[These photos came from a blog by A. Phillippi http://www.unity.edu/facultypages/aphillippi/alwife.htm]
In colonial times, villagers could scoop up enough fish in the two-week run to feed the village for the winter. Alewives were preserved by smoking, and there is still a small, surprisingly sweet-smelling smokehouse. Today, alewives serve as bait for Maine's lobster industry, which brings in close to one million pounds of lobster in a good year.
To count the alewives, volunteers stand with a clicker at the narrow top chute into the lake. For the first ten minutes of each hour, a volunteer counts the fish as they shoot through the last opening. Standing nearby, I counted 30 fish in one minute. A fish every two seconds for two weeks would be just over 600,000 fish, but the actual estimate for this year is about 350,000.
Maine has long cold winters and rocky soil, but seeing the alewife run gave me an insight into the marine riches and steady protein source that might have made the midcoast an attractive place for colonists to settle.