South Jersey Fishing: Big Tog Crunch Underway
Save for the year of Sandy and the following two, it was pretty much calendar clockwork as to when the big (read: 8 to 15-plus pound) blackfish (tog) move invade the wrecks and provide stellar bottom fishing opportunities.
Well, the “Big Tog” crab crunch is underway, kicking into gear the middle of last week and sure to continue, barring a sudden prolonged freeze that drops bottom water temperatures into the low forties. This has happened occasionally over the years, and when the aforementioned temps plummet to 44 degrees or lower, the tog develop a severe case of lockjaw.
This is a super-slow growing species, and fish in the 24-inch class can be voting age. The corollary is they can attain spawning capabilities at 11-12 inches.
Go figure Mother Nature.
In any event, many feel that the double-digit weight blackies should be released, as they are the prime breeders. This is a matter of personal choice. As to the parrot-like “Big tog don’t taste as good,” I contend that the fish was either not bled, fried in 10W30, or both. I’ve enjoyed fillets from 14 to 16-lb. tog that were properly bled, and then broiled or panko coated and fried, and they were scrumptious.
While green crabs will certainly catch tog on either rig or jig, it’s the white legger (Jonah) crab that consistently catches the longest, heaviest blackfish. Their effectiveness is undeniable but their cost can border on the prohibitive. It depends on how badly you want a double digit tog in your cooler. All the party boats sailing for tog provide greenies, and some also offer the temperamental and short-lived Jonahs for sale dockside.
From this corner, it’s worth the investment in big fish action and big fish fillets.
In Ocean County, the trio of party boats that consistently put fares over big tog wrecks include the Capt. Cal II (Capt. Ron/Belmar), the Jamaica II (Capt. Ryan/Brielle), and the Norma K III (Capt. Matt/Pt. Pleasant).
The daily limit through December 31 is five fish at a 15-inch minimum.
The bird stocking schedule is winding down. For this Saturday and next Thursday (December 5), these are the respective numbers of pheasants and quail being liberated in The Hawk listening area wildlife management areas. (Thanksgiving Day numbers were posted last week.)
Pheasants: Assunpink (250, 250); Colliers Mills (150, 150); Howardsville (40, 40,); Manahawkin (30, 30); Manasquan (90, 90); Medford (60, 60); Port Republic (30, 30); and Stafford Forge (110, 110).
Quail: Greenwood Forest (260, 260); Peaslee (260, 260).