National Geographic : 1949 Jun
At Dawn, Gulls and Menhaden Boats Come to Life at Beaufort, North Carolina In the fall of 1948 a record 66 vessels operated in the Morehead City-Beaufort fleet. Among these were a few wartime LCI's refitted for fishing duty. Here the craft receive their crews; purse boats approach on the right. Within two hours they all will be on the fishing banks. been caught. Thus odors are reduced, and fresh fish produce more and better oil. Thirty-one menhaden reducing plants along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts were in operation last year. Menhaden like water from 600 to 70° F.; so activity at the plants largely depends on the temperature of the near-by seas. The plant farthest north is on Long Island. Cold-weather Refuge a Mystery New England sites were abandoned because cold water shortened the fishing season, thus making plant operation unprofitable. Farther south, on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, fisher men are active nearly all year. Scientists disagree on the cold-weather ren dezvous of menhaden. Some believe that the fish spend the winter in or near the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Enormous schools of fish appear off North Carolina and in the Chesapeake Bay areas in March and April, but are not seen until late April and early May off New Jersey and New York. The biggest catches are made in the fall. The fish then are larger and supply seven or eight times as much oil as the spring catch. Many fishermen move as the menhaden appear more abundant at different points along the coast. Last fall there were 66 vessels in operation off North Carolina. I saw boats from points as remote as New York City and Cameron, Louisiana. Swimming in immense schools with heads close to the surface and packed side by side and tier upon tier almost as close as sardines in a tin, menhaden like best the shallow water of the seacoast, the near-by brackish bays and sounds. They have even been known to penetrate streams nearly to fresh water. To get a firsthand glimpse of the menhaden industry, I chose the Morehead City-Beaufort, North Carolina, area on Bogue Sound late in the month of May.* * See "Tarheelia on Parade," by Leonard C. Roy, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, August, 1941.