maj92az

Bunker for beginners

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I don't know much about bunker here in New England. I witnessed some people snagging some from shore in the large river mouth as it reaches LIS. We chucked them up and got good results. 

 

Recently, out in the sound I've seen lots of top water activity. My first instinct is bunker, but I'm told its mackerel. 

 

How do I find bunker. Do they mainly hang out in bays, harbors, rivers?? Any distinguishing things to notice to not confuse with other bait fish, and bonus if its noticeable on the electronics. 

 

Thanks

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Bunker can be anywhere in the Sound.

 

Bluefish often pack them up in the rivers and back bays, but you also run into schools in open water, sommetimes right off the coast and sometimes in the middle of the Sound.

 

Usually, if you see a big bunch of fish rippling the water, maybe with a few casually flipping into the air, it's bunker.  Similarly, if you're running a boat out of a river, and you mark big, dense balls of bait beneath the surface, most of the time, that will be bunker, too.  Of course, when the bunker are being actively fed on, they're even easier to spot, with blitzing bluefish causing them to explode out of the water, churning the surface white, while bass tend to be a little more circumspect, hanging beneath the schools and occasionally causing a bunch of fish in the school to surge forward when a fish comes up to feed (sharks tend to cause the same sort of reaction, as do bluefish when there are only a few around, or they're not actively feeding).

 

Other bait, such as mackerel, tend to be more active; while bunker often loiter on the surface, heading nowhere in particular, mackerel tend to be more directional, often chasing very small bait when they come up to the surface, or sometimes being actively chased by predators below.  

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On 8/6/2022 at 5:31 PM, maj92az said:

I don't know much about bunker here in New England. I witnessed some people snagging some from shore in the large river mouth as it reaches LIS. We chucked them up and got good results. 

 

Recently, out in the sound I've seen lots of top water activity. My first instinct is bunker, but I'm told its mackerel. 

 

How do I find bunker. Do they mainly hang out in bays, harbors, rivers?? Any distinguishing things to notice to not confuse with other bait fish, and bonus if its noticeable on the electronics. 

 

Thanks

 

I've lived on and fished long island sound for 40 years and have only seen mackerel in it one time, in the outflow of a power plant in october, but never schooled-up and never as the focus of blitzing fish.  you'd also be hard-pressed to mistake mackerel for bunker.  a school of mackerel move like a wave as they chase bait.  bunker, when not being attacked by bass or blues, will just go with the tide and occassionally "flip" on the surface.  what you're seeing are almost definitely bunker, or, possibly, hickory shad.

 

right now bunker are pretty much everywhere, but most-concentrated in tidal rivers, sometime waaaaaayyyyyyy up where the water is more fresh than salt.  they tend to like the deepest parts of channels, especially dredged spots in and around marinas as those areas give them the most protection at low tide.  just look for the random splashing - you really can't miss them - but don't assume those splashes are the result of something trying to eat them.  they won't do the "happy bunker" flipping thing if there are predators on them.

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Posted (edited)

American Menhaden are filter feeders, hence another of their names; moss bunker. I see them from a kayak mostly in shallow marinas around large sailboats, or out a little deeper above rock piles or mussel beds, and sometimes way out mid-sound. Watching and hearing the crash of cormorants driving up through the schools with a mouthful of fish never gets old.

  The lowly bunker is one of the most important bait /commercial fish on the planet.

  They are also fairly thick in the tidal Hudson River at this point.

Edited by cheech
Spell

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Here's a question for you folks. 

 

Instead of a "normal" cross cut chunk, have you tried a cut where you split the fish in half like your fileting, then cutting a finger size chunk from the filet.  Binding it to the hook shank with baitthread. 

 

Similar to this.  Only not sponge...20210215_110035.jpg.4ac43fe046c918d3f5e63944af1f3795.jpg20210215_110135.jpg.10d382e16b2d7bde11e020b5f0938ccc.jpg

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On 8/6/2022 at 5:31 PM, maj92az said:

I don't know much about bunker here in New England. I witnessed some people snagging some from shore in the large river mouth as it reaches LIS. We chucked them up and got good results. 

 

Recently, out in the sound I've seen lots of top water activity. My first instinct is bunker, but I'm told its mackerel. 

 

How do I find bunker. Do they mainly hang out in bays, harbors, rivers?? Any distinguishing things to notice to not confuse with other bait fish, and bonus if its noticeable on the electronics. 

 

Thanks

I have seen the birds grabbing them and flying away. 

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On 8/9/2022 at 1:02 PM, PSegnatelli said:

Here's a question for you folks. 

 

Instead of a "normal" cross cut chunk, have you tried a cut where you split the fish in half like your fileting, then cutting a finger size chunk from the filet.  Binding it to the hook shank with baitthread. 

 

Similar to this.  Only not sponge...20210215_110035.jpg.4ac43fe046c918d3f5e63944af1f3795.jpg20210215_110135.jpg.10d382e16b2d7bde11e020b5f0938ccc.jpg

Too much work. Cut a chunk, put on the hook, done .

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On 8/9/2022 at 1:02 PM, PSegnatelli said:

Here's a question for you folks. 

 

Instead of a "normal" cross cut chunk, have you tried a cut where you split the fish in half like your fileting, then cutting a finger size chunk from the filet.  Binding it to the hook shank with baitthread. 

 

Similar to this.  Only not sponge...20210215_110035.jpg.4ac43fe046c918d3f5e63944af1f3795.jpg20210215_110135.jpg.10d382e16b2d7bde11e020b5f0938ccc.jpg

Never fished them tied down that way, but I often used to fish fillets rather than chunks, fishing from a boat where the weight of the bait didn't matter.

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On 8/9/2022 at 1:02 PM, PSegnatelli said:

Here's a question for you folks. 

 

Instead of a "normal" cross cut chunk, have you tried a cut where you split the fish in half like your fileting, then cutting a finger size chunk from the filet.  Binding it to the hook shank with baitthread. 

 

Similar to this.  Only not sponge...20210215_110035.jpg.4ac43fe046c918d3f5e63944af1f3795.jpg20210215_110135.jpg.10d382e16b2d7bde11e020b5f0938ccc.jpg

wow

Way out ahead of your skis on this

Cut off the head of a fresh bunker and put hook thru shoulder

Bass love heads and bluefish tend to not care for heads as much as a chunk

Fresh is the key word

DD

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On 8/9/2022 at 1:02 PM, PSegnatelli said:

Here's a question for you folks. 

 

Instead of a "normal" cross cut chunk, have you tried a cut where you split the fish in half like your fileting, then cutting a finger size chunk from the filet.  Binding it to the hook shank with baitthread. 

 

Similar to this.  Only not sponge...20210215_110035.jpg.4ac43fe046c918d3f5e63944af1f3795.jpg20210215_110135.jpg.10d382e16b2d7bde11e020b5f0938ccc.jpg

This would probably work but the guts would wash out immediately- right?

 

I prefer the heads, one big “steak” chunk from the middle and save the bottom third to use when I run out of the better parts. 
 

If you’re trying to secure the bunker chunks to the hook so you don’t lose them….

 

Try “bridling” or “bait bridle.” Google image it. I use a large size duolock clasped around the jaw or the spine. 
 

Works great but don’t spike your rod & take a phone call like me!! LOL. 

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Posted (edited)

Im thinking more for smaller hooks and cocktail baits. 

When I'm not focused on bass & blues, but want a cut bait. 

Edited by PSegnatelli

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13 hours ago, fishfinder said:

Reinventing the wheel Cant hurt to try though 

I tend to sit and think alot.  

I'm not above trying anything, no matter how out there it may seem.   

Plus I don't like waste. To me it's bad mojo.  

 

So the next few

menhaden I catch, I'm going to do a bit of experimentation.  

14 hours ago, EricDice said:

This would probably work but the guts would wash out immediately- right?

 

I prefer the heads, one big “steak” chunk from the middle and save the bottom third to use when I run out of the better parts. 
 

If you’re trying to secure the bunker chunks to the hook so you don’t lose them….

 

Try “bridling” or “bait bridle.” Google image it. I use a large size duolock clasped around the jaw or the spine. 
 

Works great but don’t spike your rod & take a phone call like me!! LOL. 

the gut sack always seems like a waste for me.  I love the smell it gives off but it's usually lost on the cast.   

 

And the belly section as well.  Always seems to be a wasted part. 

 

So my thoughs.....

Split open from the spine side, remove guts & save for bait trap,  same with tail. Split head would be a good bait as is for a 4/0"ish" circle.  Cut the remaining filet pieces into finger size chunks except maybe the pennant shaped belly. Cut that into a strip bait for jigs or drifting. 

 

The issue I have with menhaden, is I rarely use the whole fish & I hate freezing them.  And I believe Doorgunner has mentioned a secret brine for preservation.  Keeping whole fish "fresh" thru the winter. So I'm going to go this root and try and brine the split, gutless fish.    I recently came off a week long vacation and had a bag of homebrew salted surf clam & squid in the car 100% of the time. Outside temps were 95+    smelled great going in and smelled exactly the same on the last day.    So if they can last in the worst possible conditions, providing the best possible conditions should be 10x better.  

 

 

Why all this??

 The more use I can get from a single fish, the less fish I will need to kill to obtain my goals.   

We want to save our fishery, but if they have nothing to eat it's a moot point. 

 

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