The Reedville Fishermen's Museum is located on the banks of Cockrell's Creek on land once owned by Captain Elijah Reed. In 1867 Reed sailed down to the Chesapeake from Maine and into the creek, setting up his first small fishery. Today Reedville remains one of the most active fishing ports in America and the heart of the menhaden fleet.
The museum houses a collection of artifacts and historical material covering the history of menhaden fishing from its inception to the present. Unique models of fishing vessels and tools used for building and maintaining the fleet are on display. Museum exhibits include a history of watermen's activities from early native American practices to those used today by oystermen, pound fishermen and crabbers. Part of the museum houses rotating exhibits and educational programs, and from the deck there are views of Cockrell's Creek from which two modern fleets still set out to fish for menhaden from May through December.
Tues-Sat: 10:30 am-4:30 pm
Sun: 1 pm-4 pm
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
Adults – $5.00
Tour Groups – $4.00
Seniors – $3.00
Children under 12 – Free
School Groups – Free
RFM Members – Free
The Reed Gallery houses a permanent exhibit where one can walk through a series of displays featuring ship models, photographs, and artifacts that tell the story of the menhaden industry and how it shaped Reedville. A guided tour of the Walker House gives one a glimpse of life in a typical waterman's home of the early 1900's. The museum grounds and dock also house a public research library and a collection of traditional Chesapeake Bay watercraft.
A number of educational programs are offered throughout the year including oyster growing and gill net fishing workshops. Model building classes are also offered by the Museum and are conducted periodically by skilled modelers from the region. Annual events include a golf tournament in late April, a "Blessing of the Fleet" in early May, "Hometown Parade and Fireworks" the Saturday of July 4th weekend, an oyster roast in early November, and the "Christmas on Cockrell's Creek Tour" during early December.
Captain John Smith and his crew marveled at the abundant fish and shellfish they encountered during their exploration of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
It is unclear if they explored as far as present-day Reedville, Virginia. If they did, they might have been impressed by the wealth of menhaden, a small, oily fish whose unimpressive appearance belies its importance.
In the 1600s, the fish’s primary value was as a filter feeder. Adult menhaden can rid four to six gallons of water of algae in one minute.
The English colonists praised menhaden for its delicate flavor. They liked its oiliness because it made it simpler to cook.