Distribution of menhaden, genus Brevoortia, in the Gulf of Mexico.
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There are three menhaden in the Gulf of Mexico, Brevoortia patronus ranges around the northern Gulf from Brazos Santiago, Texas, to Tampa Bay, Florida, and supports a large commercial fishery centered in the area of greatest abundance, the Louisiana coast. The fish grows up in estuarine areas and ranges into fresh water at smaller sizes. It ranges into pure sea water and as far offshore as 25 miles. The greatest depth at which it has been taken is 20 fathoms. Brevoortia gunteri and B. smithi are fine-scaled species that live in the western and eastern Gulf, respectively. (The latter species is also found in the Atlantic.) Both enter fresh water at small sizes. The greatest depth at which they have been taken is 8 fathoms, and the offshore salinity limit is unknown. The known range of B. gunteri extends from Chandeleur Sound, east of the Mississippi River, around the shores of the western Gulf to Campeche, Mexico. It is not often caught in the eastern part of its range, and the greatest abundance seems to be in the western Gulf. The known range of B. smithi is extended from Cedar Keys, Florida, to Chandeleur Sound, Louisiana, where all three species of Gulf menhaden come together. B. smithi ranges also southward to the Caloosahatchee River, Florida. Brevoortia gunteri and B. patronus have been recorded in the Laguna Madre of Texas at salinities of 60 ppt. Brevoortia gunteri and B. smithi apparently grow to considerable larger size than B. patronus, but they are much less abundant and are not important in the commercial fishery.