By Scott Lenox
Posted on April 23, 2022
Click on the video to see tautog and redfish gear at Atlantic Tackle.
It was another beautiful spring day today with warm temperatures, sunny skies and little to no wind for most of the day. The breeze picked up this afternoon, but it wasn’t too bad and by then the fishing damage had been done.
I took a solo trip to the east coast of Virginia today to fish for plaice and had an absolutely awesome day! The weather was perfect and I ended the day with a personal flounder limit of 17″ to 20.5″. The fish in OC Deadly Double in orange was on fire today with three of my four keepers coming in with minnows. The big fish of the day was caught on the chartreuse Deadly Double with an Otter Tails straight split in white.
Plaice fishing in Ocean City was pretty good today for some with several keepers ending up in coolers. Donny Post and his buddies Sammy Luzier and Griffin Pualk had a great day with tog, rockfish and two healers. Flounders were 17″ and 19″ and fell in love with Deadly Doubles baited with minnows.
Jordan Helsel and his gang had fun catching and releasing rockfish this afternoon and Jordan also landed a keeper fluke in the Thorofare using the chartreuse Deadly Double with a white gulp.
Josh Twilley and his little cousin Brian Smith had a great trip last night. The guys had two 18″ and 19″ keepers, then had fun catching and releasing rockfish after dark.
Morning Star Captain Monty Hawkins enjoyed calm flat seas today and his anglers enjoyed good tog fishing.
Rare sea that – calm as a forest pond on a calm summer morning. Come even a breeze from the NE, made for a great day.
Dropped 20 blocks and a pyramid then paddled some more.
Wanted to sample some inshore reefs today. Nothing wrong with that. Nice sign of fish. Some of my clients packed their three fish. I allow 2 males and a female (or 3 males.) Other regulars fired nice keepers and kept none. The state allows four to 16 inches.
In 1992 I imposed a limit of 16 inches/3 per person on the tautog because I thought it would maximize spawning production. Six years later, the federal and state government allowed up to 10 per person (DE) and 5 in MD at 14 inches as the first legal settlements on the set. (Actually, led by Captain Dale Parsons, no less, Delaware had the first tautog regulations. It may have been before mine. The writing was on the wall with sea trout collapse /weak..)
With recreational catch estimates such as Maryland’s September/October 2016 shoreline catch estimate of 174,000 pounds of bass – yes, from shore in two months; and, according to NOAA, these bass weighed an average of 1.4 lbs each. This makes them bigger, on average, than what I’ve caught since about 2004.
Honestly, it takes OC Partyboats 3 or 4 years to catch that many bass. When the estimate was released, we flipped the internet and discovered a guardian sea bass – one – near the ocean jetty. He did not weigh 1.4 lbs.
With catch estimates like this, NOAA quickly discovered that we “overfish” bass – frequently. How could we not? In 2018 & 19 anyone who fished a boat for bass in Delaware was probably a waste of money – NOAA showed many bass from the DE coast. Big ones too.
These small errors had no bearing, but many huge foul estimates became bar closes.
Fishing pressure on tautog, of course, went through the roof. It’s pretty much stayed that way ever since.
A few years ago, I was one of the few who successfully pushed a 16-inch regional limit on tog. Shortly thereafter, MD DNR biologists discovered far greater numbers of juvenile tautog during summer purse seine surveys.
At first, we all thought it would be a one-time event; just a big spawn. But no, it has remained high for the past 5 years. These fish take a while to grow, and we will have to work a bit more with the regulations to revive/ensure our jumbo tog fishery into the future; but now we see this increase in spawner production as a real increase in offshore tautog.
Lots of little guys in more habitats than there used to be.
More habitat for feeding/spawning/shelter populated by larger females resulting in increased fish numbers.
Almost like it was a plan.
Now, NOAA has seen private boats in Massachusetts and New York state catch nearly as many bass as all of North Hatteras’ commercial efforts.
Indeed, only small boats from MA, RI, CT or NY caught many times what all the party/charter boats caught along this huge stretch of coast from Hatteras to the North.
A strange world on their computers at NOAA headquarters – a real alternate universe. By my carefully weighed calculations, NOAA is showing 7.2 million pounds more sea bass than we probably caught last year.
With such endemic “overfishing”, the bar is now closed for an additional 3 weeks at the start of winter 2022.
I wonder what will happen to our “starting to thrive” tog fishery with the bass closing at the start of winter.
I tell you, the catch estimates have ruined all avenues of true fisheries restoration. Each. They blind science and management to great successes and failures. It’s high time to fix this mess.
The biggest difference between now and all the other times we’ve tried? Now managers and scientists agree.
See my ‘Fish Report 4/10/22’ if you want to encourage NOAA to correct their estimates.
A few simple emails…
Watch our video on catching, cleaning and cooking flounder and subscribe to the channel if you like!