Friday, October 23, 2009


I stepped out into my back yard yesterday and a strong odor of fish assaulted my senses. Or maybe it was shrimp or crab shells. Surely, I thought, a neighbor had enjoyed a seafood feast days before and hadn't properly discarded the leftovers.

Late in the day I discovered the source of the odor. A school of menhaden had apparently found their way into the harbor. Menhaden are oily and smelly fish, and it seems they attracted a school of dolphins. I missed the spectacle, but I was told that it was quite a sight watching the dolphins pursue the menhaden.

Jaren Cullen took this photo. She was trying to catch the turbulence on the surface of the water, but it's not apparent from this distance. Regardless, I thought our readers would enjoy a view of Silver Lake Harbor (without the odor).

(Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a reprint of an article Philip wrote about sailing aboard the historic two-masted schooner, Mary E. It was originally published in the Washington Post in 1976. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous9:12 AM

    Did the Menhaden just smell by being (swimming)in the harbor or were they washed up dead?

  2. Anonymous9:34 AM

    Wow In all your years on the island to miss this event!!. Now everyone knows the Unmistakable Odor of a menhaden massacre -- The smell was probably due to the crunching and munching by the Devouring dolphins. The photo has good composition however, when i enlarge the image the clarity is not there on mu computer at least boo hoo

  3. I never saw or heard about any dead menhaden...and the odor was quickly gone. Just their oily presence created the odor.