Menhaden are silvery, herring-like fish that travel in large
schools along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United
States. Plankton-eaters, menhaden attain a weight of about
three-quarters of a pound.
Flesh is oily and considered inedible for
humans. The fish are caught by purse-seine nets in shallow water and
processed into oil for cosmetics and fish meal for animals,
particularly for poultry. Menhaden support the largest fishery by
volume and the eighth most profitable fishery in the United States.
Spawning is in the ocean. One important spawning site is at
Onslow Bay, North Carolina. Some spawning takes place along the
Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to Florida. The young menhaden first
drifts with currents until it reaches an inlet, then works upstream to
live for the summer near freshwater. In fall, schools move downstream
to permanent ocean residence.