Fish That Run and Jump

Fish That Jump

I’ve been meaning to check out the herring run ever since I read THE RUN by John Hay a few years ago and I finally remembered to do it this spring!

Alewife are a type of herring here on Cape Cod that live in the ocean and swim up streams in the spring to spawn in fresh water ponds. Seems like an ideal life for a fish! They enjoy all the excitement of ocean life but spend there childhood in calm ponds. This lifestyle is not easily achieved though. 

I really enjoyed this book which is part observation part research on the history and habits of these highly athletic fish. I would definitely recommend it. Alewife used to be a dietary staple on Cape Cod but fell out of favor. They are very easy to catch because they swim in such mass through narrow streams and for a long time people were allowed to take barrels of them for bait but over the years their populations dwindled and they are now a protected specie. You can still see them in several places on Cape Cod. We saw a few at the picturesque Paine’s Creek in Brewster but the ones jumping were hard to see in the deep natural flumes. We did see lots of jumpers at Bell’s Neck in Harwich!

Herring runs have pools separated by flumes. The fish seem to spend a lot of time resting in these pools. For each successful jump we observed at least a dozen unsuccessful ones. When a fish makes an attempt it flaps its fins so fast you can actually hear a buzzing sound. And for as hard as their journey is they also have to watch out for the circling Herring Gulls above!

Turns out they really like jumping to The Beach Boys! Check out my video…

Here’s to a successful spawning season!


I'm a practical mom inspired by nature & I enjoy sharing ideas that encourage kids' innate curiosity & creativity. Interested in subscribing? Check out the blue box at the top of my sidebar. I'm also a wannabe author/illustrator & product designer by day. Let's connect! If you purchase through my Amazon links I get a small commission at no additional cost to you (thanks for supporting Doodles and Jots)! And remember to always credit your source here & elsewhere on the internet.


  1. Great balance between sheltered childhood and the excitement of the ocean as they mature! I’ve seen salmon swimming upstream but didn’t know other fish did the same. Fascinating!

    • Alewife are a kind of herring that also swim up stream. Salmon must be amazing to see, they are so much bigger!

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