Schools of bunker make interesting sight at Milford Harbor

One of the big attractions at this year’s Milford Oyster Festival was a fish — but it wasn’t on the menu.

Many people gathered near the harbor to watch as hundreds of Atlantic menhaden, commonly referred to as bunker, swam near the Hotchkiss Bridge, where they typically take up residence during the late summer and fall. Many were jumping and flipping in the stretch of water that runs from the waterfall to the harbor.

Inside SBC Restaurant, patrons craned their necks to peer out the restaurant windows, which offered a perfect view of the schools of fish swimming below. And oyster fest attendees formed a crowd along the water’s edge outside to marvel at the bunkers.

“I’ve seen bunkers before,” one woman said, “but never so many.”

Another resident said thousands of bunkers have been swimming and jumping and slapping the water for the past week.

"One evening I saw a cormorant fly upstream and you should have seen the water boil with activity from the fish when they thought they were prey," the resident said.

Menhaden are typically used as bait fish by fishermen interested in catching bluefish and striped bass.