the timing of the alewife run as a way to extend the Signs of the Seasons phenology monitoring program to coastal flora and fauna.

The timing of the run is cued by water flow and temperature, and probably ocean conditions like the position of the Gulf Stream. Pierce said he starts taking bets at the end of March, and his fish typically come in around the third week in April. (In 2012, the record warmth in early spring triggered a migration in late March.)

Alewives and blueback herring once filled nearly every coastal stream and river in Maine—that’s a lot to track. The most knowledge comes from the populations that are harvested commercially, but local community restoration projects are highlighting other runs, too.

View The Arrival of the Alewives in a larger map.