|Herring Run south of the dam at Conowingo was a natal stream for a large Blueback run.|
Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus)
|Once a major herring fishery, the Lower Susquehanna supports only a tiny fraction of the once-abundant run.|
As the stocks steadily declined from the 1920s to the 1950s, technologies improved for taking more fish into bigger ships. From the 1960s through the 1970s, foreign offshore industrial fishing fleets intercepted Chesapeake-bound herring as the fish tried to migrate up the underwater canyon, the old riverbed that extends far out on to the Continental Shelf. Habitat destruction, pollution, continued overfishing, and blocked rivers (dams, culverts, diversions) have added to the pressure. Now there are severe restrictions for catching them and scientists are truly worried for their survival. An entire food chain is affected from Rock Fish to Eagles if the herring runs disappear.
I remember as a teenager in the 1970s visiting the smaller streams and creeks below the Conowingo Dam on both sides of the Susquehanna during early March accompanying friends, their dads and grand dads, who remarked how each year there were fewer and fewer herring to catch. I remember many times during 1980s when I would hike along the river and see herring fishermen with empty buckets after long days waiting. But then I remembered to check my field journals and saw that last year I happened on a most remarkable thing...
|Gashey's Creek in April of 2018 near Havre de Grace, MD, where I witnessed a small Alewife run a month before.|
Last year on March 1, while on a lunch walk along Gashey's Creek near where I work at Swan Harbor, I happened to intercept a small run of Alewife! Their shoulder spots were clearly visible as they thrashed over the gravel banks into the quiet pools above. I was spell-bound and amazed. These few hundred herring, about 8 to 10 inches in length, flashing silver in the sunlight, made such a racket that as I stood there blinking, several Hooded Mergansers, a Kingfisher, a Great Blue Heron and a Bald Eagle joined me in the valley. I think they were all as amazed as I was!
So today I emailed the Smithsonian River Herring Citizen Science Project to see if Gashey's Creek is their stream monitoring list and asked how I can get involved to learn more about herring restoration. I know what half of you who know me are saying "Oh no! Another messy, muddy, wet, and cold project!" Yes, please.
|A very bad picture of a Bald Eagle that joined me to watch Bluebacks work their way up Gashey's Creek last March.|
Let's see what trouble I can get into this year. I hope they get back to me.