Counters hope for banner year for herring 4-25-16

Counters hope for banner year for herring
Wicked Local Eastham
By Rich Eldred
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Posted Apr. 25, 2016 at 7:20 AM

Reports of a massive surge of herring in Orleans are not much exaggerated, although whether the final tally will top those of the recent past will have to wait till May. But just as with the Red Sox, optimism reigns every spring amongst herring counting volunteers Capewide.
Harvesting river herring, a Cape Cod tradition, has been banned statewide since January 2006 when populations plummeted.
"We've had a good run this year," noted Judy Scanlon who is in charge of herring counting at Pilgrim Lake in Orleans. "It was earlier than the nine years I've been doing this, we had a surge on the 18th of March then it fell quickly off and picked up again around April 8, which is when they typically come in. It's the biggest (early run) I've seen in nine years."
Herring generally start swimming upstream when the water temperature hits 50 degrees. A warm March may have jump started in a few locations.
The volunteers in Orleans (as many as 65 a few years ago) will count till the end of May, nine times a day between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. for ten-minute intervals. That sampling protocol is now replicated around the Cape.
Scanlon noted the Orleans counts have crept slowly up since the surveys started in 2008. Unfortunately, that's attracted the attention of another rebounding species.
"There are two harbor seals coming right up into the creek from Lonnie's Pond, up to the road," Scanlon reported. "They're trapping the herring and eating them while I watch. That's the first time I've ever seen seals up the creek."
Orleans had another herring run at Cedar Pond but the salinity there has increased to the point the herring aren't breeding there although white perch still do. Scanlon said that is an artificially created run, by the Rock Harbor Fishery in 1837.
Last year the estimated Pilgrim Lake run size was 4,245 fish (based on 420 actual fish counted). When they started counting the estimated runs were around 1300 fish with an aberrant peak of 5,931 in 2012.
"Around the Cape in 2015 relative to 2014 the numbers were a little bit down," reported Dr. Jo Ann Muramoto of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, who coordinates herring counts Capewide. But 2014 was a good year. On the North Shore (north of Boston) the run sizes were up. "We think the reason is that the herring migrate when water temperatures are between 10 degrees (Celsius) and 20 degrees. If it's warmer than 20 degrees they're no longer migrating. Last year we had a cold late spring so migration was delayed and then the water warmed up quickly to 20 degrees. So that shortened the run on Cape while on the North Shore they had a longer, cooler period."
Not every herring migrates up river to breed. In fact. they only make the trip every three years or so, maybe three or four times during at 10-year life span "Statewide there hasn't been a big rebound," Muramoto said. "But Stony Brook (in Brewster) has increased by a factor of 10."
There were 22,000 fish in 2007 when the count started and last year the estimate was 251,530 (down from 271,000 in 2014). But those number are still far below historic estimates. But Stony Brook has regained the title of number one run on Cape Cod, topping the Mashpee River (206,863). Herring Brook in Eastham recorded 3,204 fish last year, the Herring River in Harwich listed 127,860 (half the previous year's tally) while the Herring River in Wellfleet fell to 18,025.
Stony Brook is now one of the larger runs in Massachusetts (passing the Monument River in Bourne (239,169) and trailing only Mystic River in Boston (477,0000) and the Taunton/Nemasket Rivers which empty into the giant Assawompset Pond in Lakeville, Massachusetts largest natural lake (741,048). Pretty impressive for little Brewster.
"But compared with what they used to be we're still at low levels," Muramoto admitted. "When the National Marine Fisheries Service received the petition to lost river herring as endangered they decided not to but they did agree it was a species of special concern. They need to be managed and protected and more science has to be done to learn about their life cycle and habitat."
Muramoto oversees 200 volunteers and 18 herring counts on Cape Cod with Long Pond in Yarmouth the newest. The herring are now swimming in earnest.
"The herring you see in any year are a mix of different year classes," noted Muramoto. "So the class of 2013 will come back in 2016 and maybe a few from 2012 but every three or four years they come back. Better studies are being done now to tag herring and that's where a lot of information is coming from. Some (runs) have electronic counters like the Herring River in Harwich has just installed. We will compare that with the volunteer counts."
Habitat restoration is ongoing.
"Water quality is likely a more important factor in the survival of young herring than was thought," Muramoto added. "So protecting pond water from excess nutrients is important."
Extra volunteers can still be plugged into the counts. Anyone interested should contact Muramoto at 508-362-4226. The APCC is renovating so it may take awhile for a return call.
The APCC is also hosting Herring Day in Mashpee on Route 130 at the Wampanoag Museum from 10 a.m. to noon April 30, where there are lots of herring-related activities.

From Forum

Herring Public Forum Exemption to Wetland Act for herring protection
DaveC > 25-July-2016

Herring Run Counts 2015 Herring Counts
DaveC > 25-July-2016

Herring Management Town Brook alewives get a free ride to Billington Sea
KnightofNi > 29-April-2016

Herring Public Forum River Herring Migration Series at WHOI
KnightofNi > 30-April-2015

Eels Fines Increased for Herring Poaching
Jones River > 15-April-2015

river herring blog


Save the Date! March 7 Aquatic Invasive Species Workshop

On Wednesday March 7, 2018 the River Herring Network and Middleboro-Lakeville Fisheries...

2017 Annual Meeting Summary

Thank you to all who made the 2017 River Herring Network annual meeting a success!

Seventy three...

Agenda for 2017 Annual Meeting - November 2

Click to download a pdf of the agenda:2017 RHN Annual Meeting -Revised Agenda

The 7th Annual...

NMFS initiates status review of bluebacks and alewife

Several news stories and radio programs announced yesterday and today that the National Marine...

Two MA dam removal projects are awarded funding from NOAA

Two projects in Massachusetts have been awarded 2017 Community-based Restoration Program Coastal...

More Blog Posts