Menhaden is a critical and increasingly important source of bait for commercial and recreational fisheries on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. To meet these demands, the menhaden bait fishery is playing an important and growing role in the menhaden fishing industry.
Menhaden are a popular source of bait for many high profile and valuable fisheries, such as lobster, blue crab, striped bass, and bluefish.
The menhaden bait fishery is largest in the Atlantic, where its share of overall coastwide landings is growing. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), bait landings in the Atlantic menhaden fishery reached an all-time high in 2012, comprising 28 percent of all menhaden landed, or 63,540 metric tons. This represents a significant increase from 2001, where bait comprised only 13 percent of total landings.
The menhaden bait fishery also maintains a small but stable presence in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC) estimates that bait landings account for an average of around 2 percent of the overall Gulf menhaden catch.