A new herring run will be built at the head of Lake Tashmoo, perhaps by next spring. Derick Cimeno, Tisbury shellfish constable, told those attending the annual meeting of the Tisbury Waterways Inc. last week that a herring run in that pond will help improve the water quality and attract sport fish into the pond.
Mr. Cimeno told a gathering of 30 association members Wednesday night that he had just received approval from the state Division of Marine Fisheries, following tests for oxygen in the freshwater pond where the fish will spawn. He said the small pond will support herring.
Building a new herring run at the head of Lake Tashmoo won’t be so difficult as the herring run that took years to build at the head of Lagoon Pond. The Lagoon Pond herring run took eight years from start to finish because it involved a private road, two towns and private property. That project was started in 1984 and wasn’t completed until 1992. It cost more than $20,000.
This herring run will be a lot easier to complete, Mr. Cimeno told the audience. The property at the head of Lake Tashmoo belongs to the town. “If we do it in-house it will be pretty inexpensive, between $5,000 and $10,000,” Mr. Cimeno said, and it could be finished by next spring. Mr. Cimeno said he is working with the town water department and public works over how the construction of the run will be done. “It could be built of concrete or even wood,” Mr. Cimeno said. He said he already has the support of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, an organization that puts on the annual month-long derby and also supports projects that promote the sport.
Mr. Cimeno said the state Division of Marine Fisheries has offered to stock the freshwater pond next spring with herring for four years, to get the fishery started.
Herring are a highly valued bait fish in Vineyard waters. Large-mouth bass and pickerel feed on herring when they are young and growing up in freshwater. Striped bass, bluefish, summer flounder and cod feed on herring when they are in saltwater. Herring are anadromous, which means adult herring must return to a freshwater pond to spawn. It is always the same pond for each fish. It is one of the mysteries of biology, how such a small creature can know precisely where to return each spring.
Herring feed on algae, primarily zooplankton, and they are known to consume a considerable amount as they grow. The highly regarded osprey that fly over the Vineyard all summer feeds on herring. 
Otters and seals are also known to follow schools of herring as they swim in and out of coastal ponds.
Mr. Cimeno told members at the meeting he is already talking with other town officials about the initiative. He said that unlike the Lagoon Pond herring run, which took years to complete because of complex bureaucracy involving two towns and private property, this project should be easier. The head of Lake Tashmoo is owned by the town of Tisbury and support is widespread.
The state Division of Marine Fisheries has already offered to help stock the freshwater pond with the herring to help restore the fishery, he said.
The herring run is on the agenda of the Tisbury water commissioners meeting on Sept. 14.
Ken Reback, a fisheries expert with the state Division of Marine Fisheries, works with communities to help them establish herring runs. There are two runs already on the Vineyard and a total of 144 fish ladders across the state supporting river herring. “It is generally assumed herring feed on phytoplankton and they help control freshwater insects by eating the larva, but we have no firsthand evidence that is true,” he said.
The pond at the head of Lake Tashmoo is about two acres in size, Mr. Reback said. Normally the state assists communities that have freshwater ponds that are at least five acres in size. Mr. Reback said the head of Lagoon Pond is considerably larger. “As a herring run, it will probably never produce as many herring as run at the Head of Lagoon Pond, but it will be contributing.”
The value of a herring run is being talked up in the town of Edgartown. There is rising interest in restoring a herring run at Mattakesett, where there was one many years ago. Groups interested in revitalizing the ecosystem in Edgartown Great Pond are talking about reestablishing the herring run there or one like it.
Mr. Reback said that adding herring runs to the community have a cumulative effect on helping herring reestablish themselves in Massachusetts waters. The herring fishery on Martha’s Vineyard was highly profitable in the spring. Barrels of salted herring were shipped off Island each spring. It is highly unlikely that a herring fishery will ever return to the Island. For those who like to eat fish farther up the food chain, such as striped bass and fluke, a herring run is a good step to support the fisheries.