Saturday, January 13, 2018

River Herring and the Fish Wardens that watch over them.

River herring live in the North Atlantic during the year and enter coastal fresh water rivers to spawn each spring.  The adults lay eggs in headwater ponds and in the rivers, then return to the ocean.  The eggs hatch within a few weeks and the young fry live in the breeding waters for a few months.  Then they make their way to the ocean where they will live for three or four years before making their own first spawning run.

The Taunton River/Nemasket River herring run the largest herring run and spawning area in Massachusetts.  Our river herring enter through Narragansett Bay, swim up the Taunton and Nemasket Rivers, and spawn in the pristine 5000 acre Assawompset Pond Complex.  The Nemasket River traditionally hosts a run of approximately half a million fish in recent years.  Herring have been part of Middleborough and Lakeville history since primitive times and played an important role in the area economics, agriculture, sport fishing and commercial fishing.

The Middleborough-Lakeville herring run is protected by seven volunteer fish wardens appointed by the selectmen of both towns.  The wardens and several volunteer observers work to protect and improve the herring habitat through sound management practices and public education.  They monitor and count herring during the annual migration, administer the herring catching program and coordinate habitat protection issues with other boards, the state and interested public groups.  Funding comes solely from the sale of herring permits (which has not happened since the 2006 ban on herring catching).

By Dave Cavanaugh, Fish Warden, Middleboro, MA