Procreationism and the herring

It’s spring, and the beginning of the John Edwards trial. All in all, a good time to think about the lengths all creatures on earth are willing to go in the name of procreation.

We have, as we speak, a hen sitting on six turkey eggs. She’s been there a week and, with any luck, she’ll be there three more. She gets off the nest once or twice a day to take a bite of food and a sip of water, and to poop. She stretches her legs and wings, and then goes right back to the eggs, before they get cold. Kevin and I check on her a few times each day, and it’s always the same. There’s Queenie, hunkered down in the corner on a big pile of clean hay, completely covering the eggs.

I cannot fathom sitting still for a month. Just sitting! I keep wanting to bring her something to read.

Meanwhile, down the street at the herring run, there are animals going to the opposite extreme.

Herring, like salmon and shad, are anadromous fish. They live in salt water, but swim upstream in rivers to spawn in fresh water.

Swimming from the sea to the spawning grounds has always been a slog – it’s upstream the whole way – and we humans have made it tougher. There are places where our dams and culverts and streets block the route completely, and other places where they merely interfere with the commute. And there are fish ladders.

A herring can’t jump up a four-foot dam, but it can – astonishingly – jump up four one-foot dams. So, down the street from us, and at many other spots on the Cape, thoughtful citizens have built many small dams where one large dam used to be.

We’re having a record herring year, and Kevin and I went down to the run to watch the fish jump up the ladder. It’s an amazing feat of strength for a foot-long fish, and a testament to the power of the drive to reproduce.  So amazing, I went back with the handy-dandy underwater camera and took some video footage.

After watching the fish, in slow motion, hurtling themselves up a dam bigger than they are, I am forced to conclude that John Edwards just ain’t got nothing on a herring.

6 people are having a conversation about “Procreationism and the herring

  1. When I was a kid we would go down to the Herring run here in Plymouth and catch herring and have a fish fry. The fish were so plentiful that you could catch them with your bare hands. Mmmm.. fried fish roe. Love the video… really cool!!

  2. Accidental Mick says:

    One of the many reasons why your blog is a mandatory read for me is that I learn something new so often. I had never come across the word anadromous before (and I love words) or that it applied to herring. Indeed, it was a mild surprise that you have herring on your side of the pond.

    I had always, unthinkly, assumed that because herring have such a strong link to our fishing history ( before we practically fished them out) that they were a European fish.

    Thank you.

  3. Just watched this earlier this morning. Not sure how I missed it. Love that you used Nickel Creek as well! Unless there is another (older) version of that particular tune. It was relaxing to watch it, and I never knew Herring were a fish that needed to “run” upstream.

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