PENOBSCOT — While hundreds of alewives swam lazily about in shallow pools in Mill Stream, dozens of visitors gathered in the recreation area on the shore of Pierce’s Pond to eat smoked fish, drink lemonade and celebrate completion of two new fishways that will ease the migration of alewives to and from the Bagaduce River.
Late last summer, thanks to a collaboration between the citizens of Penobscot, federal and state agencies and several local and national conservation organizations, R.F. Jordan & Sons Construction Inc. of Ellsworth began work to remove a decades-old dam and install fishways that would closely mimic a natural stream bed at the outlets of Pierce’s Pond and Wight’s Pond — both part of the Bagaduce River watershed.
The goal of the two projects, Penobscot Alewife Committee Chairman Bailey Bowden said at the time, was to reopen both streams for the passage of alewives and smelt between the ponds and the Bagaduce River.
Work on the two projects was completed late last fall, but the fanfare was delayed until last weekend. On hand for the festivities were representatives of several groups that contributed to the success of the project. Those organizations include the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust, the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, the Downeast Salmon Federation, The Nature Conservancy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In addition to the open house at Pierce’s Pond and a tour of the Wight’s Pond fish passage, the day’s events schedule an alewife counting demonstration at Walker Pond led by the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries and a walking tour at Parker Pond, both in Brooksville, led by the Blue Hill Heritage Trust.
No celebration would count for much without some good food, and good food there was at Pierce’s Pond. Besides the usual picnic fare of hot dogs and chips, visitors got to sample a variety of smoked fish produced mostly on site including Little Island oysters from the Bagaduce River, smelts and both hot- and cold-smoked alewives.
The fish was smoked by Downeast Salmon Federation fisheries biologist and master smoker Brett Ciccotelli in the organization’s “Smokehouse on Wheels.” According to Sarah Madronal, a fisheries biologist and regional organizer for the salmon federation, the rolling smokehouse serves two functions.
Ciccotelli often takes the smokehouse along to school visits that expose younger children to the issues regarding stream protection for Atlantic salmon, alewives and other fish. The smokehouse is also a kind of rolling laboratory used to explore whether there is a business opportunity for a privately run fish smoking business in Downeast Maine.