Tiny Tog Inshore Practice Run

By Scott Lenox

Tiny Tog Inshore Practice Run

Hit the vid for the 12 Days of Christmas at Atlantic Tackle!

Captain Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star was out on the ocean today and switched gears for a little tautog practice run.  Captain Monty had much success with the togs and should be ready to go full steam when sea bass season closes for Maryland on January 1

As advertised, “Chisel Tooth and Tiny Togs Inshore Practice Run 12/10/21” – I delivered the goods! My gosh did we catch shorts..

Had anticipated somewhat boisterous conditions heading off this  morning – they were. Sean C dropped blocks at Greg Hall’s Memorial Reef. I laid inshore for our toggin trip. Fish bit well save a lull when current switched NNE to SSW. Brought a fair jag of whites and green crab for bait; used dern near all of em too – like really all – and in an hour late cause the bite was on..

Dennis M won today’s pool. He also released approximately 60 tog. 

It’s good that we have a 16 inch size limit. We ought to take it up half an inch every two years. 

I think the extra year class or two in the spawning population (from 14 to 16 inch size limit) has done well for spawning production. Now to let some grow through and increase spawning production even more. 

You need to understand — I’ve tagged hundreds and hundreds of double-digit tog on pieces we fished today. But that was before they became popular again. 

While it may be unlikely I’ll ever see today’s throwbacks become twenty-pounders; it’s also true that no one will—none of today’s youthful tog nuts will either—if we don’t dial back fishing’s removals plus increase habitat and spawning production further. 

Forever in a world of regulatory can’t. Among some of the “can’t “ I heard for years and years: Top of mind now is “We can’t have different size limits for ocean and bay tautog.” 

Sakes.. We could make our marine fishery fabulous – and keep it that way. But never with regulation that suits inshore/back-bay tog fishers. We can do it. Just haven’t yet. 

Another I used to hear as I began describing habitat fidelity’s important role in sea bass regulation during the late 1990s and into the 2010s based in my ALS tag returns.. “We can’t regulate sea bass by region.” 

Now we regulate sea bass by region. 

Were regulators to make honest use of habitat fidelity, sea bass & sea bass fishers would benefit further. 

And, also back in the day, we can’t restore oysters. I heard that at many a meeting in the 1990s & 2000s. I was getting reports of men unable to push their arm through a submerged tire because the oysters were so thick in the early 1990s. But on shell ‘restoration’ reefs? Why, barely enough survived to dredge. Dredged & re-dredged — no reef! We Can’t Do It!

Now, having at last run out of shell; today we have rock reefs – granite & limestone – where oysters thrive in their millions. We must press ahead with substrates we have found to work!

Run today’s millions of oysters up to beyond trillions and we’ll begin to see the Mid-Atlantic’s ocean waters turn blue again.. 

There are some “Cant’s” that are true. Statisticians cannot develop a true sense of recreational catch without fishermen’s help. They really can’t. 

Boy, the “We can do it ourselves! Fishermen have no idea how many they catch” in NOAA statistician’s camp has destroyed science & management’s perception of our recreational fisheries. MRIP catch estimates need to be ignored until they’re repaired. I’m finding astronomical sea bass landings in private boat again. Working on it. I fear it’s about to become truly important. 

We can develop solid rec catch estimates – could! – just not without Bayesian stops; a statistical place where ‘catch beyond this point is impossible.’

Along with can’t there’s plenty of “haven’t” too.

Especially that we haven’t troubled ourselves with developing a history of sea floor habitat loss. 

Go sit in a wheat field with great-granddad’s .22 and see how many squirrels you can bag for dinner.. Where he had a huge stand of hardwood and many a squirrel pot-pie, you have field that produces a crop. On land there is at least a trade in production – often a good


In the ocean, however, when that hardbottom reef is towed flat, it may offer no further biological return to the sea or humanity ever again unless we restore a hard substrate: We claim need of “restoring fish” with no comprehension of lost seafloor habitat. 

It remains true – commercial fishers landed more sea bass (mostly by trawl) from 1950 to 1961 than all decades since combined. 

Biologically, habitat loss equals spawning production loss. 

Whether at sea or in an estuary, restoring hardbottom habitat is as easy as rolling rocks off a barge. 

An area such as our Bass Grounds, where once there was 4.5 square miles of patchy hardbottom reef – mostly sea whip meadow – is now completely gone save a few square yards of remnant reef. 

How in Blazes are we to ever restore the fish that thrived on that bottom with simple catch regulation? 

My turn: It can’t be done! 

I’ve said it before: Habitat restoration makes fisheries restorations simple.. 



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