World Fish Migration Day at the Plymouth Herring Run Festival

This past Saturday was the third World Fish Migration Day. With over 550 events occurring across 63 countries, it has turned into a global phenomenon! The event is beginning to feel like Christmas for me, but it only happens every other year. I took the opportunity to explore a local event with my family on one of the first nice weekends we’ve had this year.

As a parent, one of my greatest hopes is to foster in my child a sense of love and appreciation for nature.  Will has been growing up around fish, he sees them every day and can’t get enough of them. I think that’s a good start. When asked if he wanted to take a ride to go look for some fish, he grabbed his shoes to run out the door. He couldn’t wait to go!

Even though we’ve lived in the area for years, this was our first time attending the Plymouth Herring Run Festival and I wasn’t sure what to expect. When we went to the Middleboro River Herring Festival last year I was disappointed that there was almost no mention of the animal that the festival is supposed to celebrate. It was little more than a craft fair next to a river where river herring swim. That was not the case in Plymouth.

My son and I at the entrance to the 2018 Plymouth Herring Run Festival

We arrived shortly after the event began and found the parking lot packed.  I was amazed to see so many in attendance. People from all over the region came to see these amazing little fish on their return to Town Brook.

Plimoth Grist Mill at Jenney Pond

The Plimoth Grist Mill is an historic site maintained by the Plimoth Plantation. Rebuilt in 1970, this replica of the original 1600’s corn grinding mill is fully operational. The mill is located on the banks of Town Brook and features a beautiful walking path along the brook.

Plimouth Grist Mill at Jenney Pond

If you find yourself on a sightseeing tour in Plymouth, consider stopping by since it is less than a half mile from Plymouth Rock. The Grist Mill offers tours and has a little gift shop where you can purchase organic corn meal that was ground on location. Try the corn meal cookies with cranberries for a unique sweet treat.

View of the Plymouth Herring Run Festival booths as you enter the property

There was a very limited number booths at the festival, but I was happy to see that they were representing organizations that are conservation-focused, and many were locally-based. Government agencies involved in diadromous species management were also present, including NOAA and Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

NOAA and NOAA Fisheries invest in local projects to remove or improve aging dams, install fish ladders, and restore rivers.
Contemplating river herring with John Sheppard (MA DMF)

John Sheppard from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries was staffing their table for the day. We caught up on some of his on-going American shad work and discussed the electro-fishing field work that will be starting soon. In addition to the wealth of information he had to offer, the state provided coloring books, posters, and stickers.

Fishing for plastic fish. Good training for the real thing… next year?

There were many educational booths with fun activities for kids. Will was able to color in a river herring (now proudly displayed at my desk), go fishing in a kiddie pool, and even pet some animal pelts.

Dried corn box at the Grist Mill. Sometimes the simple things are the best!

We couldn’t get him away from the corn! He spent a good 30 minutes just digging through and sifting the kernels.

Snack break. I have no idea where he learned to eat hot dogs like this!

While the booths were interesting, fun, and educational, we really came to see the river herring on their spawning migration.

Fish pass at the Plimoth Grist Mill

Behind the mill is a balcony overlooking the brook. From this spot you can see hundreds of river herring swimming around, waiting to go up the fish pass.  Will was so excited to see so many fish that he was hopping for joy! I lifted him up to the balcony for a better view and could see he was mesmerized by the experience. I to pry him off the railing when it was time to go, he did not want to leave his new fish friends.

The river herring waiting to swim up the fish pass.
Hundreds of river herring below the Plimoth Grist Mill on April 21, 2018

While watching the river herring a number of people tried tossing pieces of their hot dog buns at the fish. River herring don’t eat bread. That didn’t stop grown adults from trying repeatedly….

Waking path along Town Brook in Plymouth
Some of the minor rapids on Town Brook that the river herring have to climb over
Stretches of Town Brook are calm and flat, giving the river herring a little rest during their spawning migration.

The Plymouth Herring Run Festival was a great event that I plan on coming to again next time. Although not as large or commercialized as some of the other spring festivals in the area, I prefer it that way. It gives the impression that the people of Plymouth are proud of their brook and their fish, and this festival allows them to share the amazing resource with the public. The festival is a perfect example of what World Fish Migration Day is meant to do: create awareness on the importance of open rivers and migratory fish.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *