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Welcome to historic Damariscotta Mills, Maine – home to one of Maine’s oldest and most productive alewife fisheries. The stone fish ladder that is the centerpiece of Damariscotta Mills was constructed in 1807 by the Towns of Nobleboro and Newcastle because, for nearly a century, mills blocked access for fish to the freshwater falls. In 2007, after two centuries of use, the fish ladder was in poor condition so a restoration project was initiated by a strong community group working with the Towns of Nobleboro and Newcastle and the Nobleboro Historical Society.


Restoration of the fish ladder has had a signficant positive impact on 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, a few harvested alewives are smoked as “people food” but most serve as a source of fresh bait for local lobstermen. 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.

Upper pool from the alewives’ point of view. May, 2020

Fish Happenings