I have something in common with blueback herring: We have a natural urge to migrate to Tiverton in May.
Since childhood, I have always measured time by the herring run at the Nonquit Fish Ladder.
Scores of New England fish species spend their lives moving between salt and fresh waters.
Anadromous fishes, like the blueback herring, are notable for their mass journeys between marine and fresh water environments, living the greater part of their lives in salt water but spawning in fresh water.
Reaching a maximum size of about 16 inches, they are believed to live up to eight years. They also are capable of migrating long distances of over 1,200 miles.
But pollution, river damming and especially overfishing have drastically reduced their populations, and they are a U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service “Species of Concern.”
The Nonquit Fish Ladder is now closed; and I have to rely on my memories of the springtime ritual to recreate the local herring run.
In early May I drive to the summer house, turning onto Pond Bridge Road and inhaling the familiar earthy scent of freshly tilled soil and sea.
As I approach the Nonquit Pond Dam, I am sandwiched between the sparkling fresh water of the reservoir, the brackish water of the salt marshes and the ocean waters beyond.
Completed in 1943, the dam is 200-feet wide and 8-feet high.
Getting out of the car, I join the other fish-watchers who have come to the shallows where the great schools of migrating blueback herring may be seen.
Arriving in early May, schools of silvery herring go up the Nonquit Fish Ladder, jumping and splashing at the base of the dam on the final leg of their journey to spawn in the pond.
Climbing on the dam, fishermen cast their lines into the water at its base. Most of the buckets are already full of the morning catch.
But just as the fish are nearing their destination, so am I.
Returning to the car, I drive up the hill past the llamas in their paddock and round the hairpin turn that leads to Fogland State Beach.
Taking a left onto High Hill Road, I come to the end of my journey and gaze at the private beach that my family has held deeded beach rights to since 1969.
I am no longer a fish out of water. I am home.