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Where did the bunker go in the Long Island Sound this year?

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Luca_brazzi

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Was it just me?

 

They showed up in early June, and man was that epic. I recall seeing a pod right up against the beach in less than 8ft of water, with big stripers from slot to 40 inches blitzing on them on the lip and nobody targeting them. A porgy fisherman was casting to the far sides of the schools with a hi-lo rig and catching nothing. I didn't even bother fishing because it just felt unsporting. I launched my drone and watched it from overhead.

 

Then, by July, they were gone. I hadn't seen another bunker pod since. What happened? Obviously the South shore didn't have this problem. Over the past couple of years they'd flood the bays and its hard to imagine a season without them, but thats exactly what I experienced this year. No bunker on the North shore. It didn't really hurt the bite at all; actually, it might have made things better in terms of light-tackle jigging.

 

Anyone else?

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A lot of peanuts on the western Connecticut side.

 

There were bass and bluefish on peanuts as late as early November high in the Mianus River, where all the marinas are.  But as you note, big bunker were more difficult to find.

"I have always believed that outdoor writers who come out against fish and wildlife conservation are in the wrong business. To me, it makes as much sense golf writers coming out against grass.."  --  Ted Williams

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we had a decent amount of adult bunker on the CT side, not a ton, but enough to keep bass around all season

 

not sure what was up with the north shore this year though - every time I went over there it was a desert, even later in the season when we'd normally see lots of small bait over there, just nothing this year.  total opposite of the CT side of the sound, which was loaded.

I prefer peace. But if trouble must come, let it come in my time, so that my children can live in peace.

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I’m in the Bronx and categorically have not seen any adult bunker since early summer. Been used to having them absolutely flood the bays here in late summer through fall and this year they just never came back. Been hearing the same from other local guys all season, and the local B&T’s were out of fresh bunker for long stretches as their usual suppliers weren’t finding any. Did they just go out east around the the Island and out into the Atlantic? Down the NY Bight into Jersey? No clue.  Local B&Ts started restocking with deliveries from NJ. 
 

Regarding the presence of adults vs peanuts, my understanding is that bunker don’t spawn locally anyway. Rather, they spawn offshore and the fry then get carried inshore by ocean currents. 

Edited by Antek
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10 hours ago, LowEnd said:

Can’t have peanuts without the adults.

I know adult bunker was there in August into the beginning of September where I fished. Not a ton but some descent schools.

But adults don't have to enter the Sound for peanuts to be there.

 

Bunker spawn offshore, and the currents carry the larvae inshore  (the same is true of fluke and bluefish).  So as long as the offshore spawn is successful, the Sound can have peanuts.

"I have always believed that outdoor writers who come out against fish and wildlife conservation are in the wrong business. To me, it makes as much sense golf writers coming out against grass.."  --  Ted Williams

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There was a huge pod of porpoises around the hempstead harbor area around the same time they arrived and then suddenly disappeared. But I highly doubt a giant pod of porpoises could wipe out all the bunker in the LIS like that.

 

The commercial harvest comment above is concerning and not the first i've heard of. Omega protein gets tossed around a lot. I don't know any better, I was hoping somebody would show up in this thread and drop a knowledge bomb on us.

 

As others mentioned they flooded most of the bays in previous years from end-to-end. I had one of the most insane bluefish blitzes of my life in June 2022.

 

The fishing this year was still excellent, but I certainly didn't do any live lining with bunker. On a few occasions I live-lined a cocktail blue for a bigger bluefish or striper, or had a cocktail blue get bitten in half while being reeled in.

Edited by Luca_brazzi
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10 hours ago, Luca_brazzi said:

There was a huge pod of porpoises around the hempstead harbor area around the same time they arrived and then suddenly disappeared. But I highly doubt a giant pod of porpoises could wipe out all the bunker in the LIS like that.

 

The commercial harvest comment above is concerning and not the first i've heard of. Omega protein gets tossed around a lot. I don't know any better, I was hoping somebody would show up in this thread and drop a knowledge bomb on us.

 

As others mentioned they flooded most of the bays in previous years from end-to-end. I had one of the most insane bluefish blitzes of my life in June 2022.

 

The fishing this year was still excellent, but I certainly didn't do any live lining with bunker. On a few occasions I live-lined a cocktail blue for a bigger bluefish or striper, or had a cocktail blue get bitten in half while being reeled in.

With respect to menhaden management, the reference points used to manage the species are based on the fish's ecosystem role; that is, the target menhaden fecundity (which is used instead of target biomass) is the fecundity needed to provide enough menhaden to support a fully-rebuilt striped bass population that is also at target biomass.  The target fishing mortality rate is the rate needed to obtain such fecundity.

 

Right now, as of the most recent stock assessment, fishing mortality for menhaden is below target, and fecundity is above target, which means that the stock is completely healthy, and more than capable of supporting a striped bass stock at its current, overfished level  The menhaden harvest limit is appropriate for--and even a little lower than necessary given--the current health of the stock.

 

As far as menhaden harvest in Long Island Sound goes, Omega is not a part of the picture.  Omega only operates large purse seiners, and purse seining in Loing Island Sound is very strictly restricted.  The relevant law reads

 

New York Consolidated Laws, Environmental Conservation Law - ENV § 13-0333. Menhaden;  license;  prohibited acts

Current as of January 01, 2021 | Updated by FindLaw Staff

1. Menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) from which oil or meal is made, subject to the provisions of section 13-0343, may be taken from the waters of the marine district with a purse seine provided a license is first obtained from the department.

2. Each license shall be issued to cover one vessel and pertinent equipment by which such fish are taken and shall be issued in the name of the owner, lessee or operator of each vessel so used.  License fees shall be computed on the basis of gross tonnage of the vessel to be licensed as indicated in the document, certificate of award, register, registration, enrollment or license of such vessel issued by the United States or any state.

3. The license fee shall be:  For each vessel:

30 gross tons or less

25 dollars

more than 30 gross tons and less than 200 gross tons

500 dollars

more than 200 gross tons

2,000 dollars

All licenses issued under this section shall expire on December 31 following date of issue.

4. For the purpose of this chapter, commercial menhaden purse seines may not be used or set:

a. in the area of Long Island Sound extending west of an imaginary line from the New York state-Connecticut boundary line (Byram River) extending easterly and southerly to buoy 13 (off Eaton's Neck).

b. in Long Island Sound south of a straight line one-half mile seaward of a straight line between buoy 13 (off Eaton's Neck) and buoy 9 (off Sound Beach).

Distances shall be determined from straight lines drawn between the designated buoys and navigational aids.

5. No person shall take menhaden by purse seining except during the period commencing on the Monday following the fourth day of July and ending on the third Friday in October.  Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed as legalizing the taking of menhaden by purse seining on weekends or legal holidays during the period provided for in this subdivision.

6. The department shall, in consultation with the menhaden industry, have the authority to require menhaden purse seine vessels to carry a department-approved observer during their operation in New York state waters.  Beginning July sixth, nineteen hundred ninety-eight, the department shall require menhaden purse seine vessels equal to or greater than two hundred gross tons to carry a department-approved observer during their operation in New York state waters.  Such observers shall independently note and record information, as directed by the department, on such items as fishing location, menhaden catch, by-catch, and any user conflicts.  The license holder for the vessel for which an observer is required will be responsible for the costs of such observer.  The department shall promulgate rules and regulations to establish appropriate procedures for the assessment and collection of costs for the observers.

7. The operator of a menhaden purse seine vessel shall report to the department twenty-four hours prior to entering the waters of the state and shall submit to the department a regular and timely report of their total harvest.  The department shall develop regulations six months from the effective date of this subdivision related to this reporting requirement.

8. The department shall, in cooperation with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and consistent with the Long Island Sound Bi-state committee resolution regarding commercial menhaden fishing, undertake a water quality assessment of the effect of menhaden vessel fish hold waste on Long Island Sound water quality.  The department shall report back within one year of the effective date of this subdivision thereon to the governor, the temporary president of the senate, the speaker of the assembly, and the chairmen of the senate and assembly environmental conservation committees with its findings and recommendations for reducing or eliminating the adverse aesthetic, ecological, and water quality impacts of said discharge.

9. Licensees shall be legally and financially responsible for the clean up of fish lost during any fishing or fish handling operations.  The department shall establish regulations to enforce this subdivision.

10. The department shall adopt regulations to prohibit or further limit menhaden fishing when required by, and consistent with, the Interstate Fishery Management plan for Atlantic menhaden adopted pursuant to the Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 USC 1800 et seq.) and adopted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

11. The department, in cooperation with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and consistent with the Long Island Sound Bi-state committee resolution regarding commercial menhaden fishing, shall evaluate the appropriateness and effectiveness of establishing a limit on the number of purse seine vessels that may be allowed to fish on Long Island Sound.  The department shall, in cooperation with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and consistent with the Long Island Sound Bi-state committee resolution regarding commercial menhaden fishing, evaluate the benefits and effectiveness of establishing a cap on the quantity of menhaden that can be harvested from Long Island Sound in one year.  The department shall, in consultation with the menhaden fishing industry, investigate means of regulating the depth at which menhaden purse seines are set with respect to the depth of the water in their respective locations.  The department shall, in cooperation with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and consistent with the Long Island Sound Bi-state committee resolution regarding commercial menhaden fishing, provide a report of its findings and recommendations thereon to the governor, the temporary president of the senate, the speaker of the assembly, and the chairmen of the senate and assembly environmental conservation committees within one year of the effective date of this subdivision.

 

I was involved with the effort to get part of the above law passed in 1997, and know that when those provisions were passed, Omega approached the DEC, asked if they could get a refund of their license fees in return for not fishing in state waters, and went away.  As far as I know, given the point-to-point restrictions on purse seining, they never came back.

 

My understanding is that there is a small purse seine operation in Rhode Island that the DEC allows in when conditions are setting up for a big fish kill, but otherwise purse seining in Long Island Sound does not typically occur.

 

 

 

 

 

"I have always believed that outdoor writers who come out against fish and wildlife conservation are in the wrong business. To me, it makes as much sense golf writers coming out against grass.."  --  Ted Williams

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