These photographs of the Alewife operation at the Homeport Fish Company in Damariscotta Mills were taken for a feature in Maine Coast Fisherman in May of 1957. Ruohomaa teamed up with his friend and occasional writing partner, Lew Dietz, for “The Alewives Are Running.”
Alewives are a kind of river herring: anadromous fish that live in the ocean, and then swim up the rivers to lay their eggs in freshwater ponds in May and June. After the eggs hatch, the juveniles live in the pond for a few months, growing from a fry that can feed on its own, to a fingerling that can use its fins. When the alewives are strong enough, they swim downriver and back out to the ocean where they spend most of their adult life. At the time these photos were taken, the Damariscotta River was divided: one branch of the river led to a state owned and protected area where the fish spawned; the other branch was commercially fished. Wooden chutes directed fish into pounds, where they were shoveled out and processed by a machine that cleaned and cut the fish into pieces. The fish was then packed into barrels with brine and spices and sent to canning factories.
Today, in 2020, neither alewives, herring, nor shad are fished in Maine anymore, as fish populations have severely declined.Browse Images