Visiting Damariscotta and Warren – The Run is ON!

The fish ladder in Damariscotta wasn’t how I remembered it looking, I had remembered a more mechanical look to the fish ladder, probably because I was like seven, the last time I saw it. As for the Warren fish ladder, I hadn’t been expecting it to look so flat. At both the Damariscotta and Warren fish ladders there were tons of fish in each area, even in the trap at Warren, where they would take scales for the researchers, even in that area there were tons of fish. I honestly wasn’t expecting to see so many fish there, it was mind boggling. Especially when we were at the part with the set stone, just seeing the fish swim up to the next pool. Although it was really cool to watch, during the whole thing I had wondered how exhausting it must have been to be a fish and swim up one of those fish ladders, because it’s such a long swim and all the water pressure must make it so hard! So near the duck boards, the thing I wondered about the most were the metal things that looked like a excavator’s bucket, but larger and meant for water. While we were at that part I had been wondering what the purpose of it was. I would say the thing I understand better is how badly a run can get affected by a dam or mill. An example of that would be Damariscotta. The natural fish run got blocked by a dam, and in 1741 legislature wanted a way for the fish to get through. However, this didn’t get done until 1807, when they built the fish ladder. I didn’t know that the fish ladder in Damariscotta went up about 40 feet. That height is massive in my opinion for a fish, especially with all the water pressure going against them. It makes me wonder if after long enough, when we get a good fish ladder built, if we can have at least a fraction of the amount of fish they have in Damariscotta.  Henry

I think the fish in Damariscotta and Warren were really cool. I have never seen so many fish in one spot, it looked like millions. It was also cool to see the fish in the different sections going up to the spot where they spawn and seeing the process. One thing I noticed is that they were all in the middle of the stream and there were none on the sides and that there were so many that you couldn’t see the water. Really, there were a lot more than expected. I wondered how many there actually were. I found it interesting how many there were and that there were not more birds, and that (biologists) can see how old the fish are by their scales. I understand now how many fish there are and how they catch them to sell. I learned that they see the age of the fish the same way they do with trees. That experience makes me wonder if our run was ever that plentiful or if it ever will be.  James

The run in Damariscotta was being aided a lot by the fish ladder, and you could really tell that it was very easy for them to climb to the lake. It seemed that at both (places), the seabirds were heavily crowding, which tells me that the alewives are a very important food source in those two locations. I’ve seen the Damariscotta run before, but not when it was at its peak like it was. The amount of fish really surprised me at both locations. Damariscotta definitely had more fish swimming upstream, which makes me curious about why that is. I also wonder how there are so many when Damariscotta lake is relatively small, and I am imagining that it would be extremely full of alewives at some points. In Warren, I didn’t quite understand the cage contraption because it seemed that all of the alewives were swimming into it. I also wasn’t sure about how the chute in Damariscotta was operated. It was very interesting to me how the fish ladder was working so well, and how they successfully got back their run. After it all, I understood more about how important alewives are to the ecosystem they are part of, and the communities they swim through. Something that helped me understand this more was seeing the smokehouse, which I didn’t know about before this. After the experience, I felt more inspired to do more at our run to help the alwives swim upstream to the marsh. Since we’ve begun to restore our run, I have felt more optimistic about our run returning to its original and healthy state. Lute

When we first walked along the road onto the bridge to overlook the river in Damariscotta I spotted a few fish close to the left side. I soon realized that the whole black mass in which I had just assumed was the shadow on the water, was all fish. In Warren, I was more interested in the cage in which they caught the fish than the fish themselves as I has expressed my amazement of the amount of fish in Damariscotta.  It was cool for me to see Warren specifically because that is where my dad goes to get his bait in the spring. When he does this he tells me about how most times he has to wait on a list but sometimes he can get them right when he arrives. That being said, I was wondering what the setup was there and now I understand and can picture what is he is talking about. There was an amazing amount of fish. I wonder if someday we will have an awesome amount of fish like that here in our Marsh. At first I wasn’t sure why it didn’t seem that the fish were going anywhere but after asking Mrs. England I found out that they were most likely waiting for the tide or amount sunlight to change. The thing I found the most interesting is the pools. Not necessarily the pools themselves but the way the alewives just launch themselves up into the next one. That day I learned that alewives like the tides and the sunlight to be right before they will enter their body of water to spawn. The experience that day made me hopeful that with all of our efforts that in day our run will be just half as good as that one. Lydia

I thought the fish were pretty cool…seeing them swim in these tight formations, a little hard to see but if you could see them, they were cool. I noticed the fish weren’t really moving. They seemed to look like they were but they weren’t. It was puzzling. Also, in Warren the fish couldn’t really move and in Damariscotta they could move but it seemed like they moved just about the same. There was a lot more fish than I expected; I expected a few here and a few there but there was a lot more…I found the look and the detail of these fish most interesting. I understand what these look like the fish, and the fish ladder more. I learned that there have been poachers in Warren that take as many fish as they can get without giving back. It makes me think of how it may have used to be, back then.  Shaun

I was really impressed that there were thousands upon millions of alewives there, and seeing all the scales in the water in Damariscotta, and at Warren the amount of fish flowing through was incredible. Yes, there were a lot of fish, more than I expected. I thought they would be like a small group, but there was a giant line of fish, like a traffic jam. I noticed that they travel in packs, and I saw a rim of a boat, or a buried boat on the top of the waterfall were the alewives are counted. I was most interested in the traffic jam of fish, there were so many fish.  I was astonished! Thomas

I think that the whole experience was really cool, and I enjoyed seeing all the alewives, as they tried to make their way upstream. It was amusing to see the alewives move as a whole…one alewife would move and the rest would follow.  It was also interesting to see different species of birds trying to get a decent meal.  I remember going on a hike a few years back and we walked along a little river, I think it was the Ducktrap (River), but I’m not sure; the alewives were all stacked up, I mean, you could walk across the river, because there were so many.  I was expecting a lot of alewives to be at the run in Damariscotta, but I wasn’t expecting so many to be in Warren. I found the big fish (were they brown trout?) the most interesting, because I wasn’t expecting that big a fish to be so high in the fish ladder.  Willow

I noticed and learned about the the smoke room and how that system kind of functions and works and how they had the fish hanging and the smoke was cold. There were more fish than I thought there would be; I was expecting a lot, but not that many. I thought it was really cool to be surrounded by that many fish at once. I would stick my hand in the water and I’d feel all their slimy, scaly structures and it was so cool. What was most interesting were all the machines and ways they could travel through, was pretty interesting. I would say I understand more about how they are sold and eaten after this experience. This experience and thinking about our restoration efforts in T. Harbor makes me jealous. I have hope and believe that our community’s run can possibly jump start again, but it’s going to take work, time, and dedication. Hopefully, the fish ladder and the sandbags really make a difference.  Zeke

On Wednesday May 22nd we took a trip to the Damariscotta Fish Ladder and to Warren. Some of the things I noticed were that there were a lot of fish and they always stayed in a group. Every three or four minutes they would swim under the bridge to the other side. Personally, there were a lot more fish than I expected to see. We also saw many dead ones along the side and we got the experience of going in the smoke shack and see all the fish getting cooked which I thought was pretty cool. I wondered how many fish they had in the shack cooking but they didn’t know. The thing I found most interesting was how we were told that someone stands over the open space on the ramp and counts how many fish go through in ten minutes at the top of each hour. Now I understand more about the fish ladder in general because I got to see it for myself in person. I had already known all about the fish in Warren because I go there with my grandfather and my dad to get bait. I learned how the fish go down through. I thought their system for it was cool because it was obviously working, telling by the amount of fish we saw. I think we won’t have as much as Warren and Damariscotta, but it is possible to get some because we have been working on putting sandbags down and building our own fish ladder.  Breanna

I thought it was very cool how many fish there were and their process of getting them around. It was impressive how there were thousands of fish just in that size area. I noticed that the depth of the of the water looked similar to the depth of Ripley Creek which made me imagine what it would be like for even 100 fish to be in there. There were way more fish than I expected. I didn’t imagine that I wouldn’t even be able to see the bottom of the water. I wondered what they might have been like being as crowded as they were in the water. The ones that I saw it looked like they never even moved. Now I understand how healthy the run of alewives is there and how important losing our run in Saint George was to the town. Obviously, our run wouldn’t be like that, but our efforts to make a good way into the marsh have been good.  Jack

I noticed how many fish there were. They were moving kind of slow, but there were tons of them. The fish ladder was really cool to look at seeing how it works. There were a lot more fish than I expected. I knew there was a going to be a lot but I didn’t realize there was going as many as there were. I wonder how hard it would be to get up the fish ladder or if it was hard at all. The most interesting thing in my opinion was the fish ladder itself. Like I said, it was really cool to see how a working fish ladder works. I understand how a fully working fish run works now because I never knew what one looked like until then. I learned about Mulligan’s Smokehouse I didn’t know about that before we went. This experience makes me think about what our run would have looked like back then. It’s so empty now and it feels like they aren’t coming back anytime soon because if the Damariscotta run looks like that and that’s what we used to have I don’t think we can restore it like that again but we can always keep trying.  Taylor

On Wednesday May 22, 2019 the 7th and 8th grade classes took a trip to Damariscotta Fish Ladder and the fish ladder in Warren. I was so amazed by how many alewives that I had seen, especially because in the Marsh there is practically none. When I had seen just one side of underneath the bridge where the fish were coming in on the Damariscotta bridge and went to the other side and looked up the stream there were so many more fish than I had expected I would see. I am curious to know how long it takes for the man at Mulligan’s to smoke the alewives. Also, I am curious to know the average amount of alewives sold on a daily basis. I was very interested in knowing how many alewives I had seen that day, because that was the largest amount of alewives I have been able to see. It was very interesting seeing the system that they had set up there and how large it was. I now understand how many alewives there once were, just based on how many that I have seen.  I really hope that somehow we can get the alewives back soon because they aren’t only important to me, they are a big and important part of this community. Madison

I thought that it was really cool to look at them from over the bridge. It amazed me when I realized just how many there actually were. It was like there was just a long, winding path of black in the water. It did not really seem like they were going anywhere, but it was fascinating to witness them all coming back to their birthplace. This experience reminded me of how we used to have alewife runs in Tenants Harbor. Of course, I did not see the runs but I wonder if we had runs like the ones in Damariscotta. Where they just as large? Did they come in huge schools? I thought it was an interesting set-up in Damariscotta, with all of the pools that went up like stairs. The part before you ascended the wooden stairs, the process seemed quite busy and complicated. I also noticed a sort of mini waterfall. This left me wondering about how the fish got to the stone stair pools. Was there a place to swim under the ramp? Or did some of the fish have to attempt to jump up the small waterfall? On this field trip, I learned about how to smoke the alewives and the process behind it. When we visited Mulligan’s Smoke House, I learned that the fish were salted and later smoked for a few days in the smoke house. Something that I also learned from the man at Mulligan’s, was that you don’t smoke the alewives in hot smoke like a fire. Instead they use cold smoke, which gives it more flavor. Seeing the fish in the smoke house has also really cool, considering I had never actually looked inside a smoke house, I was fascinated. Overall I thought that it was a really fun trip. I remember back in sixth grade when we learned about the watershed of the marsh and the history. As a sixth grader back then, and even now, I had an amazing time going outside and observing all of the nature around us. When I realized we were learning about the marsh again, I was quite excited. I love going outside for class and am excited for what is to come.  Addie

When we first got to Damariscotta we all noticed that when you looked over the bridge you could see a crowd of fish that went under the bridge and up. Then when we got to Warren I couldn’t really tell how the trap worked until I got up close. There were definitely more fish then I ever expected, especially in Damariscotta. I wonder how long it takes for the fish to make it to the lake. What I found most interesting was that it takes three days to smoke the fish and that there were over 2000+ fish in Mulligan’s smokehouse. Now I understand how the fish ladders work. This experience makes our restoration efforts worth it because now that we have seen how many other fish ladders have had an alewife run, it makes us want to have that many alewives in our marsh again.   Mya

I noticed that there were huge clumps of alewives all packed together trying to swim and they never separated when something happened. When we were in Warren I noticed that the alewives were trying to swim up the fish ladder but the force was too strong and they would get pushed back into where they started. From both Damariscotta and Warren there were tons more fish than I expected and it shocked me how plentiful they were. Seeing the huge clumps at Damariscotta when we first got there amazed me that there were that many fish because I thought there were going to be so much less than there actually were. I wonder if the fish from Damariscotta ever leave that huge clump they were in and just separate to go other places in that river. When we were at the river in Warren and we were talked to about the history of alewives, I found that very interesting because during class we’ve been focusing more on what’s happening with alewives today and restoring things and I found it interesting to get that piece of background information to learn why we are doing what we’ve been doing in class. Like I said in my previous statement about how it was nice to know history and background information about alewives I understand better why we are helping our community by putting sandbags in our marsh or building a new fish ladder. I understand why we have been doing what we’re doing in class thanks to the Warren warden who told us the history of alewives. Throughout the day I was learning a whole bunch of new information I had no idea about and one of those being that I learned how fish ladders work to help the rivers and fish and that they weren’t just there. I also learned about how what we are doing in class relates a lot more to the history of not just alewives in our town but other towns as well. This experience has made me think of why we are helping with stream restoration and that we are headed in the right direction with it. Overall I think our efforts for helping the stream restoration.  Laney

I thought that the experience was very cool and I liked learning new things about our run. I noticed that there weren’t any birds (other than sea gulls) trying to pick at the fish. I expected to see as many fish as I did. What was interesting was that so many people gathered together to make these fish ladders to provide for the fish. I understand better how the fish ladders work. I learned that it took 60 years for the run to come back. Thinking about our run, and our restoration efforts in Tenants Harbor, (I can see) their system is much different in Damariscotta and much more complicated than the one between our culvert and marsh. Lilly

I didn’t think there were going to be that many fish trying to get up into the lake. I thought there was going to be one small school of alewives. I noticed in Damariscotta, all the alewives were in one path following each other, they weren’t swimming all around the whole area, it was a really cool dark path made of fish. There were definitely more fish than I expected. I thought there was going to be just one small school of fish trying to get up into the lake but instead there was a massive amount of fish trying to get into the same lake they were born in, which is really cool. I wondered how they swim against the pressure of the water coming down at them. I also am curious about how long it takes all those fish to get all the way up into the lake in Damariscotta. What I found most interesting was how many fish there were and how the fish made a line (pathway) to get into the lake by themselves. Also, in the smokehouse, it took three days to do the process of smoking them. I would be interested to try a smoked alewife. What I learned that I didn’t know before was that they were cold smoked, and that our run is really small. I think it would have been really cool if we did have a big place like Warren or some place else where alewives would come, and make a cool path in the water and have lots of fish, but I also think it is really cool that we do have a cool small little spot where alewives come and try to get into our marsh in Tenants Harbor. Gwen

At the Damariscotta alewife run, there was a very successful fish ladder helping thousands of fish climb into the pond. When people said that it looked like you could walk on the fish as if it was a bridge, I thought that they were exaggerating. So as soon as I saw the massive amount of alewives under the bridge and all along the river leading to the fish ladder, I was amazed about how many fish there were. It was definitely more than I expected. I wonder why alewives need to go to the ocean every year if it’s such a struggle to come back to where they were born. I also wonder how so many fish could completely evacuate the river over the course of around two hours. Where did they all go? I think the most interesting thing about the alewives is how strong they are. The water running through the fish ladder seemed very fast and strong, but the alewives could swim through it easily. I understand more about how fish ladders work and how alewives travel after that experience. I learned how many alewives migrated to one spot and I also learned how they were caught. I don’t think our alewife run will be the same as it was before, if it’s even existent, because we have tried many times unsuccessfully and our creek doesn’t have the potential that their river had.  Maggie



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