The hunt for red snapper is set to begin in October.
Anglers know a pogy when they smell one.
It’s as fishy as fishy comes. For my money, it’s the fishiest fish in the sea.
And according to some, pogies — more properly called Atlantic menhaden — are the “most important fish in the sea.” They’re known by as many as five different names, depending on where you fish. I grew up in Jensen Beach and called them bunker.
I can’t argue they’re importance. The food web has several critical links in it and in the Atlantic Ocean, menhaden are one of those foundation links tying so many species together as a commonly shared food source.
Menhaden school in large numbers along the coastal regions of the United States and Canada and can be found from Nova Scotia to South Florida. Typically, they are found just offshore within a mile or two of the beach, but sometimes schools of menhaden can be found roaming estuaries like the Indian River Lagoon.
They are extremely oily. The small fish only measures up to about 12 inches long at its largest. At the water’s surface, a school of menhaden looks kind of like a school of threadfin herring (greenies), silver mullet or scaled sardines (pilchards or white bait). But there are two telltale signs that immediately differentiate it: the smell and the oil slick.
I’ve seen a school of menhaden produce a slick on the surface of the water which could make you think an oil tanker sank in the Intracoastal Waterway. I’ve been with anglers who will stop fishing when they get a whiff of a school of menhaden in order to cast net a few for the live well.
I’ve fished with kingfish tournament pros hoping to land a 40-pounder who would drip menhaden oil out of an IV bag to create a 2-mile long chum slick behind…