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Chesapeake Bay Workboats
The Development of the Deadrise Workboat
Harvesting the Bounty
Suggested Reading

Chesapeake Bay -
Our History and Our Future
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Harvesting the Bounty

Menhaden Fishing

Menhaden
Menhaden
Method of pursing the seine
Method of pursing the seine
Menhaden, which are too oily and bony to eat, are caught for industrial purposes. They are sold as bait or they can be processed into an oil used in printing ink, plastics, building materials, and animal feed. For this to be profitable, many thousands of menhaden must be caught at once, far more than one person could handle.
A Menhaden Fishing Steamer
A Menhaden Fishing Steamer

Watermen may call menhaden by the nicknames of "bunker," "bugeye," or "pogie." Menhaden swim near the surface of the water in schools as large as a football field. A small striker boat locates the school of menhaden out in the bay. The mother vessel drops two smaller purse seine boats into the water. Holding opposite ends of a very long net, the two boats travel in a circle around the school of menhaden, trapping the fish inside the net. Then the net is pursed, or closed at the bottom.

In years past, the mother vessel would use its mechanical arms to raise the nets full of fish. Today, huge suction vacuums will pull the fish out of the closed net directly into refrigerated containers on the larger boat. The striker boat has been replaced by an airplane and most purse seine fishing today is done by large companies, not independent watermen.

Menhaden fishing fleet with striker boat away, 1930 Menhaden Fishing Pursing the net Hauling in the purse seine net, 1930
Menhaden fishing fleet with striker boat away, 1930 Menhaden Fishing Pursing the net Hauling in the purse seine net, 1930


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