2016 Nequasset Fish Count

Thank you so much to everyone who helped to count in 2016!

Your counts helped to document and understand the alewife population dynamics at this important site.

2016: A relatively slow year for fish at Nequasset….

Based on the 2016 alewife count and harvest, this year had relatively low numbers of alewives arriving at Nequasset Dam.  It was one of the smallest alewife harvests in years.  Nearby alewife harvests in Phippsburg also reported low numbers of fish this year.  Farther up the Kennebec, it was a banner year for alewives at the ladder in Benton.  No one knows why the numbers at Nequasset were low.

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The Numbers:


May 3 -June 4, 2016


668 bushels/ 80,160 fish

 Fish counted going over the dam


 Total fish over the dam, extrapolated


 Estimated Total Run


 # of volunteers


 % escapement (sustainable if larger than 17.5%)


Highest 10 Minute Fish Count


The 2016 alewife run at Nequasset seemed destined for an early start when the first fish appeared below the ladder on April 25th.  Then… we had the snowstorm on April 26th.  The water temperature dropped and the first fish weren’t counted going over the dam until May 3rd.  The first big rush of fish came on May 11th, and an evening count that day documented 163 fish in 10 minutes entering the lake.  Counts were low for the next several days, and then there were a moderate number of fish entering the lake from May 18th through May 26th.

May 27th was the first day that fish were documented leaving the lake.  When fish are ready to leave, they pool at the top of the ladder, then slide down backwards.  Sometimes, after they leave the lake and enter the top pools of the ladder, they they decide to climb back into the lake.  This makes counting confusing and leads to high numbers as the same fish are counted multiple times, and incoming fish are confused with outgoing fish.  The highest count from May 27th to the end of the fish count on June 4th was 378 fish in 10 minutes.

Changes to the Fish Ladder in 2016

The lower pools of the fish ladder were altered in fall of 2015 to improve the path of the fish from the stream to the ladder based on observation of that area during the 2015 alewife run.  The channel was narrowed, and a series of three pools were build.  The gate to the harvest area was also moved, so fish are directed toward the ladder on days when then harvest is closed.

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Improved channel to the base of the ladder.
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Gate to block harvest area moved to new site next to the entrance of the ladder.

World Fish Migration Day Celebration

The 2016 celebration of World Fish Migration Day at the Nequasset Fish Ladder brought together visitors for arts and crafts, information, food, and fun focused around the migrating alewives, the historic alewife harvest, and the new ladder.

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World Fish Migration Day is an international day of celebration  focused on open rivers and migratory fish.  Celebrations of migratory fish took place in 60 countries across the world.

A Few Updates from the 2016 Fish Count:

4/24/2016 – No fish yet

4/25/2016 – First fish observed below the ladder

4/28/2016 – The Fish Count Begins!

5/7/2016 – There will be some work at the counting area to start building a railing

5/11/2016 – The fish are here in earnest!  163 fish counted in 10 minutes

5/13/2016 – New railing complete

5/21/2016 – World Fish Migration Day at the Fish Ladder!

6/4/2016 – 2016 Fish Count Final Day

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