Opportunities to View River Herring in Massachusetts

Seeing the herring runs in Massachusetts, you’ll begin to appreciate the amazing life cycle and challenges that these fish face as they move between ocean and river habitats.

Several fishways are open in eastern Massachusetts where you can see river herring during their migration. Take your friends and family this spring and enjoy. Bring a camera!

Source: A Guide to Viewing River Herring in Coastal Massachusetts.
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

Jenny Grist Mill Dam and Fishway – Town Brook – Plymouth

This stream has been the subject of an ongoing restoration effort involving local, state and Federal agencies. A notched weir-pool fishway, that operates at Jenny Grist Mill, facilitates the passage of river herring past the mill. To date this program has resulted in improvements to one fishway, adult stocking in the headwater pond and removal of an impassable dam. In addition to river herring, smelt and smelt eggs have been observed in the lower reaches of the brook.
Location: Spring Lane off Summer Street (Downtown Plymouth).
Viewing Dates: April 20 – May 20

Wareham Street Dam and Fishway – Nemasket River – Middleboro

The Nemasket River supports the largest river herring run in Massachusetts. Estimates based on visual counts by volunteers have consistently exceeded one million fish per year. The primary reason for the large size of this run is the availability of over 5,000 acres of spawning and nursery habitat in the upper reaches of the Nemasket River. The fishway at Wareham Street is a large weir-pool ladder that was designed and constructed by MarineFisheries 1996. The Nemasket River fishery is managed j jointly by the towns of Lakeville and Middleborough through their herring committee.
Location: Wareham Street off Route 105 (Main Street) – downtown.
Viewing Dates: April 1 – May 2

Woolen Mill Dam and Fishway – Parker River – Newbury

This is a relatively small run (currently under 10,000 herring) but it is one of the few on the North Shore that is accessible for viewing. The fishway is located just a short distance off the side of Central Street at the Woolen Mill Dam. Parking is difficult so this site may not be ideal for large groups. The Woolen Mill Dam is the first of six dams on the Parker River and each one is provided with a fishway to provide passage to the headwaters in Pentucket Pond.
Location: Central Street at Parker River, near intersection with Orchard Street.
Viewing Dates: April 15 – May 15

Watertown Dam and Fishway – Charles River –Watertown

The Charles River supports one of the largest blueback herring runs in the Commonwealth and is being used as a donor population for restoration efforts in the Neponset and Ipswich Rivers. The Watertown Dam is the second of numerous dams located along the length of the Charles River, and extensive efforts by Marine Fisheries and other agencies have been made to provide access to upstream spawning habitat. Fish passage is now provided at each dam up to river mile 20.
Location: Department of Conservation & Recreation – River Front Park off California Street.
Viewing Dates: May 15 – June 15

Jackson Square Dam and Fishway - Back River-Weymouth

Located in Weymouth’s historic district (Jackson Square), the herring run has played an important role in the city’s history as the herring was both a prized and protected resource. The new fishway is a weir-pool design built in the 1990’s by Marine Fisheries. The run begins at Whitman’s Pond, and flows through and under the Iron Hill area, passing under Commercial Square. It flows past the town incinerator, into Back River and out to sea.
Location: Intersection of High Street, Water Street and Pleasant Street, East Weymouth.
Viewing Dates: April 20 – May 15


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