HOLYOKE, Mass. (AP) _ With a little help from man's technology, fish began their annual rite of passage through Holyoke Dam on Thursday.

Every spring since 1955, an automatic elevator has helped lift the fish over the dam and on their way to their spawning waters in the Connecticut River in western Massachusetts.

The elevator uses a system of buckets to catch the fish as they crowd in and hoists them up and over the 52-foot high dam every hour on the hour.

As usual, the fish had a little trouble finding the artificial current that lures them into the buckets, said Raymond P. Douthwright, spokesman for Holyoke Water Power Co., which operates the dam.

Although about 100 shad and other fish were in the dam, Douthwright said, only a 5-pound male shad was on board for the first lift at 9 a.m. He was followed at 11 a.m., by another shad and a blueback herring.

The fish soon catch on each year, officials say. They expect more than a million fish to be lifted over the dam by the elevator this spring.

In the last three years, about 500,000 shad and 500,000 other fish representing 26 other species were lifted.

When the run reaches 40,000 fish a day in about four weeks, the water company will allow the public on its grounds to view the operation.