Brevoortia smithi

Common Name

Yellowfin Menhaden

Year Described

Hildebrand, 1941


Dorsal Fin: 18-20
Anal Fin: 22-24
Pectoral Fin: 15-17
Pelvic Fin: 7 (6 branched)
Vertebrae: 42-44
Lateral Line Scales: 54-80
Ventral Scutes: 30-32
Gill Rakers: 121-149 (lower limb first arch in adults)

Body deep and compressed. Ventral profile extremely convex from pelvic fin to lower jaw. Head and gill cover large. Mouth large, extending to rare margin of eye. Upper jaw distinctly notched (unique to Brevoortia, Alosa, and Dorosoma. Lower jaw fits into upper jaw notch. Teeth absent. Dorsal fin at midbody with a strongly concave margin. Anal fin origin about under last dorsal ray. Pelvic fin under dorsal fin, with a straight posterior margin: Innermost rays much shorter than outermost rays when depressed. Pectoral fin well short (>3 scales) of pelvic base when extended. Tail forked. Body fully scaled. Predorsal scales present on midline from nape to dorsal fin: overlapping and with irregular rough edges.


Body silvery with a gray to blue-gray back. Sides often with a golden wash. A single black spot present behind the upper gill cover. Dorsal and caudal fins golden. Caudal fin with dusky margin. Rest of fins clear.


Maximum size to 33cm SL. Common under 25cm SL.


A common inshore species found in both brackish and salt water. Very common in estuaries and bays.


North Carolina to southeastern Florida, and in the eastern Gulf from southwestern Florida to Louisiana.


Hildebrand, S.F. 1948. A review of the American menhaden, genus Brevoortia, with a description of a new species. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. Vol. 107. No. 18: 1-39.

McEachran, J.D. & J.D. Fechhelm. 1998. Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico. Volume 1: Myxiniformes to Gasterosteiformes. University of Texas Press, Austin. i-viii + 1-1112.

Munroe, T.A. & M.S. Nizinski. 2002. Clupeidaeidae (pp 804-830). In: Carpenter. 2002. The living marine resources of the Western Central Atlantic. Vol. 2: Bony fishes part 1 (Acipenseridae-Grammatidae). FAO Species Identification Guides for Fisheries Purposes. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Special Publication No. 5.

Pozzobon, A.P.B., Gonçalves, P.R., Anderson, J.D., Rocha, L.A., de Astarloa, J. M. D., & F. Di Dario. 2021. Phylogenetic relationships, genetic diversity and biogeography of menhadens, genus Brevoortia (Clupeiformes, Clupeidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 160, 107108.

Other Notes

This is the sister species of Brevoortia gunteri from the western Gulf. These two “fine-scaled” menhadens can be separated by number of ventral scutes and length of pectoral fin. The only small-scaled menhaden on the Atlantic coast.

Pozzobon et al. (2021) showed that material identified by morphology as Brevoortia gunteri and B. smithi do not form monophyletic groups when placed in a phylogenetic tree, indicating they are either undergoing an incipient speciation event with a lot of lineage sorting/hybridization ongoing or that these two species are one interbreeding unit and should be considered one species. Since the two are largely allopatric, the former might be occurring but the Mississippi Delta is not a formidable barrier to an estuarine fish like this. If the two are considered one species, B. smithi is the senior synonym.