The wait for the fish has begun. We typically see the first alewives in late April but this year they may be later. We still have snow on the ground and ice on the bay and on Damariscotta Lake. Still, the birds....a few herons, many eagles, and possibly the first osprey, and some seals, have begun to wait below the fish ladder and on the bay. Keep checking back for updates. We'll update this page daily once the fish are in.
Speaking of the fish, planning has begun for the 8th annual Fish Ladder Restoration Festival, which will again be held on Memorial Day weekend (Saturday, May 23 and Sunday, May 24). Save the dates!
A winter update: Work on the fish ladder, again by the Jorgensen crew, was progressing well until the deep snow slowed progress. We continued capping concrete walls, built a new lowest pool, and repaired a leak in one of the pools. Work has resumed and we expect the Jorgensen crew to keep going until the fish arrive. We're in great shape for the fish this year!!
Directions to the Fish Ladder
Take the Damariscotta exit to business Route 1. Go straight at the stop sign just past the Congregational Church. Take Route 215 north for approximately 1.6 miles. Look for a parking area just past the Austin Road on the left. Or, take the next left into the Fish House parking lot. Follow the path behind the fish house and you are there. Coming south on Route 1, take the Damariscotta exit and take a right on Rt 215 across from the Louis Doe Home Center. The parking lots decribed above are about 1.3 miles on left.
We (and the fish!) are grateful for all the help we've had for the restoration. We couldn't be doing it without the commitment and perseverence of our wonderful fish ladder community! And, this year we are particularly grateful for grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Elmina Sewell Foundation, the Horizon Foundation, the Davis Conservation Foundation, the Edward Myers Conservation Trust and from support from many individuals and businesses
Welcome to historic Damariscotta Mills, Maine – home of Maine’s oldest fish ladder and most productive alewife fishery. The fish ladder was constructed by the Towns of Nobleboro and Newcastle in 1807 at the state’s request after mills had blocked access to the fresh water falls for nearly a century. In 2007, after two centuries of use, the fish ladder needed a major restoration and the project was initiated by the Towns in collaboration with the Nobleboro Historical Society. Restoration of the fish ladder is critical to the health of the Damariscotta River alewife stocks. Alewives are an important part of the food chain and they contribute to the health of the marine environment and to the lakes and streams where the fish spawn. In the spring, alewives serve as a source of fresh bait for local lobstermen who are setting out gear after a winter ashore. The Towns of Newcastle and Nobleboro have harvested alewives since the 1700s and, by balancing conservation and economic goals, they have carefully tended the Damariscotta River alewife stocks. Today, all funds received for harvested alewives are spent to maintain and restore the fish ladder and harvesting area.