Maine Alewife Run

Maine Alewife Run

Beginning in May of each year, the Maine alewife run turns rivers into incredible spectacles as alewives leave the ocean and migrate to freshwater lakes and ponds to spawn until mid-June when they return to the sea. At the bottom of the page is an interactive Google Map showing every location in Maine where you can see an alewife run, with information about each location, including parking locations and harvest days and times.

Alewives are important to Maine’s ecosystem, as they are a major food source for many animals. During the alewife run, it isn’t uncommon to see large numbers of birds of prey, including bald eagles and osprey, diving into the river to catch the fish. The peak of the Maine alewife run typically happens from Mother’s Day to the end of the first week of June. The best time to see the most osprey and bald eagles is in the early morning or later in the day.

An osprey catches a fish during the Maine alewife run.
An osprey catches a fish during the Maine alewife run.

Alewives are also an important baitfish for lobstermen, who harvest the fish at six different locations in Maine. You can watch the annual alewife harvest in Woolwich, Vassalboro, Benton, Damariscotta Mills, Orland, and East Machias. Tap the fish icons in the map below for more information about harvest days and times at each location.

Many Maine organizations have worked hard to restore alewife access to their freshwater breeding grounds, which were closed off when early settlers built dams to power mills. Their efforts have greatly increased the number of alewives returning to Maine’s freshwater lakes and ponds yearly.

Maine Alewife Run Events

A few organizations typically hold annual Alewife Festivals to celebrate the return of the alewives. In Bradley, the Maine Forest and Logging Museum opens its buildings on the grounds and smokes alewives for visitors to try. This year, the event is being held on Saturday, May 18th, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In Pembroke, on May 24-25, the Third Annual Pennamaquan Alewife Festival is happening near Greenhorns and the Smithereen Farm Store on Little Falls Road, 10 am-5 pm. Smoked alewives will be a part of the free local food buffet starting at noon. Visitors with a fishing license are invited to help dip, gut, and brine alewives. Biologists will be on hand for presentations and to answer questions. A guided bike ride around Pennamaquan Lake will be held on Saturday, and there will be live music throughout the day. There will be painting activities and a treasure hunt for kids, and campsites are available for those who want to stay the weekend.

The Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder Restoration organization typically has an alewife festival, although they did not have one in 2023, and it is unclear if there will be one in 2024. They are having a 5k run on May 25th

Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder, photo credit:
Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder. Photo credit:

Maine Alewife Run Locations Map

The blue fish markers are locations where you can view Maine alewife runs. The yellow markers are parking locations that aren’t as easy to find for some locations. A few of the alewife locations require following a hiking trail to see the fish. The red markers show the trailheads of the hiking trails, which are outlined in red. Click on any fish icon for more information about the site, including when alewife harvests occur.

For more information about Maine’s alewives, visit

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