Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Nov. 24 -- Winds down, boat bassing up

Saturday, November 24, 2007: Waves: Small. Water clarity: fair.

Wow report of the week – if not the month – comes from a striped bass fishing trip that saw a 76-pound bft so for a stretch 25 that had been doing quite well on bass.

Here’s a report I got: “

It's official, XYZ Walter Johnson' son TJ caught a 76 pound bluefin, trolling Friday about 1.5 miles off of LBI. They were trolling up a good catch of Stripers and Blues, when the beast hit a Stretch 25. After a 45-minute fight, they boated the tuna. Fish weighed in at the BHMTC, after proving too large for Jingle's scale! They had another on a spinner and couldn't get that one to the gaff. ReBait”

Speaking of boat fishing bass, it is through the ceiling in many zones. From the Ferris Wheel (Seaside) all the way to south op Barnegat Inlet there are muscular school of stripers. The Ferris Wheel has large fish with more keepers that you can shale a stick at. Actually, that should be troll a stick. The umbrellas, the stretches and single trailing trolled plugs are finding the mark, again and again. Of course, the wind and truly frosty air temps add an element of deep-fall fishing.

The surf stripers really seem to have gone to school. The take is high but the take-home is way down, i.e. loads of schoolies. Here’s one typical report:

“Hi Jay, After spending most of the day cleaning out the gardens for the winter, I finally got to the beach about 3:00 with a couple of hours until dust to hit the suds. I counted about 20 rods, within a two block area on either side of me. There were gannets diving heavily just past the bar. I only saw one short taken just before dark. I had walked down to the beach about midday to check it out. I talked to one guy that had been there since 7:00. He told me he had taken 5 shorts, no keepers. He had seen several other shorts taken by other anglers. All the fish were taken on clam. It appears the best fishing occurred after the tide started dropping from what I heard. Bob T.”

There are still (somewhat surprisingly) some serious bluefish in the surf and near the inlets. With water temps in the low 50s to upper 40, slammers to 15 pounds are nosing around on the bottom, where bunker chunks work well.

Email question:

“Jay, Tried using sand crabs for blackfish when the bassing was too slow. No luck. I think it was too rough. Any tricks to catching them?”

(Stay away from overly-rough water.

Actually, tog take to energetic feeding when it’s riled up but they are very much sight feeders and I’ve always had my best blackies days (on the rocks) when the water was clean and relatively calm, though a bit of surge is obviously helpful in getting them out of the crevices and into their dinner-grabbing mode a dinner mode that the fish often abandon for hours on end.

Sidebar: I’ve fished for tog to total non-avail only to later snorkel the same jetty to find the rocks stacked with blackies -- but just not eating.

The trick to nabbing jetty tog is to be able to get to the rock ends (or almost out there) and persistently probe the rocks by flicking the bait out, maybe 20 feet off, letting it drop, checking for fish and repeating. By the by, beachfront tog are very much late-day feeders.

Blackies often hang around a specific rock area, picking mussels off rocks. By checking all along the jetty, you have your best chance of coming across feeding zones. Of course, actively feeding blackies are always highly poised to zip away from the mussels and grab any tasties drifting by.

My tog surfcasting technique: I scale the jetty, toward the end. I throw out well past the rocks (25 feet) and let the sand crabbed rig (usually accompanied by a one-ounce back or pillow sinker) pendulum back to the deep water adjacent to the jetty. If my rig ends up on the bottom too far from the rocks, I just bring it in a couple feet at a time, stopping and waiting for a take on the way. You’ll often find large tog fairly far from the rocks, especially when eating calico crabs, but they seldom stray far from the rocks from more than a minute or two.

The zone right next to the rocks – as close as you can get without get tangled – is always prime blackie territory. When I’m hitting tog tucked close to the stones (often), I tend you just underhand flick the rig very close in.

If you’ve never fished tog, its pick-up is quite likely the subtlest bite of any local gamefish species. Even 10-pound blackies present little more than a couple raps at the line. That is the only chance of nabbing them. Rap. Rap. Hit it! The up side is many blackies will play the tap (bait stealing) game until they finally lose. On days when the blackfish are aggressively feeding, they quickly commit to the hook so they’re an easy hookup. However, on those same active days the tog are inclined to grab a morsel (and a hook) then bolt back into the barnacle/mussel encrusted rocks, line and all. That penchant has earned them the highest break-offs of any fish, even bluefish.

Sidebar: As you might know, it was highly common for olden tog fishermen to use such cheaply disposable sinkers as used sparkplugs, large screws and bolts and even pieces of sheet lead (bent over line). I know this from years of metal detecting under water.

A trick that often works when tog drag line into holes is to keep line taunt and wait out the fish. Very often, the hookee soon makes a break for it and is a goner.

Hardcore toggers (often Asians) fish rocks with long very heavy-duty rods and line up to 100 pound test. They literally pull the fish outward, away from the rocks, with the long rods. No need to go quite that heavy duty on our jetties. There has to be some sport to it, though heavier line is very helpful. I use 25 pound test and maybe a medium-heavy 8 foot rod.

Tog is delicious and one our finest fish for making fishcakes and fish stews. Personally, I eat them whole, simply gutting then baking until skin is crisp and meat is steamy done. Once a cooked tog is open, it’s often best to pull the meat off for presentation – unless everyone at the table is experienced at easting fish in the round. Dipping tog pieces in black bean sauce is great –as is dipping in seasoned melted butter.

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