Maine Alewives: Will They Hurt Or Help Smallmouth Bass?

St Croix river maineThe Maine legislature is currently in the process of deciding how rapidly to open up Maine’s St. Croix River to alewives.  Alewives are a native species of fish that were blocked from entering this waterway since 1995 due to concerns that they were having a negative impact on smallmouth bass.

Just like most things, the pendulum now is swinging back the other direction and the alewives will once again be allowed to make their run up river.  It is unknown what impact this will have on smallmouth bass.

Maine Alewives: Will They Hurt Or Help Smallmouth Bass?

On the one hand, it could actually increase their size and numbers by giving the bass more forage to feed on. The opposing argument is that the alewives will compete with the bass for food and harm the smallie population.

The governor would like to restore the population gradually over time to make sure there are no negative consequences while the Passamoquoddy Tribe would like to see a more rapid approach to restoration.  Now it is up to the legislature to decide.

But Maine Fishing Guides and fly-fishing instructor Macauley Lord says that argument doesn’t hold water since the bass consider alewives a food source. “To a small mouth bass, alewives are food,” Lord said. “I’ve caught loads of big, small mouth and just medium size fish that have an adult alewife tail literally sticking out of their mouth. Their bellies are all bumpy with juvenile alewives. And these fish still eat my flies.”

Fisheries biologists say it will take around 10 years to rebuild the spawning run for alewives on the St. Croix River. “The day alewives start to show up in that river the small mouth bass are gonna start to get bigger,” Lord predicts.  Source

You never know what you are going to get when you start manipulating ecosystems. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong.  What do you think? Please comment below 🙂

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