SCIENTIFIC NAME: Brevoortia patronus

CHARACTERISTICS: The Gulf menhaden’s scales overlap so much that their exposed margins are much taller than they are wide. Most individuals have a prominent black shoulder spot and several small spots beneath the dorsal fin. This fish’s lateral profile is unlike that of any other species in Alabama: The deepest part of the body is about midway between the pectoral fin base and tips. The pelvic fin has seven rays; the pectoral fin has an axillary process at its base. Gulf menhaden are fast-swimming, planktivorous fishes with gill structures modified to enhance their feeding efficiency. Individual gill rakers on the lower limb of each gill arch are two to three times longer than the gill filaments, and they are equipped with many small, hook-shaped appendages that, when attached, presumably hold the rakers in place. Raker length and structure provide an ingenious filtering system for catching the vast quantities of food these mobile fishes need. The back is grayish black; the sides vary from light green to orange; the venter is white. The fins vary from clear to lemon yellow.

ADULT SIZE: 5.1 to 7.9 in (130 to 200 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Gunter (1945) indicates that Gulf menhaden were never collected in waters of low salinity, a characteristic of estuaries or partially tidal waters. We have collected this species in salt water, in Chickasaw Creek (a western tributary to the Mobile Delta), and in several tributaries to the lower Tombigbee River. Because of this fish’s apparent ability to enter fresh water, future sampling may document its presence in the lower Alabama River, particularly during periods of saltwater intrusion in late summer.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Most inland records of this species are from large rivers. Small individuals have been taken by seining along sandbars at night. Available information indicates that mass spawnings may occur in late winter or early spring in open water. Young menhaden generally migrate near shore to feed and grow, as evidenced by their abundance in these areas in late summer.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: The Gulf menhaden was described by Goode in 1878.

Brevoortia means in honor of James Carson Brevoort.

Patronus means protector.

The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division protects this fish from capture or possession.