Recent school of fish attracts attention in Providence River

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A 12 News photographer happened upon a huge school of fish in Providence River on a recent Sunday morning.

The video attracted a lot of attention on social media, and it also caught the eye of Dr. Connor McManus, deputy chief of the Rhode Island DEM’s marine fisheries division.

“I would not say it’s a rarity but it’s certainly not something that you would see every day,” McManus said.

While it’s impossible to be 100% sure, McManus said the video likely shows a large school of adult Atlantic menhaden.

“Menhaden are common to Rhode Island waters,” he explained. “They often use Narragansett Bay and its embankments for feeding.”

Menhaden feed on plankton, and the Providence River, along with much of upper Narragansett Bay, can be an especially good dining spot for these fish.

McManus said while it’s common to see schools of smaller younger menhaden, he said the video is interesting.

“It’s certainly one of the larger schools that I’ve seen, particularly for that size,” McManus said.

So why would this school offish be here?

McManus said it’s likely due to a combination of temperature and environmental patterns. While the school of fish in the video might be a little bit behind schedule, it is the time of year when menhaden head out of the bay and toward warmer waters down south.

“My guess is that those are fish that just have not decided to leave yet,” McManus said. “They are still taking advantage of the Providence River ecosystem.”

Menhaden are very important and it’s good to have them around, McManus said, since they’re prey for all types of larger fish including striped bass, blue fish and tuna.

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