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Pogies Could Become Pacific Fisheries Bait

Gulf of Mexico menhaden – known as pogies – are finding their way into Northwest Pacific waters as a possible alternative bait for the commercial Dungeness crab fishery.

Through the efforts of the Louisiana and Washington Sea Grant programs, Louisiana Bait Products Inc. of Abbeville connected with the Lummi Nation, a Puget Sound Native American tribe near Bellingham, Wash.  Many Lummi harvest Dungeness crab commercially but the cost of their traditional baits – squid and salmon carcasses – have been rising.

“They’re looking for a more economical option,” said Pete Granger, Washington Sea Grant seafood industry specialist. “Bait is a big part of Lummi fishermen’s budgets.”

This summer, 2,000 pounds of menhaden (Brevoortia patronus) were shipped nearly 2,700 miles from Louisiana Bait to the Lummi for testing. “The pogies are individually frozen,” said Thomas Hymel, Louisiana Sea Grant and LSU AgCenter Extension agent. “So you can reach in and pull out one at a time. That reduces the waste you might get if they were frozen in a block.”

“Only a small amount of the menhaden has been used, so far,” said Granger. “The fishermen discovered they work. But what we don’t know is if they’re better, worse or about the same as traditional baits in attracting crab. That testing hasn’t occurred, yet.”

If additional field tests show Gulf menhaden work as well – if not better – than traditional baits, there’s the potential of opening new markets to Louisiana bait suppliers while reducing Pacific commercial fishermen’s operating costs.

The Gulf menhaden fishery is one of the largest in the United States. They are harvested primarily for fish meal and fish oil based products. But a small percentage of the harvest is caught for use as bait.

Thomas Hymel can be reached at thymel@agcenter.lsu.edu

Pete Granger can be reached at pgranger@uw.edu