Monday, October 31, 2011

York River Toggin'

5:50am.  Hit snooze.  Baby's awake.  Ugghh...

As I rocked Miles back to sleep, I checked the wind forecast.  Over night, it went from just-maybe-borderline-doable to hell-no-you-dun-lost-yo-mind.  So I called Justin to call off the tautog trip to the CBBT first island and passed back out with a drooling baby on my chest.

As I made breakfast the brooding thoughts of big togs in the deep calmness crept into my mind, so I checked the wind again... with no reprieve.  I played with my little stinker-dinker kiddos and their laughter shut the door on fishing, and I was good with that.  My wife reiterated how I deserved to have some time to myself, and she was thinking about taking the kids to her mom's place anyway, so maybe I can do something else.  I said I would think about it (and reminded her how lucky I was).

A few hours later, Justin came up with a brilliant idea that I couldn't resist and since my car was already loaded, it wasn't long before I was on the road.  Justin had caught a tautog on the York River before, but always wanted to try again.  I wanted an alternative place to go when it was blowing at the first island.

We got on the water and the NW wind was not a factor in that area.  When we got to the structure, it didn't take me long to get a hook up...

19.5" Tog.  Photo credit Justin Mayer

However, the action was not "hot" by any means.  In fact we went long stretches with no hits.  Eventually, just before we were about to move to another area, Justin hooks up to a nice one that jackhammers his rod into the water.  He kept the beast from getting into the pilings and when it finally came up, it was a doozie.

Justin's new personal best 22" Tautog

The rest of the afternoon all the way until sunset was very uneventful.  We each had a couple of missed hits as we explored the new area and that was it.  When it got dark we caught a bunch of stripers up to 23" under the lights then called it a day.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Bite in Full Effect

Fishing in the VA tidewater area is really heating up.  Reports of speckled trout are pouring in from all over with various MirrOlures and jighead n soft plastics getting the job done.  I wasn't able to get in on the trout action, but I did find a few other species.

I got out to the HRBT around 1am on Sunday morning and met Justin Mayer and Ash Bishop.  The water had just started moving with the incoming tide and the stripers were lined up thick.  As the current picked up so did their appetite.  My preference for the night was a 3" swimshad in natural bunker pattern, but almost anything would have done the trick.  I lost count after 20 or so with the biggest going 24".  Justin and Ash both had ridiculous numbers as well with their biggest going around 26"ish.  I got off the water around 4:15am and drove over to Oceans East 2 tackle shop.

After blinking my eyes a couple times, I got out of the car around 6am as Kevin was getting into work and he hooked me up with a nice mess of fiddler crabs.  I launched at the base of the CBBT to a sunrise that filled me with optimism.  However, the paddle to the first island kicked my butt as the cross currents pushed hard and the head wind gusted over 15kts... but it was worth it.  Just like the recent speck bite, the tog bite was on fire.  There were times where I couldn't even get my reel engaged before my fiddler was getting destroyed.  Most of them were in the 15"-17" range.
 Over all I must of caught over 30 or so togs.  No that's not an exaggeration.  I admit, some of those were under 15", but several were over 17" with the biggest going about 20".  Each additional inch brings a whole 'nother level of fun (insert "that's what she said" joke).  One of them ended up thrashing so hard as I was measuring it that I lost my hawg trough (the normal measuring device I use to take photos).

I had an occasional oyster toad or baby black sea bass, but the majority of the bites were definitely from togs.  A few other boats were having good luck using cut blue crab as well.  If you've been wanting to try for togs, or if you're just bored of messing with spike trout, and you're willing to deal with the paddle out, now is a great time.  A 16" tog will put up a surprisingly good fight for it's size and a 19-20" will definitely test your tackle.  I had two break me off around a piling and one pull me into bottom structure, but I ended up getting it out, minus my sinker.

As my fiddler supply dwindled, I decided to try a different spot along the bridge that I never tried before.  I wasn't expecting much and since I was already exhausted, I was thinking of leaving soon.  But I felt a hard thump and when I set the hook I immediately knew it was a much heavier fish than I've had all day.  It was an intense fight and I couldn't help but hope it was the citation (23") tog I've been after.  But I wasn't upset when it turned out to be...

Release citation Sheepshead
The last thing left in my bait container was a big fiddler claw that had broken off, and I figured why not.  I tried one piling over from where I caught the sheepshead and within a minute, I had another tough fighter on the line.  This one fought harder than the last and each nerve punishing drag run had me praying that it stayed hooked... and my imagination kept making the potential tog bigger and bigger.  But once again, I can't be upset...

Another release citation Sheepshead
I know it looks a lot like the other one, but I swear they're different.
Mean looking thing
Long, but great day

And remember to send ASMFC the prewritten email about the menhaden issue before November 2nd!

Monday, October 17, 2011

H E L P!!!

Free Stock Photo
Normally I try to avoid anything that might make my readers feel like they have to choose sides.  But this time, I have decided to throw down the gauntlet.   If I lose followers because of it, then so be it.

I feel like if we don't do something, we're going to lose what is quite possibly the most important fish in the Chesapeake Bay, which in turn will affect fishing all along the entire east coast.

Menhaden... bunker... pogy... the more I research the subject, the more upset I get and the more urgent the matter seems. 

One fact regarding Atlantic menhaden is not in dispute: the coastal population has declined 88% since 1984, and now stands at a historic low point. The latest Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s assessment confirms that. -

One single fleet harvests about three-quarters of the entire East Coast annual catch of menhaden in Virginia.  They harvest more than 100,000 metric tons of fish from the bay and surrounding coastal waters... The overall population of Atlantic menhaden is near historic lows while the population of young menhaden has been at an all-time low for more than a decade. Predators that depend on menhaden as a food source, most notably striped bass, are showing signs of ecological stress. A high proportion of striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay are suffering malnutrition and poor body condition. More than half of the striped bass sampled are infected with mycobacteriosis, a sometimes fatal disease, which typically appears in fish under stress. The survival rate of striped bass has been declining due to natural causes.  Menhaden are important to the overall health of Chesapeake not only as prey, they are also filter feeders.  They are second only to oysters, which are already grossly depleted, and feed on plankton and decaying plant matter. -

Free Stock Photo
I can regurgitate pages and pages of info I've found.  If you want, do your own homework.  In the end, I'm just asking... do you like to fish?  Would you like to keep fishing for a long time?  Do you want your kids to fish?  If you answered yes, you need to do something about the raping of our waters.  For a long time I was furious with Omega Protein, but after listening to Beau Beasley speak at a local meeting, I realized that being upset with something that was perfectly legal is futile.  We need to have our voices heard and make a change.  The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is taking public comments until November 2nd on the DRAFT ADDENDUM V TO AMENDMENT 1 TO THE ATLANTIC MENHADEN FISHERY MANAGEMENT PLAN.  Right now is the first time in the history of the menhaden fishery that the commission is thinking about implementing regulations to stop overfishing.

Visit and simply fill out your zip code then your info to send your the prewritten letter to the ASMFC.  

Plus, check out this site to see how we do our part in reducing the use of Omega 3 that come from menhaden.

Also, if you can spare a few packs of Gulp, join your local
Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) chapter and help them push the lawmakers into making the right decision.

There comes a time when you can choose to do something that might change the course of history.  Instead of idly standing by, letting the good fight blow past you... do something.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Last Three Trips

Thursday October 6th, got off work and went lightline striper hunting at the HRBT.   I fished the slack then most of the incoming tide and ended up with several decent size croaker and eighteen stripers between 21" and 24.5".  Other species that ended up on my line included grey trout, baby bluefish, oyster toads, and black sea bass.  Lures/baits for the night included chartreuse gulp, gotcha 3" dark green grubs, fishbites bloodworms, and 4" calcutta swimbaits in natural bunker pattern.  I met Matt Anderson out there and we stayed out til nearly 5am.

Monday October 10th.  After work, I met up with Marty Mood and tried for the big red drum under the CBBT.  The bluefish were thick and there were good numbers of schoolie stripers... but no reds.  Oh well.

Thursday October 13th.  I got the urge so back to the HRBT it was.  I started off with a small speckled trout, a dink flounder, then got into the stripers.  I caught about a dozen with the two biggest going...



They're definitely out there and hungry for anything that swims by.
Get out and be safe!