Hidden window to migrating inside Bosher's Dam

By Andrew Freiden - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – It's a big time of year for the native fish of the James River. The shad are swimming upstream to spawn. But first they have to pass one big obstacle -- Bosher's Dam.

Thousands of people take the Willey Bridge every day going north and south but if you are a fish and you are trying to head west over Bosher's Dam, you have to go through the fish ladder.

Nothing passes by there without Alan Weaver knowing about it.  He monitors the fish from this tiny room.

"To have the window in the river," he said. "It's a neat thing to get a chance to look into their world."

Up until 10 years ago, fish heading upstream were blocked by Bosher's Dam. Now, they swim through this series of pools -- and past this 5-inch thick window.  A webcam and video recorder catches all the action.

"We've passed at least one million fish of 23 different species through the fishway," Weaver said.

It's a superhighway for fish, but the native American shad doesn't show up as often as hoped.  The American Shad, prized for its meat and its roe, hasn't recovered after its population cratered in the 1970s.

"It took a long time for that population to dwindle off and it's going to take some patience and ... before we can possibly have a commercial harvest again," Weaver said.

The shad is born in the James, but grows up in the ocean.  It migrates back up the James to spawn. Alan hopes with another 10 years, the shad will be more plentiful in these waters.

You can't just drive your car here and park, you need to take a canoe or kayak around the dam. As you go down or upstream, you can catch a glimpse as you are walking by, or you can sneak into an infrequent tour.

If you don't want to paddle there, check the link to the "shad cam" where you can view the fishway.

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