Typical Size
7-9" (1/4-1/2 lbs.)
Decent Size
10-12" (1/2-3/4 lbs.)
Nice Size
11-13" (3/4-1 lb.)
15.3" (1 lb. 14 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

Genus/Species Tautogolabrus adspersus
Common Names bergall, choggie, sea perch
Hot Spots Green Harbor Jetties, Hardings Ledge, Stone Ledge
Best Time April - December
Best Baits seaworm, clam, squid
Best Method Bottom fishing with bait

Cunner are highly variable in color, changing color to match their environment similar to a chameleon. Generally, they are mottled red/brown to a brown/gray on their upper sides, becoming a pale silver/white underneath. Cunner near kelp beds develop a very dark red color, whereas cunner near sand and rock may be very pale. It has a moderately compressed body with a narrow head and distinctive thick lips. Cunner have relatively large scales for their size and a large notched dorsal fin running almost the entire length of their body. The mouth may be small, but it is packed with super-sharp conical teeth, large for their size, and can be painful if bitten.

The inshore rockpiles produce numbers of tasty cunners.
Cunner have an amazing range from Newfoundland to New Jersey in water from only 4 feet depth to waters near 400 feet. They live in a variety of habitats but generally prefer areas of heavy structure including rock piles, jetties, piers, and shellfish beds. They seem to tolerate wide fluctuations in temperature, with some fish living in 35 degree water while others are found in 70 degree water. A voracious feeder, cunner eat a wide range of foods including barnacles, starfish, mussels, coral, sea urchins, sand dollars, worms, crabs, clams, fish eggs, shrimp, mollusks, juvenile lobsters, as well as some vegetation.

Cunner are widespread in both shoreline areas and on deep offshore banks throughout their range. They appear inshore early in the spring, becoming quite numerous by autumn. Offshore, they are caught year- round. Although not a schooling fish, large numbers of cunners mass together over select areas of structure.

Spawning takes place in the summer both offshore and inshore. Once fertilized, cunner eggs hatch in only a couple of days.

Few people actually seek out cunners. They are extremely disdained by most fisherman as their bait-stealing skills are top-notch. When fishing for other species such as cod, they can be a real nuisance. Nonetheless, like most fish, with the proper tackle they can be fun as they are highly agressive, striking a bait with extreme furvor, and do not spook easily. You can catch cunner with many different kinds of bait. Seaworms are probably the most popular but grass shrimp, squid strips, and bits of clam are just as productive. A small hook is necessary because they are so adept at ripping a soft bait right off the hook, however, use the thickest wire hook possible as their fleshy little mouths are very tough. A simple porgy rig with a 1-2 ounce sinker is sufficient for bottom fishing with bait.

Cunner do not take to artificial lures well at all, although you may entice a few with small jigs and teasers like those used for mackerel fishing. Most cunner taken on artificial lures are "foul hooked," and incidental to fishing for other species such as cod.

Fishing for Cunner is an neither important commercially nor recreationally, mainly due to their small size. Here on the south shore of Massachusetts, no one goes out fishing strictly targeting cunners. Despite their unpopularity, they are a close relative of the tautog, and when large enough, are excellent eating. The flesh of the cunner is white, moderately firm, and very tasty. It is often fried, baked or used in chowder.