Alewife are found in coastal waters as well as lakes and streams that feed the Atlantic Ocean. The most effective method for catching Alewife is casting and vertical jigging using Sabiki rigs. Peak season for catching Alewife is June through August.


Region: South, Northeast
Habitat: Ocean, Bay, Lake, Stream

How to identify an Alewife

Alewives have gray-green backs, which transition into silver flanks and abdomens. Their tails are forked, and they have a dark marking behind the eyes. The body of the alewife is slender. They generally grow up to about 11” long and weigh up to ½ pound, though the ones that spawn repeatedly can be up to 14” long and weigh in at 1-1 ½ pounds.

Where to catch Alewife

Alewife are both freshwater and saltwater fish. They live in ocean waters but migrate inland to freshwaters during the spawning season. These fish are found in the Atlantic Ocean and in inland rivers, streams, and lakes from North Carolina up to Newfoundland. Although they spend the majority of their time in the ocean, they migrate into inland freshwater during spawning season. There are landlocked alewives in the Great Lakes and some states along the Atlantic on the east coast. In the early spring, alewife migrate up through the coastal rivers and streams that feed into Connecticut’s Long Island Sound for spawning.

Range: South, Northeast
Alewife Fishing Map

The following are habitats where you can catch Alewife:

How to catch Alewife

When fishing for alewifes, many anglers opt for either a cast net or a Sabiki rig. A cast net can work well in rivers or when it is dark. Sabiki rigs work well from the end of June through the rest of the fishing season. The regulations around the use of cast nets and Sabiki rigs vary for each state, so it’s advisable to check before deciding which to use. The following are fishing methods and techniques for catching alewife.

Best Lures, Bait & Tackle to catch Alewife

The alewife’s diet consists mainly of zooplankton, leaving little in the way of baits to use. Anglers often catch them using small lures such as jigs and flies and also by dip-netting them in streams where they are spawning. The following are fishing lures, bait and tackle that can be used to catch Alewife.