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There’s something about big tautog that attracts a lot of localized attention, and Atlantic City became ground zero in January of 2016 when it comes to gambling on a monster score.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
Tags: offshore

Not just big tautog; we’re talking monsters, dedicated trophies and potential record-breakers.

Ken Westerfeld took the world record tog early in 2015 and has been on the seminar circuit ever since with his trophy mount, an armful of tackle, and tips for others looking to score their own fish of a lifetime. But when Ken hears about another 20-pound-or-better blackfish taken someplace between Massachusetts and Maryland, no matter what time of year, you can expect him to hit the road in search of that local bite.

Fact is, where there’s one, there’s probably a handful—and when a beast of a blackfish is reported back at the dock, you can bet that the tactical toggers will be on the move.

Take for example the 23-pound, 10-ounce blackfish caught by Pete McCusker aboard the Osprey V out of Absecon Inlet, NJ on January 2 of this year. Within hours of this 32-inch behemoth being brought to scales at Riptide Bait and Tackle in nearby Brigantine, wreck fishermen from all over the region were on the move towards Atlantic City in hopes of lightning striking twice. Westerfeld was there six days after that with a pool-winning fish aboard the Osprey V; one week later, Mike Pyzik of Tabernacle, NJ weighed in a 22-pound, 15-ounce tautog taping out at 31 inches at Riptide.

According to Mike’s Maritime Memorabilia, Capt. Clarence Starn is Patriarch of "Capt. Starn's Pier" at Atlantic City. The skipper ran daily fishing trips from the Pennsylvania Railroad pier at Absecon Inlet in the early 1900’s, and by 1936 had purchased the pier to turn into Capt. Starn's Restaurant and Boating Center. It was home to a large fleet of boats for much of the 20th century, long before the city’s redevelopment as a now failing gambling resort. Capt. Starns is long gone, leaving Gardner’s Basin, itself famous for being a landing site for rum runners during Prohibition, as a last bastion of the ocean-going sportfishing industry in Atlantic City.

While Atlantic City gambling options may be failing, anglers are suddenly flocking to the north end of town at Kammerman’s Marina at Gardner’s Basin for record tog.

While Atlantic City gambling options may be failing miserably, anglers are suddenly flocking to the north end of town at Kammerman’s Marina at Gardner’s Basin. “This was by far the largest blackfish I ever caught on what was only my second ever tog trip,” McCusker said. The Fisherman subscriber from New Jersey says he typically enjoys back bay fishing from LBI to Ocean City in the southern part of the state on light tackle, but was prompted by a friend to hop aboard the Osprey V on January 2 to give blackfishing a try. “I usually fish for tautog at LBI on the jetty at Barnegat Light or around the T-Jetty in Atlantic City,” he said. “This was only my second time toggin’ on a boat.”

“They are like the ninjas of the wrecks, stealing your bait without even feeling a bite,” said McCusker about the challenge of catching tautog on the deeper water structure. “My second largest was actually caught on the same day and weighed just over 10 pounds. That fish was caught just a few minutes after we first anchored up.”

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