Captain Joe's Cruises is always keeping an eye on the health of the Saco River. One good measurement is the diversity of wildlife and fish we see in and around the river. 50 years ago the the river was recovering from years of pollution coming from upstream mills and manufacturing. Today we see a thriving ecosystem: eagles, striped bass (stripers), snowy egrets, seals, and today, schools of pogies!
Pogies, officially named menhaden, but also called bunkers, bugheads, mossbunkers, fat backs, or a dozen other names, are at the bottom of the fish food chain. They are filter feeders upon which just about every other fish feasts. Pogies are easy to identify by their silvery appearance and the black dot behind their gills, just next to my thumb in the picture above.
When schools of pogies show up in the river, thousands of them, you know more fish are sure to follow since they represent a bigger meal than your typical feeding fish - they average about 15" long! The local lobstermen love pogies too because they are easy to catch and make great bait for their traps.
Since pogies are vegetarians, catching them requires snaring them with a hook or simply using a large net; they won't chase a lure. So many pogies were taken by international trawlers off the coast of Maine a few years ago, some fishermen feared the pogies might not come back.
This is a video showing a school of pogies breaking the water in the Saco River this morning. They are probably being chased by other fish or seals. We've seen seals circle the pogies up, station a seal on either side, and a third diving through the middle to get an easy meal!