SABATTUS — Despite a turbulent past in Sabattus Pond, alewives poured from the back of a Department of Marine Resources truck Tuesday morning.
Alewives, a type of herring, have been native to Maine waters until dams thwarted their spawning efforts upriver. Tuesday's restocking was harvested from the dam in Brunswick.
The alewives brought to Sabattus Pond will grow, spawn and head downriver in search of Casco Bay to retire. It's a one-way trip, making the fish seasonal residents.
According to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, alewives, which have been stocked since the 1970s, were reintroduced to Sabattus Pond in 1983, but efforts to restock the fish were halted in 1986 due to area residents' concerns.
In 1985, the Lewiston Daily Sun ran an article highlighting the dissent of the Sabattus Lake Association over alewife dumping, blaming the herring for substantial algae blooms.
Twelve years later, despite fear, loathing and superstition, alewives were again tossed into Sabattus Pond, apparently with little notice.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection worked to allay fears that alewives increase algae. Concerns still exist, however, if only for reasons of sport fishing and ecology.
Former director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine George Smith paused before responding to the initial reason for ousting the alewife from Sabattus Pond.
"I find that bizzare," Smith said, responding that the most likely cause for the blooms would have been runoff entering the pond — a problem Smith feels the state has made progress on.
Smith said the landlocked variety of alewife could become detrimental to sport fishing, but that the variety being released in rivers are strictly oceanic.
"The whole ecosystems have been changed," said Smith, speaking of larger detriments to sport fishing. He said the only big problem Sabattus Pond faces was a change made long ago.
Referring to Sabattus Pond as a "pike fishery," Smith pointed to the fresh water predator as any real reason for the decline of bass. The introduction of alewives, according to Smith, will only lead to bigger pike.
Ray Boies, of the Bronzeback Mainiacs fishing club in Lewiston, took the news of alewife restocking with a sarcastic, "That's awesome."
Boies, whose club is holding a bass tournament on Sabattus Pond on June 8, said, "It's going to make fishing tougher because they'll eat that (alewives)."
Boies is concerned that well-fed bass with a taste for alewives will want little to do with an angler's gear.
After stating that alewife reintroduction has never proven successful, Boies added, "If they get another algae bloom, they'll have their proof."
"If anything," Boies said, "the pike are going to go crazy," referring to thousands of alewives in the water — relatively large, slow prey compared to bass.
Upon further reflection, Boies said that having alewives, bass and pike in one pond will make "good fishing for the kids."
Bryan Mooney of the Maine Country Bassers in Androscoggin and Cumberland County, is planning a fishing tournament at Sabattus Pond on August 25.
Mooney is optimistic about the stocking of alewives. "As a bass fisherman, a bigger alewife population means bigger bass."
"I fish Sabattus (Pond) quite a bit," Mooney said. Over the years, he explained, he has found that bass fishing at the pond has steadily improved.