The salty water roiled off Small Point in Phippsburg enough so that Dr. Matt Hanna knew from his shoreline view that he was looking at hundreds of thousands of menhaden.
Also known as bunker or pogies, menhaden aren’t much for eating ― at least, not for humans, who generally find the fish too oily and typically use them as bait or fertilizer. But to bluefish, bluefin tuna, whales and seabirds, a pogie is an exquisite meal and — as Hanna captured with his Mavic Mini video drone on Sunday — seals like to dine out on them as well.
Shot from about 50 feet above the water, Hanna’s video captured what the 50-year-old internal medicine specialist from Bath believed were seals feeding on the large school — which he estimated filled an area 50 feet by 150 feet or thereabouts — at about 7 p.m. on Sunday, he said.
It took the overhead view to illustrate the vastness of the school, Hanna said.
“I knew I would see a school of fish but I had no idea I would see that. It’s mesmerizing to me,” Hanna said. “The way the fish elude the seals is pretty remarkable. It speaks to why they travel in schools.”
Hanna, who said he has snorkeled amid schools of menhaden, said the fish “all seemingly work together to avoid you. They were also doing the same with the seals.”
“You can see waves created by this whole phenomenon as these fish are trying to get away from these seals.”
An experienced still photographer, Hanna has had the drone since December. It’s his second. The first went down in the water near Small Point earlier this year, said Hanna, who hopes to get more videos of the wildlife in the area.
“The crazy thing is, schools like that are out there every night.”