At the Fish Ladder

Yesterday, Mom and I went to the Fish Ladder at the bridge and dam separating the two towns just south of us.  We are nearing the end of the alewife

alewives migrating
Photo by Ethan Nadeau

migration, here in Maine, and so far only one Atlantic salmon has used the fish ladder.  The attendant estimated 142,000 as the count for the alewives.  The ladder is maintained by our power company, and it includes open steps, separated from people be a fence, and then an underground level room, open at one end, which has chairs and two

Viewing room window, at the fish ladder.

viewing windows.  As visible in this image, the river was high, and brown — all stirred up.

Alewives are a little fish, usually not more than 10″ long, and often less.  They are silvery, and we saw them shining  out of that brown water, silver sparkles here and there.  They were relentless in their efforts to swim upstream, and they put on quite a show.

We had the most fun.  The few alewives still moving through the fish ladder were in groups of six or eight, although we saw individuals, as well.  All of the fish were swimming just as hard as they could, with their little forked tails waving rapidly as they made their way past the window.

But the funniest part was:  no matter how hard the fish swam, or whatever progress they made, they would first move out of sight on the upstream side of the window, and then all be washed back with the current.  We watched the same fish swimming by, and then floating backwards, dozens of times.  Mom asked the attendant if anyone had ever tried to slow the current a little, to make it easier on the little guys, but he said this was the speed they liked the most, so maybe they were enjoying themselves.  Who knows?

We spent a lovely half-hour just watching the alewives swim, and then we left.  The viewing room closes at the end of June, so I hope we can go back once more to see the start of the Atlantic salmon run.  This was a little slice of nature at her fiercest — they were going to get upstream, regardless of the effort it took.  Brave little fish — I hope I can move upward on my path with as much energy and confidence as I saw from those silly little alewives.


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