Important North American food fish (Pomolobus, or Alosa, pseudoharengus) of the herring family. The alewife grows to about 1 ft (30 cm). Most populations spend several years along North America's Atlantic coast before ascending freshwater streams to spawn each spring in ponds or sluggish rivers.
Learn more about alewife with a free trial on Britannica.com.
The alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) is a species of herring. There are anadromous and landlocked forms. The landlocked form is also called a sawbelly or mooneye (although this latter name is more commonly applied to Hiodon spp.). The front of the body is deep and larger than other fish found in the same waters, and its common name is said to come from comparison with a corpulent female tavernkeeper ("ale-wife"). In Atlantic Canada it is known as the gaspereau. More locally, in southwestern Nova Scotia it is called a kiack (or kyack). This fish has, in the past, been used as a baitfish for the lobster fishing industry. It is also used for human consumption, usually smoked. It is caught (during its migration up stream) using large dip nets to scoop the fish out of shallow, constricted areas on its migratory streams and rivers. It is one of the "typical" North American shads of the subgenus Pomolobus. (Faria et al. 2006)