June 30, 2013

Alewives spawn optimism

Supporters expect noticeable benefits from the return of the species to the St. Croix River above Grand Falls Dam.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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People walk past the fish ladder at the Grand Falls Dam in Baileyville on June 5, the same day the Passamaquoddy Tribe and various federal and state agencies celebrated the return of alewives to the fishway. The event followed passage of a state law that reversed an 18-year-long blockade of the fish on the waters above Grand Falls Dam.

Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Ames, Bassett and others say bass fishermen will eventually discover they have won as well, noting that alewives and bass coexist in rivers and lakes throughout Maine and that the scientific consensus is that they help, not harm, one another.

But bass fishing guides fear the consensus is wrong and they have continued to argue that the alewives will compete with small bass for food and even that they are an invasive species that never lived in the river.

These are the most hectic and lucrative weeks for the region's bass guides and few responded to interview requests. Those who did declined to comment because they were considering further legal challenges to the free passage of the alewives.

"They're all out on the water, so I actually haven't talked to any of those guys," says Don Kleiner, executive director of the Maine Professional Guides Association, which is based in Wilton, a 3½-hour drive to the west. "Our issues with the alewives' passage are economic, and it's unfair to even speculate what the impact will be. Who knows the answer at this moment?"

Jeffrey Pierce, Dresden-based executive director of the Alewife Harvesters of Maine, says the two fish happily co-exist but that the bass guides have backed themselves into a corner. "Deep down inside they have to know they're wrong, but they just can't come out and say that," Pierce says. "I hope they stop wasting their money trying to block this and instead use it to try to encourage tourism."

"I think they will come to an understanding first that the alewives are not going to be a threat," says Lewey. "Later they'll learn that alewives can be beneficial to their industry." 

Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:



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Additional Photos

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The decision to open the fish ladder to alewives has supporters hoping the species will help kick-start the recovery of other fish. “The alewife is the fish that feeds all,” says Newell Lewey, a Passamaquoddy.

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Boards lying on a grate over the fishway at the Grand Falls Dam in Baileyville had been used to block passage of alewives. After nearly two decades, this year the fish are allowed to resume their annual journey.


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