Atlantic menhaden, also known as “bunker”, “fatback”, and “pogey” occupy special ecologic, socioeconomic, and cultural niches along their range from Nova Scotia to Florida. Compact schools of hundreds or thousands may be seen rippling on the surface throughout the Pamlico, often feeding with their snouts and backs above the water.
Adult menhaden average 12-15 inches in length.They spawn in the open ocean throughout the year, where eggs hatch at sea, and are transported to estuaries by ocean currents over one to three months. Menhaden tolerate a wide range of salinity, but are generally associated with higher salinity environments as they grow into adulthood.
Primarily filter feeders on plankton and decaying plant matter, menhaden are thought to be 2nd only to oysters in their capacity to help maintain overall estuarine health. In mid to late summer they are an important food source and provide much needed energy for spawning giant Red Drum and other large fish in the Pamlico system.