Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Commercial Fisheries Review





First Page


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Pound nets have been the most important fishing gear for food fishes in Virginia waters of Chesapeake Bay since 1880 (Reid 1955) and the history of this fishery to a great extent reflects the varying fortunes of the fisheries of that State. Since 1929 the average annual catch in pound nets in Virginia has been about 50 million pounds, roughly 20 percent of which was reported as menhaden. Actually these menhaden include varyint?: quantities of other fish species, sometimes predominantly young food fishes, too small to market as human food. This part of the pound-net catch is sometimes used as industrial fish, but in many parts of the Bay it is sold as bait for crab pots. It is commonly referred to as "scrap fish," and for convenience this term has been used here to denote that part of the pound-net catch not sold for human consumption. Concern has been expressed at various times that this harvest of small fishes is wasteful, yet no really effective action has been taken to determine the facts needed for an intelligent appreciation of the situation.

Reid (1955) has reviewed the tribulations that accompanied introduction of pound nets to Virginia waters. Early reports of the Virginia Commission of Fisheries emphasize the "destruction" caused by these nets, and in 1914 a "cull law" was enacted designating minimum sizes of fishes that may be caught (Code of Virginia, Section 28-45). It soon became apparent that the value of this law was limited, for most undersized fish were dead before culling could be done, and it was suggested on various occasions that an increase in mesh size, or closed seasons at certain times, would offer more practical solutions.

Publication Statement

Contribution (Virginia Fisheries Laboratory) ; no. 89