Think the traffic is bad on Connecticut Avenue at rush hour? Try being a herring in Rock Creek during spawning season.
If the creek’s water levels are high enough this spring, thousands of herring will make their way north from the Potomac River’s Tidal Basin, swimming against the Rock Creek current to the spots where they’ll release and fertilize their eggs. When they’re done, the adults will turn around and head back to the Potomac, and eventually, the ocean. The hatchlings will then spend several months in Rock Creek before journeying to the Potomac in late summer.
Human commuters benefit from the traffic reports on the radio. The National Park Service apparently thinks the herring could use a hand as well. Behold: Rock Creek Radio.
The herring get more practical help at Peirce Mill, where a fish ladder (visible in the photo below, center-right) provides a conduit around the 12-foot dam.
Marjorie Rachlin, writing about the herring for Forest Hills Connection, says: “My husband used to fish in the Potomac, under Chain Bridge, and he says during some springtime spawning seasons there were so many they were easy to catch. Small (7 inches), full of bones and definitely not tasty, he says. Just as well – fishing is not permitted in the DC part of Rock Creek north of the zoo.”