While my clients enjoyed moderate success ranging from skunk to several limits per-person (lot of keepers tagged) on each of my last three tog trips, it was a client on Capt. Kane's boat, Fish Bound, who caught it. Fellow's name is Ken Westerfeld of Queens NY.
At 28.8 pounds - 35 inches Fork Length - 35.75 Swept Tail Length, it's positively the biggest tautog ever on rod & reel - A New World Record.
Pending, of course.
I personally took the lengths & also witnessed its weight on the tournament-certified scale at Sunset Marina that Larry Jock of Coastal Fisherman photographed for MD DNR's use.
What a beast..
An honest skipper who fishes by the book & supports reef building, I'm very glad to see to see him capture a world record - especially for this species!
And no, the rest of our tog aren't running 20 to 25 pounds.
We'd have heart attacks aboard everyday!
No, No, No!
They're not "Running Big." I've already had several emails, "We're Looking For Some Monster Tog."
It's togging. We're tog fishing. It's no different here in Maryland except perhaps we've been throwing tog back, even big tog, for 30 years.
I've had seven fish over 20 pounds on my boat in my life. Not one was ever planned for.
Imagine how many baited hooks have been dropped along this coast before a 28.8 pound fish came up..
And now they're running big?
Please. We're going fishing. But every single reef does have the potential for a big fish, even the most heavily fished half-day reefs. It's my understanding that the current spear fishing world record of 23.9 pounds was shot at the Cape May jetties. Two of my boat's jumbos were caught in easy sight of shore and on not-so-secret spots. A NY skipper had a 20 pounder last year so close to shore you could see buildings in the photo's background.
To catch big tog you need to have good gear & especially a good drag. There's a reason Alex is forever blowing the drags out of his Avet reels.. You need to be prepared even when it seems like nothing is biting but rats.
Believe me, I've seen truly outstanding anglers hook tog they could not stop. I've seen men cry because of dropped monsters. It almost always happens during what was otherwise a perfectly normal bite.
Make no mistake, Ken Westerfeld's fish was not caught because of luck. He's really good, a truly accomplished angler. But you could say he was lucky the fish didn't get into steel or coral. As I heard it, the fish was more than halfway up when, despite his drag being set as tightly as possible, it ran all the way back to bottom.
Whether a tog is 10 pounds or El Grande; when you've hooked one you can't stop, a fish you know is huge from the moment you swing; that's when you become a tog addict. That thumping run is what you'll want to repeat, but win the fight next time.
Ken Westerfeld did.
We'll see if we can this tomorrow
..if they bite.
We're doing tog right. We've already blown past "restoration." I believe we currently have a greater population of tautog than has ever existed off Maryland's coast. Throughout the species range we'll leave a great fishery behind when we've gone.
Management can call up all their fabulously impossible tales of recreational catch, they can shout and wave their arms, "Oh No! Shore anglers in New Jersey caught more tautog in March & April than all US commercial landings for 2010! They're even OVERFISHING FROM SHORE! How can we ever stop it! Regulation Help Us!" ..their barnyard stench aside, reef building has already won this fight.
We're not going to stop building reef either.
Think I'm joking about that shore catch estimate? Think no data set paid for by the United States could ever be so full of baloney?
- Year : From: 2010 To: 2010
- Species : Tautog
- State : All States
And Recreational - Just New Jersey Shore Catch in March/April
There you have it.
MRIP, the brand new Congressionally mandated repair to our old recreational catch estimating system, says New Jersey's jetty fishermen, sitting on plastic pails freezing their butts off & praying for the first tog of the year; MRIP says those guys caught nearly TWICE AS MANY TOG IN TWO MONTHS AS ALL US COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN CAUGHT ALL YEAR!!
Managers swear the only thing that can fix our estimates is more money. I guarantee whenever I've had a deckhand who couldn't tie a boat up, cut bait or pass a drug test - there's a solution.
Capt Dave Marciano of Wicked Tuna stopped by with a friend bent on bettering catch data just after New Years. He didn't know me & I don't watch fishing on TV, but we quickly struck common ground because we both fight nonsensical regulation.
When I said,"NMFS always gets good results early in management, but.." the famous skipper finished my sentence in the wheelhouse vernacular, "then they %$# it up!"
Believe me, a scientific & management community that accepts data such as above is bound to find their work easily summed-up in simple & familiar language.
It's an affront to all of science in all of history to call estimates such as that, "The Best Scientific Information Available."
Despite management & fishery science's abject failure to refute obscenely bad data; managing tautog with a low creel limit and high size limit, combined with expanding robust manmade habitat, has created rock-solid population growth in tautog.
But they don't get that. Don't get the habitat thing.
Capt. Amanda Peterson recently told me she was at a NY Fisheries meeting and asked permission to drop concrete blocks for reef building during their boats' fishing runs. She was told, "There's no evidence increasing habitat by artificial reef increases fish populations."
That sums up pervasive thought in the management & fishery science community. There are many too in the environmental camp who would say exactly that if offered a chance to help build artificial reef.
These major players simultaneously decry habitat loss for all fisheries while stomping creative reef building at every chance.
It's not a secret: fish, coral, oysters, mussels & everything else that grows on natural hardbottoms will also grow on manmade substrates. Still undiscovered in the literature, natural hardbottom reef habitat off our coast should very precisely be called "Essential Fish Habitat." It can be artificially mimicked to suit fishes' need with any hard substrate. Fish are too dumb to know they shouldn't spawn on fake reef.
The reason management can't plainly see the incredibly obvious benefit of reef building is because they've got their attention solely focused on computer screens full of MRIP's wild guesses of recreational catch. Our landings jump around so much that assigning any favorable conclusion to a strategy other than catch restriction is impossible.
Reduced fishery production ("whatever that is") from habitat loss is locked in science - it's irrefutable.
Why in Billy Blue Blazes we have such a hard time convincing management habitat creation bolsters fish populations is beyond me.
If it is true that every habitat impact lowers fisheries production, then it must also be true that every expansion of habitat, no matter how small, increases fishery production.
Feel free to quote me on that.
We need that logic to replace management's current, 'Oh No! We can't stop recreational overfishing and there's nothing we can do about seafloor habitat loss!'
We need our sea bass back too.
NMFS used bad catch estimates to steal the sea bass fishery.
Management's got sea bass fishermen in retreat, a rout you might say. Our economic blood-spilling continues in Barnegat, NJ where a business with three generations of history just sold, the party boat, Doris Mae. Among their primary reasons for selling was being denied access to "Fully Restored" sea bass in winter.
For all management's "victories" via greater catch restriction, sea bass are worse off, much worse off, than they were just 6 years into management.
Recreational management began in 1997. From the very, very bottom of industrial overfishing; by 2003 sea bass were at a 50 year high. Self imposed, along Maryland's coast we'd been using an identical strategy to federal management's beginnings since 1992.
I do not know how it came to be my task to convince this Federal Behemoth that having lots & lots of spawning sea bass is much better than having very few; and having lots & lots of new hardbottom habitat would make their job of "sea bass restoration" fantastically more simple. One voice among many, I've made it my task & I shall not shirk from it.