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Alewife Alosa pseudoharengus


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credit: Dryke/CCSA

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Family: Clupeidae, Herrings view all from this family

Description The alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) is a species of herring. There are anadromous and landlocked forms. The landlocked form is also called a sawbelly or mooneye (although this latter name is more commonly applied to Hiodon spp.). The front of the body is deep and bigger than other fish found in the same waters, and its common name is said to come from comparison with a corpulent female tavernkeeper ("ale-wife"). In Atlantic Canada it is known as the gaspereau. More locally, in southwestern Nova Scotia it is called a kiack (or kyack). In the Southeast US, when sold and used as bait, the fish is often referred to as "LY".

Adult alewives are preferred bait for the spring lobster fishery in Maine. It is also used for human consumption, usually smoked. It is caught (during its spawning migration up stream) using large dip nets to scoop the fish out of shallow, constricted areas on its migratory streams and rivers. It is one of the "typical" North American shads of the subgenus Pomolobus. (Faria et al. 2006)

Dimensions Up to 15" (38 cm).

Habitat Ocean or bay shallows, Estuaries, tidal flats & salt marshes, Rivers & streams, Lakes & ponds.

Range Great Lakes, New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Eastern Canada.