Forage Fish


Rockfish chasing menhaden.

The Pew Charitable Trusts

Menhaden have gotten plenty of attention from the Chesapeake's recreational anglers over the past 10 years (or more), but there's a lot more to the story in this complex ecosystem, whose forage base extends to the Atlantic's continental shelf and even its high seas.

In fact, the Bay's forage base for predator fish was once much larger and more diverse. Restoring both diversity and abundance is critical to rebuilding this ecosystem's carrying capacity. Restoring healthy fish stocks to the Chesapeake will require a combination of cleaner water, more habitat like underwater grass beds and oyster reefs, and a broader forage base.

  • The Pew Charitable Trusts

    • Forage Fish

    Little Fish That Big Fish Eat

    This "Angler's Almanac" column from Chesapeake Bay Magazine, June 2012 is a quick, basic primer on Chesapeake baitfish, published just before the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) enacted a Total Allowable Catch limit on menhaden in the fall of that year.


  • iStock

    • Menhaden

    Menhaden Fact Sheet

    The current "Species" page for menhaden from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission web site includes notes on the current status of the stock and possible future actions. The 2013 coastwide catch for both reduction and bait was firmly within the new Total Allowable Catch (TAC).


  • Jay Fleming/iLCP

    • Shad & Herring

    CBF Letter Requesting Offshore Protection for Shad & Herring

    In the fall of 2013, CBF's Fisheries Program Director Bill Goldsborough sent this letter to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) seeking offshore bycatch protection for river herring and shad, whose stocks are much diminished today but which historically played critical roles in the Chesapeake's forage base.


  • Herring Alliance

    • Shad & Herring

    Mid-Atlantic Managers Further Restrict Bycatch of River Herring and Shad

    The online newsletter, FishTalk, covers the MAFMC's actions this spring to restrict the bycatch of river herring and shad in the offshore Atlantic mackerel fishery.


  • VIMS

    • Bay Anchovies

    Bay Anchovies Fact Sheet

    This article on the Chesapeake's most abundant forage species, the bay anchovy, by Dr. Ed Houde of the University of Maryland's Chesapeake Biological Laborator, takes a good look at the characteristics and ecology of this important little fish—one that does not receive enough credit for its role in this ecosystem.


  • John Surrick/CBF Staff

    • Menhaden

    The Chesapeake's Unsung Hero

    They've been called "the most important fish in the sea." But in 32 of the past 54 years (through 2008), menhaden were overfished, and they are now at their lowest level on record.


  • Jay Fleming/iLCP

    • Menhaden

    Menhaden: Disappearing at An Alarming Rate

    The rockfish population in the Chesapeake Bay is showing signs of malnourishment and increasing mortality. And the problem doesn’t stop there.


  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife

    • River Herring

    River Herring Making a Comeback in Patapsco River

    Traffic roaring by along Interstate 895. A century-long reputation as a dumping ground. The Patapsco River, where it runs beside Baltimore's South West Area Park, hardly seems a likely haven for rare fish. Yet the river this year became the only place around the Bay to stock river herring.


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