The fish are heading upstream and the Amoskeag Fishways are getting ready.
The fish ladders are full of water and some brood stock salmon, along with other non-migrating fish, such as trout and smallmouth bass.
Officials are waiting for herring, shad, sea lamprey and, later, American eels. Atlantic salmon would also show up, but all the wild salmon that arrive in Lawrence are taken to hatcheries to maximize their breeding potential in the hopes of restoring salmon to the region.
Helen Dalbeck, executive director of the Fishways (www.amoskeagfishways.org), said conditions are perfect for migration: “It’s all coming together,” she said.
The Fishways received statistics from the Essex Dam in Lawrence. Once fish reach that dam, Dalbeck figures, it’s another two weeks before they arrive at the ladders in Manchester. That would put them about on schedule for the Fish Fest on Saturday, May 15. Fish Fest is scheduled to run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will include a Native American fish blessing at 2 p.m. “It’s all fish all the time,” Dalbeck said.
As of May 5, 29 shad, 185 sea lampreys, 319 herring and five salmon had arrived in Lawrence. Shad spawn, turn around and head back out to sea; herring disperse less uniformly and many don’t head back to sea until the fall, and sea lamprey die after they spawn. There is a sort of fish water slide set up for fish heading downstream. Dalbeck said fish go down tail first to protect their heads.
There is never a guarantee of seeing migrating fish, but sometimes viewers are lucky enough to see fish schooling.
“It’s up to the fish,” Dalbeck said.
Herring numbers have been down throughout New England, so Dalbeck isn’t expecting a lot of herring this year. The Fishways only see a fraction of the fish that are counted in Lawrence, because of environmental factors and because; there are many spawning grounds between there and Manchester.
The Fishways are open seven days a week during fish season, which will end on June 19. Usually about 50 people per day during the week and more than 100 on weekends visit the Fishways, Dalbeck said.
The brood stock salmon, which were dunked into the ladders nearly two weeks ago, are there essentially to give people something to look at before the ladders open up. When ladders open, salmon continue upriver as well, though they’re done breeding. They’re there for the anglers now, Dalbeck said.
The Fishways will host a Sea Lamprey Appreciation Day on June 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The sea lamprey is “this three-foot-long, migratory fish that’s just incredible to see,” Dalbeck said.
Fish Fest admission costs $3 per person or $6 per family. Sea Lamprey Appreciation Day admission costs $2 per person, $5 per family. Registration isn’t required at either event. Call 626-3474.