Monday, January 11, 2016

Fish Report 1/11/16

Fish Report 1/11/16
More Toggin 
Been Toggin 
Future Of Toggin 

All Winter Trips Posted Via Email. There's just no use trying to go everyday in winter. Life Goes On..

Going Toggin' - Sea Bass Closed (Thanks MRIP)  
Weather Looks Good For Thursday & Friday Coming: 
Thursday, January 14th - 7 to 3 - $110.00 - 10 Anglers Sells Out 
Friday, January 15th - 6:30 to 3:30 - $125 - 16 Anglers Sells Out  

My Crew Have White Crabs For Sale AT THE DOCK for the low, low price of just $5.00 per generous dozen. There Is No Guarantee We'll Have Whites For Any Trip. Sometimes they all die. That shrinkage is why I prefer greens. We may be bringing some whites with us in the ocean. Green Crabs (not Whites!) Remain Provided As Boat Bait And Are Included In All Fares.   

Skunks are always possible while tog fishing. 
Really. It's a frequent occurrence, even with a good bite. Not an easy fishery; the very best toggers sometimes get their head handed to them despite folks all around having done well. 
Then too, sometimes the whole boat can do very poorly. 
If you can't take the heat, and there ain't much of that either, stay out of the kitchen. 

Going Toggin Anyway! Tog Only, Sea Bass Are Closed Because NOAA Has Absolutely No Real Idea How Best To Manage The Fishery. 
No Live Tog Leave The Boat - Dead & Bled - Period. (I Believe The Live Tog Black Market Has Hurt This Fishery ..But Nowhere Near As Much As Bad Sea Bass Regulations)
Agreed With Or Not, All Regulations Observed – Maryland: 4 Tog @ 16 Inches 

If You Won't Measure & Count Your Fish, The State Will Provide A Man With A Gun To Do It For You. We Measure & Count — ALWAYS — No Exceptions! 

Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - On My Rig You Can Reserve What Spot You're In. Please See For How The Rail's Laid Out..
LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Happen - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way..  

Be a half hour early! We always leave early! 
..except when someone shows up right on time. 
Clients arriving late will see the west end of an east bound boat. With a limited number of reserved spots, I do not refund because you over-slept or had a flat..

Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! (Meclizine's Better!) Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure.  
Honestly - If you get to go on the ocean once month, once a year, or even less; why risk chumming all day? Similarly, if you howl at the moon all night, chances are good you'll howl into a bucket all day.  

Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. Do Not Bring A Very Large Cooler. We DO have a few loaners - you'll still need ice. 
No Galley! Bring Food & Beverages To Suit. A few beers in cans is fine for the ride home.   

Now Out Of Block - Rats! Working On More.. Will Accept Even Small Donations Of A Few Blocks You Have Cluttering Up The Yard..
12,593 Reef Blocks Deployed at numerous sites. Active presently are Doug Ake's Reef with 2,394 - St. Ann's 1,459 - Al Giles Barge 653 - Eagle Scout Reef 756 - Sue's Drifting Easy Reef 147 - Nichols' Concrete 540 - Upside Down Tank 132 

Please Support the Ocean City Reef Foundation!
We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential. 
Thank You! 
Every Splash Makes Fishing Better.. 

Greetings All, 
Not seeing the best toggin ever. It certainly lives up to it's reputation of being a pain in the neck fishery. 
Did have one fellow, code-name Ben, catch about three limits. His success turned into science when he released tagged tog up to 26 inches. 
We've seen other nice releases of late as more-fortunate anglers limit-out. 
Make no mistake; guys that knew what they were doing have had to stop on the way home for roast chicken too.

An interesting article on the New Hope, a trawler that was abandoned in OC and then scrapped. Thanks to the generosity of the Iron Lady's crew, we used her steel at Capt. Bob Gowar's Reef while the wood went to the dump.
Believe me - Capt. Bob's Reef is going to be a very toggy place.. 

Here's a public roads project in NC that will be giving their artificial reefs a huge boost.    

We caught another big octopus this week. Getting other reports from Jersey & Maryland. Dr. Auster tells me they're seen south of Hatteras & in the Gulf of Maine - mostly absent here. Perhaps artificial reef in the Mid-Atlantic has reached a point where successful octopus spawning & colonization will be more common.. 
When I asked an 80-something skipper who trawled, clammed, and marlin fished many years off our coast, Capt. Jim instantly recalled the only octopus he ever saw. A sport client caught it while drifting a sponge bed in the 1960s. 
"Sponge was a pain in the ass" he said.. 

Right there is one of my key drivers for "Habitat Restoration" being a far greater piece of our fisheries restoration puzzle than is currently credited. 
Many old-timers I've spoken with saw deadman's fingers sponge every trip (hook and line) - they'd pull it up while drifting for seatrout or sea bass. deadman's sponge 
Yet I have only seen one example in 36 years. 
Tales too from earlier commercial fishers of sea whip clogging up nets, of rocks getting stuck in the clam dredge..

We've yet to comprehend habitat's role in fishery restoration. I'd be surprised if we have even 15% of pre-trawl/pre-scallop/pre-surfclam seafloor habitat. 

Octopus - at least - seem poised to force us to ponder seafloor habitat's role in fisheries production. 

Been a lot of anglers ask about releasing tog. 

While flounder fishing or sea bassing in late fall my crew & I will cheerfully allow, encourage even, the sharing of fish so that more folks have limits. 
Maryland's tog fishery has nowhere near that same strength. Yeah.. Maybe trade one up to a guy that's been skunked - but our emphasis for clients who have a limit is to put them back, not to high-grade. 

I'm not at all concerned with boat limits. I do want everyone to have a fresh tog dinner if they want it. Clients are certainly welcome to the State's regulatory 4 fish limit if they care to and are able. 
My crew & I don't need a mess of fish every trip.  
I've been approached recently with - 'We'll buy tickets for your boat if we can have the crew's limit.
Yeah.. No. 
I'd sooner stay at the dock than prostitute this fishery like that. 

Although I believe nothing's done greater harm to our tog fishery than bad sea bass management, I want anglers to trust me on this. I've learned it the hard way several times. 
If your goal is to catch a 10 pound tog, better toss back a lot of 8s. 

It makes sense biologically to toss back more females. Sure, take a few; but judging by observations of life-long toggers, it seems likely tog engage in a habitat-based bull/harem spawning of some sort. (As in many mammals, other males/bulls are driven off. We have no idea how much reef-space a big chinner might protect, nor how many females represent a harem. Truthfully, observations are just that & badly blurred by water too. We'd need to do the work to actually understand it. ) 

Another aspect of tautog that's poorly understood is getting from fertilized egg to 9 inch fish on a marine reef. We caught a 9 inch tog on our recent long-tog trip. That fish was not lost. Did it develop from an egg offshore, or swim 20+ miles after a development period in an estuary? 
All the science - all of it - points to estuarine development. 
But, really, how hard have we looked at a species whose reef habitat has yet to receive any study of any sort? 
Perhaps we're doing something right. Sure was a nice spike of juvenile tog in our coastal bays this summer. I anticipate/hope for some sort of press release about what were probably the highest sampling numbers ever for juvenile tog..

The idea of more females being the most desirable condition in any fish population has 100% backfired in sea bass. Today we have, by far, the largest-sized & greatest-percentage of female sea bass ever in the Mid-Atlantic. Yet the population is painfully diminished from earlier in management when small males were much more numerous--incredibly more numerous. From tragic overfishing with its anticipated diminishment into the early 1990s, we climbed to the highest sea bass population on record in the early 2000s with a good percentage of the sea bass population, though small, showing the bright blue head of a spawning male. Today there are virtually no small males of less than 10 inches---none. All those once-male small sea bass & many still-larger fish are female, yet this region's sea bass population has trended generally downward for over a decade. 

Sea bass aside, it does seem tautog have responded in standard BOFF fashion. ("BOFF" fisheries theory predicts "Big Old Fecund Females" will increase a fishery's production - fecundity refers to egg production - in most of biology eggs are dear & sperm is cheap..)

If you'd really like to catch a 15 pound tog, or long to join that exclusive 20 pound club, then you're probably past the point where a 10 pounder will go on the wall. Because a 20 pounder is nearing twenty years of age; when skilled crews & anglers focus only on body count, everyone's chances of future jumbos diminish.. 

It is true that releasing BIG tog is more of a challenge. Sometimes these fish literally fight to the death. It's pretty plain when they're that exhausted. It's also true that their bodies are so robust their stomach cannot protrude like sea bass. This stomach protrusion is called 'eversion' and is very survivable for sea bass - commonly survived if heat at the surface doesn't get them. 
Tog taken from deep-depths can, unfortunately, sometimes experience an audible 'explosion' as their air bladder ruptures internally. But it's NOT all the time!! I've recaptured tagged tog from deep water.. Ninety or a hundred feet presents no issue at all that I've seen.  

Another, more common problem in tog is 'prolapse' -- a condition many think is not survivable. Again, because sea bass (and lots of southern reef species) are able to survive extending (everting) their stomach, they do not suffer from intestines being pushed out the vent. Whether fish or mammal, escaped intestines are called 'prolapse' in cases I've seen. I am 100% confident minor prolapse is survivable; I have had instances where tagged fish were observed in a live well to reacclimate their air bladder and, seemingly with ease, draw even a few inches of intestine back into their body cavity as pressure re-equalized in the swim bladder. 
A legal fish, however, that's audibly ruptured (or visibly with air bubbles below the surface,) and also has prolapsed intestines is no candidate for release.. 

Much more common in spring are females nearing the spawn that suffer prolapsed ovaries. This can happen even in very shallow water. Perhaps just tensing of muscle or even a single 15 foot pressure change? I'm unsure but have seen it many times, especially since the delay in spring sea bass season.  
A good place for some research: I'm certain these female tog survive release, even with ovaries completely lost. But can they spawn again in following months or years?  

Regardless whether you want lots & lots of frozen tog you'll have to give neighbors before it goes bad; or have an opportunity to feel the most powerful bottom thumping fish you've ever hooked run 65 pound braid into heavy structure (just before it chafes off!) -- All who enjoy togging should support reef building wherever they fish. 

If you're fortunate to have a state program building marine reef - write to them, write to the boss, write your local political reps: Tell 'em THANKS!! 

In Maryland we have one part time reef guy who's going away, and a brand spanking new "Reef Director" who's never gotten a rock wet. 
I lobby all the time for MD DNR to step up & recognize oyster & coral restoration requires a serious artificial reef program. 

If your state has a reef program, don't take it for granted. 
Amazing what a few letters can do 
..far more amazing what a lot of rocks & concrete can do.  
Especially if you pursue the chiseltooth.


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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