Menhaden, a North American fish of the herring family, and genus alosa (Cuv.), which differs from the herrings (duped) in having a deep notch in the centre of the upper jaw. This fish (A. menhaden, Storer), called also hardhead and mossbunker bv fishermen, varies in length from 8 to 14 in.; the color above is greenish brown, darkest on the top of the head and at the snout; upper part of sides roseate with indistinct bluish mottlings, disappearing after death; abdomen silvery, gill covers cupreous, a black spot upon the shoulders, and the whole surface iridescent. The body is elongated and compressed, the gill covers very large, eyes moderate, gape large, and lower jaw the shorter. This species comes into Massachusetts bay in May, and departs in November; great quantities are taken in nets around the outer islands of Boston harbor during the night; sometimes 100 barrels are taken at one haul, and such as are not ground up for bait are sold for food at about half a cent each; being rather oily, they are not very palatable, but make excellent manure.
A single menhaden of common size is considered equal in richness to a shovelful of barnyard manure; in some parts of Cape Cod they are sold at $1 a thousand, and 2,500 are considered sufficient for an acre of land; the odor arising from their decomposing bodies is almost unendurable. They are found from the British provinces to the coast of New Jersey, swimming in countless numbers near the surface, and attended by sharks, bluefish, gulls, and other predaceous species. They are never found in fresh water. - Menhaden oil is of value, being used principally in leather dressing, but also to some extent in rope making and for painting. The scrap or refuse, after extracting the oil from the boiled tish, is used in the manufacture of fertilizers. The business of catching menhaden for oil and guano has within 15 years assumed extensive proportions. It is carried on from Maine to New Jersey, and is especially prominent in the E. portion of Long Island. They are caught chiefly in purse nets as far out as 30 m. from land, but also in shore seines and other nets. Those taken on the Maine coast yield more oil than those caught further south.
In 1873 there were 62 factories in operation on the coast of New York and New England, employing 383 sailing vessels and 20 steamers, with 2,306 men on shore and at sea; capital invested, $2,388,000; total catch, 1,193,100 barrels (250 fish to a barrel), yielding 2,214,800 gallons of oil and 36,299 tons of guano; value of products, about $1,600,000.
Menhaden (Alosa menhaden).