There was a time when large Menhaden schools were a common sight from the VA Beach fishing pier and just about anywhere along the coast. The waters were filled with dark shadowy concentrations of these fish that are necessary to maintaining healthy populations of game fish, Dolphins and Whales and supplying other industries, such as fertilizer, fish oil supplements and pet food, with a sustainable resource.
Atlantic menhaden have been an important part of the economy and sport fishing industries for hundreds of years. These plankton feeders also help remove plant waste that can mess-up the quality of water that we use for so many activities. Different areas have their own regional names, such as mossbunker, bunker, and pogy, but the heavy fishing pressure of recent years has definitely affected the commercial and recreational sides of the fishing industry.
One of the most popular uses of Menhaden from the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier over the Summer months is hooking a fresh Menhaden to a float or pin rig , which allows the bait to swim (hopefully in a natural manner) away from the pier. This method is the best way to hookup with larger gamefish, like Cobia, King Mackeral, Red Drum and other large predators. Other fish, especially Spot and small Bluefish, can also be used.
Wire and monofilament can both be used for these specialized rigs. One or two extremely sharp hooks are generally inserted into the bait, plus sometimes a treble hook is used as a trailer. Water clarity plays a part because if the fish see something that doesn’t seem right they might swim away and hunt other prey. Many a pier angler has watched a big fish swim around their bait and end up not striking or biting the bait in half without hitting a hook.
As you can see in the illustration on the left, this type of rigging involves two lines, one being used as an outrigger.
We need to manage the Menhaden fishery a lot closer in the coming years to help ensure a healthy population continues thrive in coastal waters.
Visit the VA Beach pier almost any day and see the abundant sea life we have in our area.