Contacts: Brad Chase, John Sheppard, Ben Gahagan, Sara Turner, Ed Clark

American Eel Young-of-the-Year Monitoring

Glass eels and elvers

All East Coast states conduct standardized monitoring of young-of-the-year (YOY) American eels under mandatory ASMFC protocols. We have been monitoring spring migrations of YOY eels since 2001 to contribute to a coastwide index of eel population relative abundance.We also install and monitor eel ramps in Massachusetts coastal rivers; the first one was installed in the Saugus River in 2007. Most ramps are outfitted with a collection tank to evaluate the performance of the eel ramp and the potential to use the location as a monitoring station for census counts of YOY eels. Eel ramps with cooperative monitoring efforts are: Saugus River in Saugus (started in 2007), Cold Brook in Harwich (2008), Wankinco River in Wareham (2008), Pilgrim Lake in Orleans (2009), Mystic Lakes Dam in Medford (2010), and Mill Brook in Rockport (2012). Local groups help at each site with collecting and transporting juvenile eels upstream.


Biological Assessment of River Herring

River herring Devine

Dedicated monitoring is annually conducted for river herring (this includes alewife, Alosa pseudoharengus, and blueback herring, Alosa aestivalis), historically the most abundant and valuable diadromous fish in Massachusetts. Fish collections have been showing us that fewer older fish are being collected and fish are apparently smaller at age than in past years. In particular, the age structure of alewives appears to have shifted to younger fish. MarineFisheries provides assistance to local groups conducting volunteer, visual counts of herring runs. Monitoring occurred in 28 towns representing eight major drainage areas.



Fish Passage and Restoration Projects

Backhoe fish restoration

We continue to restore older fish passages and build new ones where they are needed. Check out the list of new, ongoing, and completed restoration projects.






Fishway Permitting and Operation and Maintenance Plans

Fish ladder

The general laws of Massachusetts (Chapter 130, Section 19) prescribe the authority of the Division’s Director to prepare and require fishway operation and maintenance plans. The documentation of management practices for fishways is needed for present operations and to guide future state and local staff.





Major Restoration Projects

Rebuilding fishway

We have completed a number of multi-year fish passage and habitat restoration projects. These projects cover a wide range of coastal rivers in Massachusetts and include both fish ladders and eels ramps where appropriate.







River herring

Efforts to re-establish, augment, and enhance natal anadromous runs to promote propagation means trapping and transporting pre-spawning adult river herring by stocking truck (or lifted above a barrier) into coastal systems throughout the Commonwealth. We've also worked with the USFWS-Central New England Fisheries Resource Office to continue restoration efforts of American shad to the Charles River watershed. In contrast to the recent past, young-of-year as well as adult shad have been observed more in the Charles River, meaning that these fish are most likely finding spawning grounds again.



Rainbow Smelt


Rainbow smelt are a popular sport fish in Massachusetts and important forage for many species of fish and wildlife. Smelt population declines since the 1980s prompted MarineFisheries to initiate spawning run monitoring in 2004. In-stream fyke nets are used to provide a relative index of population abundance and age-structure data. A five-year grant from the NOAA Office of Protected Species, Species of Concern Project supported the fyke net project for 2008–2012, including a full-time technician position. Following the conclusion of the grant in 2012, field monitoring in 2013 was reduced from nine to six stations given the staff reduction. In 2014, the project committed to long-term monitoring at four fyke net stations, all of which had smelt. To date, over 35 other species of fish have been caught in the fyke nets, including 10 diadromous species.

Technical Assistance

Parker River Herring Devine
MarineFisheries provides routine technical assistance to local authorities, private organizations, and other agencies on topics related to diadromous fish resources. Effort spent on such technical assistance can amount to relatively few hours for individual inquiries and requests, or dedicated efforts related to specific tasks such as river herring habitat assessments.