2017 Fish Migration Count – Volunteer Opportunity

Volunteers are needed to help steward and monitor the alewife migration from Casco Bay up the Presumpscot River, through Mill Brook, and into Highland Lake. The alewife reproduce in Highland Lake and then migrate back out to the ocean. This is the largest and most productive alewife run in Casco Bay.

WHEN: Volunteers are needed to count the spring fish migration, which is typically May to mid-June. Count slots are 30-minutes long during 4 designated time slots each day. Great bird and other wildlife activity can be seen while counting.

WHERE: Westbrook at the Highland/Mill Brook Dam.

HOW: Visually count fish, a short training will be provided.

WHO: The USM Environmental Science and Policy Department is coordinating the project and the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust is a partner. To volunteer contact Maria@prlt.org.


It is a simple and exciting way to volunteer while getting outside and enjoying the local environment.

This May will be the fourth season the USM Environmental Science and Policy Department is coordinating the counting of the alewife (also called river herring) from Casco Bay to reach their spawning habitat at Highland Lake.

Alewife live in the ocean and spawn in freshwater systems and are an important secondary consumer in the Gulf of Maine contributing to the local economy and biodiversity along the Maine coast.

Volunteer fish counts are important for the Maine Department of Marine Resources and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to help estimate the total population.

Quick Facts
Requirements Visual counting of river herring
Time commitment 4 count slots per day from 7-10:00am, 10-1:00pm, 1-4:00pm and 4-7:00pm. Count any 30-minutes during each slot.
Number of Counts 4 counts per day for about 30 days (about 120 total)
Program Time span Early May to mid-June (actual fish migration dates can vary)
Location Highland Lake Dam, Highland Lake, Duck Pond Road, Westbrook, Maine
Sign-up Contact Maria@prlt.org for more information.
Click here to sign up for a volunteer shift.

See Handbook below with more information



Highland Lake Fish Monitoring Volunteer Handbook 

Park your vehicle along the side of Duck Pond Road, Westbrook, Maine (photo above). Watch for passing traffic while getting out of your car and crossing the street.

parking for fish counting

Walk to the site by crossing the bridge, then toward the brown house, and then to the left by walking up the forest stands edge.  Please see the next photograph and description.

walk in to fish counting

Follow the forest stands edge until you see yellow cones that are marking the mini wooden bridge. The mini wooden bridge has some flex to it so please be careful and respectful for your own safety. Please see next photograph and description.

walk in to fish counting 2

Continue along the red arrow until you see the red and black sign. Please see the next photograph and description.

walk in to fish counting 3

Stop just before the red and black danger sign and look to the right, you’ll see an aluminum boat upside down. Underneath the boat you will see a blue-lidded clear tub with some paperwork in it. Go up to the boat and pull out the tub from beneath the boat. Please see next photograph and description.

fish counting supplies

Walk up to the box and slide it from underneath the boat, open it and you will see a stack of papers. There are 3 different documents you will find: 1) the directions to follow while monitoring alewife 2) the master time and data log sheet 3) the personal daily data log sheet. Clip the documents to the clipboard. There should also be a clicker counter in the tub as well. If there is no clicker please use a tallying system until a clicker is available.  Next, bring these items to the alewife monitoring site that is marked by the tip of the red arrow on the next photograph.

fish counting documents 1

Above you can see the site where you count alewife that have reached the top of the fish ladder and are likely going to enter Highland Lake. At the site you will need to have the 3 pages and clipboard earlier mentioned.

fish counting spot

The pictures of migrating alewife shown below are to help familiarize you with what you might see at the monitoring site.

fish counting fish at dam 1

fish counting fish at dam 2