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Adventures with Alewives

By Julia Hanauer-Milne – Elementary Gifted and Talented Program

Alewives, alewives everywhere. That’s what students in the Belgrade, Oakland, and Sidney elementary GT program saw on Wednesday when they visited Webber Pond in Vassalboro.

The third through fifth graders have been learning this spring about transformations along the Kennebec–from its source to the sea and how the river has changed through time. That led to a study of sea run, of diadromous fish, including the now-plentiful alewives that have returned to the river and its tributaries since the Edwards and Ft. Halifax dams were removed. Once alewives were restored to Webber Pond, it wasn’t long before Seven Mile Brook had an alewife run again.

Alewives are born in ponds, travel downstream to mature in the ocean, then return to their natal ponds in several years to continue the cycle.

The students simulated how alewives “smell their way home” by matching skittle flavors while blindfolded, dissected a pike with biologist Jason Seiders to learn about fish anatomy, looked for invertebrates in the stream with biologist Wes Ashe, observed the thousands of alewives making their way back to the pond, learned about harvesting alewives for bait and food, and later experienced the challenges sea-run fish face in a “salmon run” game.

Because there were so many alewives waiting for the fishway to open –it’s open three days per week–students were even able to catch fish barehanded (and quickly release them).


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