13 Willow Street, East Machias
On the banks of the East Machias River at the Downeast Salmon Federation’s East Machias location, witness one of the region’s most promising efforts to restore wild Atlantic salmon populations. At the Downeast Salmon Federation’s Peter Gray Hatchery, water is pumped directly from the East Machias River into the former hydroelectric powerhouse that has been renovated into a salmon hatchery and outreach center that’s partially powered by renewable energy. Learn more about the region’s river heritage in the visitor and education center or tour the Peter Gray Hatchery to learn more about Atlantic salmon.
207-483-4336 | www.mainesalmonrivers.org
Year-round (M-F 9-5 or by appointment). Parking. Restrooms. Water access.
The East Machias Aquatic Resource Center is a place for renewal. Where a dam and hydroelectric plant once blocked fish migration on the East Machias River, a new hatchery and watershed research and education facility supports populations of endangered Atlantic salmon and other native fish. Using manipulated water flows, natural feed and other techniques that mimic the natural conditions in the East Machias River, the hatchery raises salmon parr equipped for survival in the wild.
Generations of people—and ospreys—await the return of alewives to the East Machias River in late spring. Alewives spawn in freshwater lakes and ponds upriver. The East Machias has the largest lake area accessible to alewives.
At one time, as with many towns in Maine, the annual rush of alewives in spring provided income to the town. Fishermen scooped alewives with dip nets from perches atop the rapids, or trapped them with brush weirs in tidewater, as many as as 100 barrels in a single day. They packed the alewives in salt for a few days, smoked some over a slow-burning sawdust fire, and shipped them to the West Indies.
Alewives are consumed locally today, thanks to the Aquatic Resource Center’s traditional smokehouse used to prepare “bloaters” (ungutted smoked alewives), a local favorite.
Downeast Fisheries Trail Interpretive Panel
Sources & Links
“A Visit to the Peter Gray Hatchery in East Machias, Maine,” by Truth Muller. Story excerpt: “We are greeted at the door by Brett Ciccotelli, a fisheries biologist for the Downeast Salmon Federation. Ciccotelli leads us through a glass door into a room filled with the sound of quietly whirring pumps and running water. This is the hatching area of the hatchery. Tall varnished wooden boxes sprouting white PVC pipes pour constant streams of water into large, deep plastic pools half covered by white wooden boards. It’s hard to see at first, but as our eyes adjust we can make out hundreds of tiny fish, only about an inch long, sitting on a white disk at the center and bottom of the tank. The water, like the East Machias River outside, is not clear but a dark brown, stained with tannins from leaf litter…” SEE MORE
Whittier, Henry Smith. East Machias 1765-1926. Machias, ME: University of Maine.