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Menhaden Matter by Mary Syrett

First you see the birds – gulls, terns, cormorants and ospreys – flying low overhead, then swooping down into an expanse of water dimpled as if by large raindrops. Then, silvery flashes erupt on the surface from thousands of small herring-like fish called menhaden. More birds arrive and the air soon rings with their shrill cries. Menhaden are the most important fish caught along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, exceeding the tonnage caught of all other species.

Mossbunker, pogy, fatback, skipjack and other descriptive names have been used to describe the menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus). Three species are common in salt waters, but all are similar in appearance. The Atlantic Menhaden is slightly larger than its Gulf counterparts, which are the Gulf Menhaden and the Yellowfin Menhaden. Their spots distinguish the latter two: a lone prominent spot behind the gill cover of the Yellowfin, as opposed to a

Photo by Jim Herity, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk

Menhaden travel in large schools. 149

May 2012 Tidewater Times  

May 2012 Tidewater Times magazine

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