Locating and Snagging Fresh Bunker

By Capt. Joey Leggio

It is not always easy to find fresh Bunker in the ocean. Here are a few tips to make it a little  bit more easy for you.

As most of us know and do...we see the splashes. We toss a snag hook. We swing, swing, swing....and hopefully we end up wiith a fresh bunker on the line... Well, it is not always that easy. Lots of times the Bunker will not splash, instead they may swim a few feet below the surface or they may swim on the bottom. Try these few tips, and I promise you will put more bait in the live-well.

The Obvious

When you see the splashing that looks almost like kids tossing rocks in the water, this is the sure sign and the easiest way to find the bait. It is also very simple to harvest them when they are tight and on the surface. Go upwind of the bait, shut your motor and let the wind push you towards the bait. Cast your snag over the school and not right into it. If they are skitish then will dive down just from a snag hitting the water, so let the snag hook sink a little, then reel in the slack and snag. You dont have to swing to hard and this is especially true when using a super braid line. It is better to feel for them before you swing, but if the school is that big you will hit them so swing away.

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Purple Haze

Bunker will not always splash on the surface, and this is where it gets harder to locate them. First, it is better to look with the sun behind you then  in front of you. Next, take a look at all the water around you. Notice the color of the water and look for color changes. Now look for what I call "The Purple Haze". If the bait is swimming below the surface you will see a change of color in the water that looks purple to a shinny purple. This is the sun shinning on the fish and reflecting their shiny bodies. Bunker have a purple tint to them and it shows well to the surface. You will see them better with polarized sun glasses on so get a good pair if you want to do this type of fishing all the time. Once you see it the first time and know what to look for it will come easy.

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Nervous Water

Take notice to the ripples in the water. This can be from wind or current. Now look for ripples that move in an awkward way. Ripples that run across the current or wind ripples is a good sign fish are below. I call this "Nervous Water". Something below the surface is swimming and pushing water and on the surface you will see this. Usually the beginning of the ripple will be pointy looking and then it will get wider and then taper off. It will also change direction as the fish do below. If Blues are on the bait you will see them pushing real hard and making a much more pronounced ripple on the ocean surface. Keep an eye on your fish finder to see if you see the bait balls on the screen as you are driving your boat. Remember this -  what you see on the surface should be multiplied by 1000 as to what is swimming below. You may see what appears to be a few hundred fish but in reality there could be a hundred thousand or so bunker in the school.

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Chocolate Milk

If you are is shallow water, look for dark muddy water which I call "Chocolate Milk". This happens when a school of fish is pushing up the mud from the bottom and causing the water to get all silty or dirty. This is usually from a large school of bunker and mostly seen is shallow water, but I have seen "Chocolate Milk" in 25 to 30 feet of water as well.

Birds sitting on the surface

Birds feed and then they relax, digest and wait. If you see a few birds sitting on the surface of the water, it is worth it to take a ride over and look around. Something may be going on below that is making the birds sit there and wait. It could be Bluefish beating up the bunker and the birds are waiting for an easy meal or maybe they just had a meal and you pulled up 10 minutes to late. It can bee that the birds saw a school of bunker swimming just below the surface, and they are waiting for them to come up higher in the water colum. But, something is going on and thet is why they are there. Remember, Birds see much better then we do. This is something that is worth taking a look at.

Deep Fish Sitting On The Bottom

I have seen it where the Bunker will be right on the bottom. if you notice this on your fish finder drop a snag down to the bottom and feel for them hitting your line. Now try to snag one. It may save the day.

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Snagging Bunker

Once you have found your bait there are a few things you should do to put more baits in your live well.

  1. Place your boat up-wind of the bait and have the wind push you towards the bait.
  2. Shut down your motor.
  3. Cast your snag past the school.
  4. Let your snag sink a little.
  5. Feel for the bait hitting your line.
  6. Reel in and snag.
  7. If you don't snag a fish, let the snag sink a little and then reel and snag.
  8. If you are hitting Bunkers and ripping the snag through, don't swing as hard.
  9. Keep tension on the line once you have one snagged and don't horse the bait in.
  10. Once you have a bait snagged, try leaving it in the water and grab a second rod to snag with. A wounded Bunker will stand out amongst the rest of the school and he will be the one to get hit. Don't be surprised if the rod you let sit gets hit with a 30 pound Striped Bass.
  11. The Snag 

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