Check Out the Westfield, MA, Fish Ladder Camera!

Each spring, the Massachusetts Dept. of Fisheries & Wildlife monitors fish passages at hydroelectric dams on the Westfield and Merrimack Rivers. These efforts allow biologists to monitor the number of anadromous fish, such as herring and alewives, traveling upstream.

Fish passage facilities, including fish lifts and fish ladders, allow fish to swim upstream of dams. Without these structures, anadromous fish would be cut off from their spawning habitat. Through a federal permitting process, MassWildlife works with dam owners where hydroelectric power is produced to ensure safe, timely, and effective passage of anadromous fish. ​

This year, a new system was installed on the Westfield River to record digital video of fish traveling upriver. As fish exit the fish ladder, they pass an underwater window and are caught on camera. The American Shad run on the Westfield averages 4,000, but has been as high as 10,000. Sea lamprey, American eel, smallmouth bass, river herring, white suckers, carp and several species of trout also travel upstream using the fish ladder. To date, the camera has recorded all of these fish species and even a beaver on its journey upstream! Technicians will review the video footage and count fish at a later date. A similar camera system has been operating at the first dam on the Merrimack River in Lawrence, MA for several years. This technology is allowing monitoring to continue despite the COVID19 pandemic.