Time For Toggin’

By Scott Lenox

Time For Toggin’

It was a little chilly in the area today, but for being the last day of 2023 it was very, very nice!!  I’d like to take a quick second to thank all of you for your support in 2023!!  2024 is the 10th Anniversary for Fish in OC and we would not be here without our awesome advertisers, suppliers, contributors and readers.  Kristen and I and our sons Ryan and Jack thank you immensely and we’re looking forward to another exciting year in 2024!!

Happy New Year!!

Captain Chase Eberle of Chasin’ Tides Charters had a great day of toggin’ today with some very nice fish coming by the rail.  The biggest of the bunch was a beautiful fish of 18.5 pounds!

Today was the last day of Maryland sea bass season so from now until May boats like the Morning Star with Captain Monty Hawkins will be toggin’.

Made an easy trip of this last day of 2023. Left after sun-up. Tim added our last 14 blocks (including 3 tog condos!) to a reef we’ve been working on. Spent a beautiful day kicking around the back forty hunting bites for my toggin clients. Lot of skill on the rail today; nice weather too. 

Worked. 

One of my best anglers, Courtney’s Uncle, JoJo — while fishing next to the destroyer of male fishing superiority’s dreams herself, Ms Hailey(!) no less — boated today’s pool winner. 

It was measured and released. 

If the boat pool was done Vegas style, Joe’s pool winner would have paid long odds having caught it next to one of the very best tog fishers I’ve ever known… 

Had some interesting correspondence with fisheries science today. Some dedicated people out there reading my rantings on New Years Eve.. Among many points I was trying to show how the report I have to send tonight – an electronic Vessel Trip Report – cannot convey the truth of today’s fishing. At one point we had caught 30 keepers – and only kept ten. 

A fishery manager or scientist would see only, say, 50 throwbacks and ten keepers and, quite sensibly, presume all 50 were shorts – my mandatory report will misrepresent the actual composition (sizes/ages) of the stock and anglers’ dedication to re-enlivening the fishery. 

As important as self-regulation is, building more habitat is also a big part of fishing’s future. 

When I started fishing in OC there were many wrecks where if you steamed there – but someone had already anchored on it? You had a loooong steam to the next spot. 

Twin Wrecks gave you at least one other option, but they only offered good fishing a few times in spring and again in late fall. Nowadays three boats could fish in that vicinity three days straight and not hit the same reef twice – there’s a lot of artificial reef there. Each piece of structure offers the same fisheries production as natural reef – save that it’s more complex, has far greater production per sq ft compared to our typical natural reef bottom. 

Jackspot’s ‘Cook’ wreck was a lonely thing too – risky to run there in dive season especially. Now it’s common to have a couple partyboats and a charter or two – the catastrophic wreck of long ago is now surrounded by many pieces of artificial reef. 

There was a terrible oil spill in December 1958 when the oil tanker “African Queen” hit a shoal 9 miles out and sank 12 miles SE of Ocean City. Makes a good read https://www.baltimoresun.com/1990/10/07/saga-of-the-african-queen/

That wreck too was a pain in the neck for a dive or fishing boat if anyone else was on it. Now there’s dozens of pieces nearby.. 

Lot less pepto for operators because of reef building – an awful lot more fisheries production too. 

Especially tautog. 

Sure wish the Feds would catch on. 

This part of fisheries science is as far from rocket science as it gets: roll anything heavy off a barge – or sink the barge itself(!) – and, in a few years, fish and growths shall be reproducing exactly as they would on a natural reef. 

Rock. 

Concrete. 

Steel.

It really is that simple. 

Even if painted with the best antifouling paint available today you’d only slow the process down.. 

Perhaps the nicest coral growth we have off the MD coast is in 75 feet of water, nine miles out. Might be the most heavily fished spot if considered over it’s 45 year lifetime. Look too close at that reef though and the ‘Wows!’ turn to ‘Whuuuut?’ – I think it’s the only surviving reef from the Mosquito Control Program of the mid 1970s – at least north of Hatteras – where tens of thousands washed back ashore in events vividly remembered by today’s top management; off our coast a bunch of tires protected by a tall shoal just east became crazy grown-over with coral. 

Lot of fish and lobster have reproduced there over the decades..

Someday the great might of Federal Fisheries will grasp some of the basic truths currently hidden behind a huge cloud of bad recreational catch data. When that happens our region’s estuaries and vast seafloor will begin bursting with new production. 

I so hope that path begins in 2024. 

Wishing all of you exactly that and other good fortunes in the coming year. 

Now I have to hustle home and do the last weekly reef raffle tonight and grand prizes tomorrow after fishing!

Lots of prizes in the next two drawings – A Lot!! See OCRF FB page for more info and ocreefs.org if you want to take a last minute shot at it!

Cheers!

Monty 

Had a great trip on the Angler where there were some BIG flounder caught….check it out!!

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