Brevoortia patronus

Gulf menhaden



Type Locality

Brazos Santiago, Texas (Goode 1879).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Brevoortia: named in honor of James Carson Brevoort of Brooklyn, New York; patronus: from patron, in reference to the parasitic isopod, Olencira praegustator which is often present (Ross 2001).



Brevoortia patronus Goode 1879:39; Cook 1959; Hildebrand 1963:365.

Brevoortia tyrannus patronus Evermann 1899:309.



Maximum size:  265 mm, (10 in) TL (Ross 2001).


Coloration: Back is bluish gray to green, and the sides are silvery. Dark humeral spot present usually with other smaller spots posterior to it. The spots are found on  fish larger than 50-75 mm (2-3 in) SL (Ross 2001).


Teeth count:  No information at this time.


Counts: Dorsal fin soft rays 17-21; anal fin soft rays 20-23; pectoral fin soft rays 14-17; ventral scutes 29-31 (Ross 2001).


Body shape: Relatively deep-bodied, laterally compressed (Ross 2001).


Mouth position: No information at this time.


External morphology: No information at this time.


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution:  Widespread in estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico, ranging from the Yucatan Peninsula to Tampa Bay, Florida (Christmas et al. 1983).


Texas distribution: No information at this time.


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, Non-governmental organizations)

No information at this time.


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: An estuarine species that moves into brackish or fresh water, especially in the juvenile stages (Ross 2001).


Mesohabitat: No information at this time.



Spawning season: October to April, with most spawning activity in January and February (Turner 1969; Christmas et al. 1983; Lassuy 1983).


Spawning habitat: Spawn in offshore marine waters (Turner 1969; Christmas et al. 1983; Lassuy 1983). However, actual spawning has not been observed nor have sites been delineated (Christmas et al. 1983).


Reproductive strategy: No information at this time.


Fecundity: The number of eggs ranges from 22,000 to 122,000 per female, depending upon  size (Suttkus and Sundararaj 1961).


Age at maturation: No information at this time.


Migration:  The majority of juvenile fish leave the estuaries as the water cools below 20°C (68° F) in the fall, during this time, immigrants from the following year-class may begin entering shallow nursery areas. Immigration into coastal areas peaks in late winter and early spring, and usually ceases by April (Christmas et al. 1983; Marotz et al 1990).


Longevity: Generally, do not live beyond four years (Ross 2001).


Food habits:  Larval fish feed on small zooplankton and some phytoplankton (Govoni et al. 1983). At about 21 mm (.80 in), juveniles change from selective predators to nonselective filter feeders, consuming phytoplankton, bacteria, and small zooplankton (Reintjes and Pacheco 1966; Deegan 1986).


Growth: Nelson and Ahrenholz (1982) found the mean sizes for Gulf menhaden to be 152 mm (6 in) at age 1, 186 mm (7.3 in) at age 2, 213 mm (8.4 in) at age 3, 227 mm (8.9 in) at age 4.


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

The gulf menhaden is easily confused with the scaled sardine, (Harengula jaguana) from which it differs in having a higher anal ray count (25-26 versus 16-18) and in having rows of enlarged scales in front of the dorsal fin (Ross 2001). The menhaden genus (Brevoortia) belongs to the herring family (Clupeidae) and menhaden are similar in appearance to the alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus ) and shad (Dorosoma spp.). Three species of menhaden occur in the Gulf of Mexico: the Gulf menhaden (B. patronus), the finescale menhaden (B. gunteri), and the yellowfin menhaden (B. smithi). Gulf menhaden are characterized by large scales, a series of smaller spots on the body behind the scapular spot and prominent and radiating striations on the upper part of the opercle (Christmas et al. 1983).


Host Records

 No information at this time.


Commercial or Environmental Importance

 No information at this time.



Christmas, J. Y., D. J. Etzold, and L. B. Simpson. 1983. The menhaden fishery of the Gulf of Mexico, United States: a cooperative state-federal-university-user development. Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, Ocean Springs, Miss.

Cook, F. A. 1959. Freshwater fishes in Mississippi. Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, Jackson.

Deegan, L. A. 1986. Changes in body composition and morphology of young-of-the-year gulf menhaden, Brevoortia patronus Goode, in Fourleague Bay, Louisiana. J. Fish Biol. 29:403-415.

Evermann, B. W. 1899. Report on investigations by the U.S. Fish Commission in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, in 1897. Rept. U.S. Fish Comm. 24:287-310.

Goode, G. B. 1879. A revision of the American species of the genus Brevoortia, with a description of a new species from the Gulf of Mexico. PRoc. U.S. Nat. Mus. 1(1878):30-42.

Govani, J. J., D. E. Hoss, and A. J. Chester. 1983. Comparative feeding of three species of larval fishes in the northern Gulf of Mexico: Brevoortia patronus, Leiostomus xanthurus, and Micropogonias undulatus. Mar. Ecol., Prog. Ser. 13:189-199.

Hildebrand, S. F. 1963. Family Clupeidae. Vol. 1, pt. 3, pp. 257-454. Memoir, Sears Foundation of Marine Research, Yale Univ., New Haven, Conn.

Lassuy, D. R. 1983. Species profiles: life histories and environmental requirements (Gulf of Mexico), gulf menhaden. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Rept. FWS/OBS-82/11.2; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, TR EL-82-4:1-13.

Marotz, B. L., W. H. Herke, B. D. Rogers. 1990. Movement of gulf menhaden through three marshland routes in southwestern Louisiana. N. Amer. J. Fish. Managm. 10:408-417.

Nelson, W. R., and D. W. Ahrenholz. 1982. Population and fishery characteristics of Gulf Menhaden, Brevoortia patronus. Southeast Fisheries Center, Beaufort Laboratory, NMFS, NOAA.

Reintjes, J. W. and A. L. Pacheco. 1966. The relation of menhaden to estuaries, pp. 50-58. In: A symposium on estuarine fisheries. R. F. Smith, A. H. Swarts, and W. H., Massmann, ads. Spec. Publ., no. 3, American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Md.

Ross, S. T. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi 624 pp.

Suttkus, R. D. and B. I. Sundararaj. 1961. Fecundity and reproduction in the largescale menhaden, Brevoortia patronus, Goode. Tulane Stud. Zool. 8(6):177-182.

Turner, W. R. 1969. Life history of menhadens in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 98(2):216-224.