Toggin’ and Reef Buildin’

By Scott Lenox

Toggin’ and Reef Buildin’

Well it has been exactly two weeks since my last fishing report….that sucks!  There have been some rockfish passing by and tautog fishing is ok, but the weather has just been terrible to start 2022.  There is more nasty weather coming this weekend with a large coastal storm that is supposed to bring wind, snow, rain and coastal flooding.  January and February are the toughest weather months of the year so we’ll just deal with it and get fishing when we can.  I’ll bring you the reports when I get them.

Captain Kane Bounds has been having some decent tautog fishing so far this winter and is getting out whenever the weather allows.  Captain Kane has implemented a 3 fish per person limit on his boats with a minimum size of 16″.  MD regulations allow 4 fish per person.  Anglers have seen several double digit fish on board Fish Bound over the past few trips with the largest fish pushing 20 pounds.

Captain Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star took advantage of today’s weather window to do some awesome work for the Ocean City Reef Foundation

Sun up revealed one of my all time favorite sights – a tug, the Sun Coast, towing a barge for us to reef. 


A fabulous donation from Vane Brothers in Baltimore, today’s reef project was a 120’ water barge – (yes, big ships get freshwater by the barge full). Although it didn’t give up easy, and would have been much more difficult without Maryland Coast Towing’s aid, the barge is now on the bottom atop another artificial reef. 

Big Dad’s Reef at Jackspot is begun. We’ll also drop many blocks and pyramids there to liven up the barge’s smooth deck. 

Capt Darrell Nottingham – Big Dad to friends & enemies alike – fished Ocean City for nearly 70 years. His tales are among those I’ve used to piece together fishing’s history off here, especially where hardbottom habitat has been lost—hard and soft coral for seabass, fluke, tautog, lobster; and a timeline for bluewater’s disappearance forcing marlin further and further offshore with each passing decade — from just three to five miles out in the 1920s, to twenty miles off in the 1950s, and often more than sixty miles off today. 

If we are ever to have restored yesteryear’s habitat—the feeding & spawning grounds lost decades ago to early stern-towed fishing gears—artificial reef will have done most of the heavy lifting. 

Management having done almost all it can, our system struggles under the weight of bad recreational catch data to maintain small restorations. The Only Way to truly bring fish populations back to post WWII levels will be in rereefing our estuaries and seafloor out to fifty fathoms at least. 

And while Big Dad might have missed that early era’s billfishing, it wasn’t by much. For instance, he described a day in the mid-1950s when his skipper grew weary of the white marlin bite at Jackspot; they picked up lines and ran offshore a bit more to a thirty fathom lump. Shortly after lines in the Capt was screaming about all the whites in the baits – but Darrell was mesmerized by whites beneath the transom, “stacked up like bunker.” (eg a school of menhaden – Thick!) 

He also told of the mess white marlin made when spitting up bellies full of sand eels. 

I’ve had a number of mates go on to become accomplished billfishermen – tournament winners. None of these young men nor their friends have ever seen a marlin with its belly full of sand eels – they live inshore (20/30 fathoms) where the water has become too murky for whites to feed owing oysters’ collapse in our major estuaries. 

Big Dad didn’t witness the white marlin’s return to inshore grounds. I probably won’t either. But it’s not too far off.. I hope. Just keep a shoulder to it and contribute. 

Estuarine reef builders know how to grow oyster reefs now – how to restore that valuable biofilter in vast number. All it will take now is money and commitment. (Not a huge player, but I like CCA MD’s estuarine habitat work and support whenever I can..) 

In the ocean OCRF will keep aiming to restore corals lost as stern-towed fishing gears broadened their impact decades ago. If seafloor could be damaged in the first forty years after WWII when surplus diesel engines were inexpensive and available, it was. 

Some grounds were lost permanently. 

That’s what I’m about – It’s time to put those habitats back. 

On it. If in a low budget sort of way.. 

If you’d like to sponsor our reef work see Have two more barges and a steel boat in the immediate lineup. Should we get some halfway decent weather they’ll be deployed soon. Your donations would sure help! 



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