Around the Sound: Have you ever eaten a mossbunker?

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By Jimmy Kallenberg

No way would I ever eat a mossbunker, formally known as a Menhaden, but you might have without knowing it.

So what is a mossbunker?

Well, it’s even more commonly just called a bunker.

Bunkers grow to about 15 inches, are found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Ooeans, and also in the Gulf.

Locally, they start arriving in the Long Island Sound, then our bays and harbors in the beginning of April, depending on the weather. If it’s warm, a little earlier, cold a little later.

They are an oily and smelly fish that bluefish and striped bass love to eat.

Oh, they also excrete their urine through their skin. Yuck!

This plankton eating fish is a very important part of the carnivorous oceanic food chain.

Other fish, like tuna and swordfish, love to eat them, too.

A mature male will filter seven gallons of water every minute, benefitting our bay areas when they’re present.

So again, you might ask yourself, where and when might I have ever eaten a bunker?

In 2014, over a billion bunker were harvested on the Gulf and Atlantic Ocean. That made them the most harvested fish in the Atlantic.

Their oils are used everyday in fish oil supplements, margarine, lipstick, salad dressing, even cookies!

One amazing sight to witness is a bluefish blitz.

This is when dozens of bluefish (AKA choppers) attack a large school of bunker.

The water explodes with bunker jumping out of the water, bluefish literally on their tails. Bluefish have extremely strong jaws with sharp, jagged teeth.

They can chop a bunker in half with a single bite, as shown in the picture.

You will often see the gulls above the blitz, swooping down to feast on the leftovers.

When fishermen are using bunker as bluefish bait, there are two common ways to fish.

First, a whole live bunker with a single hook and a wire leader placed behind the dorsal fin. Second, bunker chunks, usually using two inch steaks on a single hook and wire leader, while using a weight to send it to the bottom.

The two common ways to get bunker are either netting them, or snagging them with a treble hook.

Several years ago, I was snagging bunker and while reeling the bunker to the boat, a bluefish jumped out of the water and bit the 15” bunker in half.

If you look closely at the included picture, you’ll see the tail of the bluefish as it re-entered the water.

The bluefish season is upon us now.

Currently, there are no 10-pound plus monsters around, but we do have reports of 18” cocktail bluefish in some of the western Sound’s bays and harbors.

Soon, we’ll see the offspring of bluefish putting smiles on the faces of children of all ages.

Yep, the snappers (baby bluefish) will be at all the local docks looking for spearing (a small bait fish) within the next few weeks.

New York State regulations for bluefish, including snapper:

• No size limit for first

10 fish, then 12” plus for

the next 5

• Possession per day:

15 fish, no more than 10 of

which shall be less than 10”

Remember: Always practice safe boating!

Sponsored by Long Island Boat Rentals

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I'm a writer who focuses on the outdoors and travel. I share my time between Alaska and Colorado, where, when I'm not writing, I enjoy camping, kayaking, hiking, fishing, and skiing (often with dogs in tow). My byline may also be seen in publications such as The New York Times, National Geographic, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and others.


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