The Wrack: fish

blog of the wells reserve & laudholm trust

Story Map: Larval Fish

June 6, 2017 By Michelle Furbeck Filed under Article Tags: fishlarval fishresearch

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Spring Fish Work Goes Swimmingly

April 28, 2016 By Amelie Jensen Filed under Article Tags: fishfish passagefishingkennebunk rivermousam riverrainbow smelt

Associated People Jacob Aman Brenda Rudnicky

 For the past five weeks, our research staff have been out fishing in the rivers of southern Maine to provide up-to-date information on species with the greatest need for conservation. We have been fortunate to have the help of some dedicated community volunteers and members of the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited.  This is the earliest we’ve been fishing in recent years and the catch has been diverse and exciting!

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A Fishy Tourney

April 1, 2016 By Scott Richardson Filed under News Release Tags: fish

Associated People Paul Dest Jeremy Miller Jacob Aman Nik Charov


Fans Will Fill the Stands for this Fishy Tourney

WELLS, Maine, April 1, 2016 — Even though New England teams were shut out of the Sweet Sixteen, there’s still no shortage of enthusiasm among the region’s faithful fans.

Friends and staff of four National Estuarine Research Reserves — Wells, Great Bay, Waquoit, and Narragansett —are expected to line the banks of the Little River over the weekend for a fishy Final Four. The annual event, dubbed “Bleachers on the Estuary,” is sponsored this year by the Wells Reserve at Laudholm.

Fans head to the stands for for the 2016 Bleachers on the Estuary event

“It just doesn’t get any better than Marsh Madness,” gushed the reserve’s gizmo guy Jeremy Miller.

“I’ve already filled out my brackish,” boasted reserve executive defector Paul Dest, drinking deeply from his mug of plankton-infused sea water. “Sea-run Brookies all the way!”

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Associated People Jacob Aman Paul Dest Kristin Wilson Michele Dionne

People congregate by the fish ladder after the dedication ceremony.Earlier this month, about 30 people assembled behind an isolated and nondescript brick building along U.S. Route 1 at the boundary of Wells and Kennebunk during one of the wettest mornings of our rather soggy spring.

Everyone was good natured about the rain. After all, we were standing alongside an important water supply that had recently been improved for fish. We huddled under popup tents in foul-weather gear to celebrate the reconstruction of the Branch Brook fish ladder, a piscine highway past the water district's dam.

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Jake's Ladder

October 30, 2013 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: anadromousbranch brookfishfish ladderrivertwo worlds

Associated People Jacob Aman

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 11/3/13:

Branch Brook ladder


Jake Aman, a researcher at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm known fondly as our “river guy,” is building a ladder this month. At a cost of $40,000, provided by funders including the Nature Conservancy, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the Maine Coastal Program, the local water district and the Reserve, it’s not some ordinary stepladder. It’s fancy.

None of us will be climbing Jake’s ladder anytime soon, though. It’s a ladder for fish. With it, they’ll be able to climb up and over a small but insurmountable dam on the Branch Brook, a tributary of the Little River here on the Kennebunk/Wells border. With this ladder, the Wells Reserve will reestablish an essential connection between the ocean downstream and vital nursery pools upstream. A small piece, missing for twenty years from a mosaic that stretches from New Hampshire to Newfoundland, will be replaced.

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Every spring the rivers of Maine are home to a unique phenomenon. As the water temperatures rise above 12.8°C (55° F) alewives begin their annual migration upstream to the lakes and ponds where they were born. This evolutionary strategy is known to biologists as anadromy and is shared with nine other native species including Atlantic salmon and rainbow smelt.

Damariscotta Mills Fish LadderHistorically, the schools of spawning fish in our rivers numbered in the millions, and were a significant economic and nutritional resource. Even today, some coastal Maine towns have an annual alewife harvest where these fish are caught by the thousands to be sold for lobster bait, or even smoked and sold to adventurous gourmands or locals with a taste for traditional fare. One notable alewife run takes place in mid-coast Maine at Damariscotta Mills. The fish ladder that bypasses the dam at the outlet of Damariscotta Lake is a great place to see these seasonal visitors.

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Associated People Clancy Brown

Since 2010, the Wells Reserve has been working with partners to develop an inventory of stream barriers in the small coastal watersheds of York County. These are usually man-made structures that prevent the upstream or downstream movement of fish and other aquatic organisms, due to the fact that stream crossings were not historically designed with fish in mind. The impacts of stream barriers are particularly severe on migratory fish such alewives or salmon, which move from the ocean into rivers to reproduce.

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Brook Trout: Looking for Love

October 2, 2012 By Clancy Brown Filed under Article Tags: branch brookbrook troutconservationfaunafishmerriland riverresearch

Associated People Jacob Aman Tin Smith Alex van Boer

It’s that time of year… fall is in the air and (if you’re a brook trout) love is in the air too! October and November is prime spawning time for Eastern Brook Trout. They’ve been fattening up all summer on aquatic insects. Now the mature females have bellies full of eggs and are looking for a spots with cold, clear water and loose, clean gravel where they can make their nests, called redds.

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Associated People Jacob Aman

Researchers in the Coastal Ecology Center recently received a call from the Harbor Master at Wells Harbor asking if someone would come down and look at a "strange" fish that came up in one of the local lobsterman's trap. Upon arrival at the harbor we were greeted by this "visitor" to our waters.

Grey Triggerfish

It is a Grey Triggerfish (Balistes capriscus), which is usually found well south of Cape Cod in the Mid-Atlantic to Southern Atlantic as far south as Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico. Although not unheard of in the Gulf of Maine, it certainly raises some eyebrows when such a "tropical looking" fish is found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic. Warmer than normal ocean temperature is likely responsible for the specimen to have wandered out of its usual range. A beautiful specimen and interesting occurrence.

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Associated People Tin Smith

The Shoreys Brook dam came out in November 2011, and since then the brook has been steadily carving its way through the sediment that has collected for over a century in the impoundment. Vegetation is starting to take hold in places, but it will be a few years before it begins to look like anything but a large mud pit. As old sediment flushes away, older substrates begin to emerge along the stream bottom, showing signs of what the brook once looked like. Gravel, cobble stones, and even boulders can now be seen littering the stream, which is a positive sign for the restoration team. Rainbow smelt are looking for just this type of stream bottom to lay their eggs on in the early spring.

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In the summer of 2009, Marissa Hammond came to us as a wide-eyed UNE freshman with little experience in research science. She has since blossomed into a NOAA scholarship award winner who has been accepted into a highly respected graduate program in fisheries management and policy. Here is what she had to say about how the Wells Reserve played a part in that journey…

marissaI am currently a senior at the University of New England, where I’m pursuing a degree in Marine Biology and Environmental Studies. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to intern at the Wells Reserve studying larval and juvenile fish in the Webhannet Estuary.

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Seafood Watch on Your Smartphone

January 6, 2012 By Scott Richardson Filed under Article Tags: educationfaunafish

Seafood Watch pocket guide imageFor years now, we've been handing out Seafood Watch pocket guides so people can make more careful decisions about what fish and shellfish to buy or avoid. The Monterey Bay Aquarium publishes regional guides, so the information is tailored to residents of the northeast, for example.

Now the aquarium has made ocean-friendly seafood recommendations even more convenient for smartphone users with its Seafood Watch app for iPhone or Android. At our house, the printed "pocket guide" often lived under a magnet on the refrigerator or got pierced by a thumbtack on the bulletin board, rarely making the trip to market. Now we will have the critical data in hand, as our mobile devices don't get left behind.

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Associated People Darcie Ritch

I am on board the EPA Ocean Survey Vessel BOLD, with the opportunity to do ichthyoplankton (larval fish) monitoring at sea to supplement the nearly weekly ichthyoplankton tows my fellow intern Amanda has been doing this summer at Wells Harbor.  We are interested in comparing the types of larval fish that are present a little way out to sea with those present in the harbor. Darcie Ritch, another summer intern who is working on her master’s degree at Antioch New England, is hoping to use the larval fish data I’m helping to collect on this trip in her masters project. Here is one of the first creatures we caught, a tiny lobster.

Juvenile lobster

The EPA’s OSV BOLD is dedicated to environmental research at sea.  This specific trip goes from Boston to Casco Bay and back, and is focused on collecting water samples to help establish nutrient limits (the maximum quantities of nitrates and phosphates in the water that will still allow healthy animal and plant life and clean water for fishing, kayaking, and other uses) for coastal waters.

To learn more about the OSV BOLD, and to see more photos and some videos of research at sea, check out!

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Associated People Ashley Pinkham Susan Bickford

About the Project

The Maine Road-Stream Crossing Survey determines where poor design or degraded condition of road culverts hampers the ability of fish to access upstream or downstream habitat. This information helps project partners to set priorities for restoring critical fish habitat sites.

For this project, Wells Reserve workers visited all road-stream culverts along the Kennebunk River, from its mouth on the border of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport to its far reaches in Lyman.

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About the Project

In 2008, a group of citizens and conservation groups met to discuss the possibility of returning native migratory fish runs to the Mousam and Kennebunk Rivers. Out of these discussions a plan was formulated to gather information about the historic and current condition of these fish and to begin to spread the word to the local communities. In 2009, Maine Rivers hosted a conference where river stakeholders came together to discuss the rivers and share knowledge. At the same time, the Wells Reserve began monitoring the current status of migratory fish in the rivers.

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One fish, two fish… is that really a bluefish?

August 4, 2008 By Hannah Wilhelm Filed under Article Tags: faunafishresearch

Associated People Michele Dionne

Juvenile bluefishMichele Dionne, Director of Research at the Reserve, has an ongoing collaboration with Dr. Celia Chen at Dartmouth College to study how mercury moves through the salt marsh system. When some of her lab crew headed out to catch Atlantic silversides to be tested for mercury content, we got some of these small fish instead, which we originally thought must be herring.

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Teleost Tuesday: Harbor Fishes Part 2, Juveniles

June 19, 2007 By James Dochtermann Filed under Article Tags: faunafishwells harbor

Spanning over the subtidal zone, harbor docks make convenient places to see fish in their natural setting. And fussing with fishing gear isn’t even necessary.

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Teleost Tuesday: Shadbush

May 15, 2007 By James Dochtermann Filed under Article Tags: faunafish

Now that spring has arrived and all sorts of new sights, sounds and smells have emerged from the forests and wetlands — it can be difficult to identify flora and fauna in its fleeting blossoms, migration, or courting display. These harbingers can last from a few weeks to just one evening. I find it fascinating to witness life taking advantage of what was just recently frozen solid.

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Teleost Tuesday: Harbor Fish Part 1, Cunner

February 13, 2007 By James Dochtermann Filed under Article Tags: faunafishwells harbor

Wells Harbor is a fantastic place to see local species of fish. Its wooden piers and docks provide human access above a subtidal zone (a place that never fully drains during low tide) and often 'harbors' schools of juvenile and adult fishes. The pilings and docks provide structure for many species of plants and animals that attach themselves to the substrate and provide habitat for many invertebrate species, amphipods and copepods in particular, which find shelter within this "fouling" community

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Teleost Tuesday

January 2, 2007 By Scott Richardson Filed under Article Tags: faunafish

What's a teleost? Let's see what Wikipedia has to offer...

Teleostei is one of three infraclasses in class Actinopterygii, the ray-finned fishes. This diverse group, which arose in the Triassic period, includes 20,000 extant species in about 40 orders. The other two infraclasses, Holostei and Chondrostei, are paraphyletic.

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Teleost Tuesday: Fish of frost

October 31, 2006 By James Dochtermann Filed under Article Tags: atlantic tomcodfaunafish

Now is the time of the year where many animals head south to warmer climates for the winter. Birds seem to show the most familiar behavior, such as flocks of Canada geese in the "V" formation flying over head. It's as emblematic as the colorful tree foliage or waking to see that first crisp frost. These are signs of autumn's arrival as well as encroaching cold weather.

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