Josh Miller Visit – Alewives as Frozen Lobster Bait

Mr. Josh Miller visited class on March 21st to talk to us about the joint study by the Tenants Harbor Fishermen’s Co-op, the Port Clyde Fishermen’s Co-op and The Nature Conservancy to determine the feasibility of fishing frozen alewives as lobster bait throughout the summer.  

The study is intended to answer the following questions:

Are there alewives that are available for harvest that are not being used? (How many?)

Would alewives fish with similar success as traditional bait?

Would the cost of using frozen alewives as bait be comparable to traditional bait costs?

Most of the alewives in the study (3 lots) came from the run in the St. George River harvested in Warren, and some from the run in the Damariscotta River (2 lots) harvested in Damariscotta Mills.   A lot also came from alewives harvested in Benton (on the Sebasticook River). ( All the lots combined equaled about 212 bushels that were frozen.)

The fish are available because the alewife run is now plentiful enough that there are times when there are more fish available to harvest than the demand from individual lobstermen that use alewives as fresh bait (not frozen).  (All harvesting stations have to let some fish go through upriver to spawn in order to have the next generation of fish to keep the population healthy.)

In this study, alewives were fished starting in mid-late July by seven lobstermen.  Each person had about 30 bushels that they used to fish for new shell lobsters. Pairs of traps were baited; herring in one, and alewives in the other.  Another method was to alternate the bait in pairs of traps; the first pair would both get herring, and the next trap pair would get alewives. The idea was to have traps “mirror” each other. A logbook of which traps had which bait was kept, and then the number of lobsters harvested from each trap recorded. The logbook was then turned over to The Nature Conservancy.  Alewives were fished in traps until September and October.

Last year’s data shows that the frozen alewives fish comparably well to traditional bait.  Herring bait had slightly better success, but alewives may cost slightly less and therefore, they are essentially equal in profitability.  Good news for conservation efforts and for the lobster fishery!


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