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FALL TOG TACTICS: AIM SMALL, MISS SMALL

Small pieces of structure that draw little attention can reap big rewards in the ‘tog game.
By Capt. Austin Perilli
FALL TOG TACTICS: AIM SMALL, MISS SMALL
Even small pieces of structure will surrender quality ‘tog like this.

All that time spent fluke fishing during the summer has helped me locate some of the gnarliest pieces of bottom structure in my area to cull out a catch of keepers, and as a result, I’ve added a lot more blackfish numbers to my log book.

Countless acres of bottom are drifted over during the summer and any time a “fishy looking” bump pops up off the bottom on my fish finder, I save it on my GPS. If we get snagged several times in one particular area, I’ll motor back over to search for the exact whereabouts of the structure.

Not all of these rough bottom pieces hold blackfish, but many of the higher profile pieces did warrant further exploration and last fall I was pleasantly surprised by the quantity of blackfish on these small spots.

SMALL IS BETTER
While the majority of these fish were little guys, under 16 inches, there were enough quality tog in the mix to keep things interesting. If you’re like most anglers, you probably head right for proven blackfish grounds along with the rest of the fleet, and probably steam over plenty of small pieces loaded with blackfish that you can anchor up on and have all to yourself. There’s something highly rewarding in finding a sunken boat, barge, rock pile or even a muscled-covered shopping chart that’s not listed on any chart, and pulling blackfish off it.

If you have several of these potential inshore blackfish pieces in mind and feel like exploring the life on them, a few pieces of equipment are highly recommended and under some conditions, mandatory to be successful. First is the use of a second anchor. Many of these inshore pieces are very small, like a sunken 22-foot speed boat. If you’re swinging across it with a single anchor, you’re far more likely to get snagged than catch a blackfish. The pivot effect of a double anchor system allows you to remain positioned directly over a piece and keep your bait very still on the edge of the structure, where a curious blackfish can swim out and attack it. Very few blackfish will be caught if your bait is swinging along the bottom.

Also, double anchoring allows you to make precise position adjustments; enabling you to fish several different sides of a piece before motoring over to the next one. Under some conditions, the up current side of a piece will have better life and on other days the down current side will have the edge, but both should be explored before moving.

MARK IT
Many boats nowadays, including my own, are rigged with chartplotters to help revisit found pieces of structure. Still, the easiest way for me to accurately position my boat over a small piece of structure is to use the tried-and-true method of an empty Clorox bleach bottle, a pre-measured length of line, and a sash weight. For inshore blackfishing I carry two different bottles; one loaded with 50 ft. of line and the other loaded with 75 feet of line.

I use my chartplotter to get in the vicinity of the piece and instantly throw the bleach bottle overboard when it shows up on my fish finder. Now that I have a surface marker as a reference point, I can motor up and see how the wind/tide are going to effect my positioning. Having the piece within flipping distance is fine, but if you can’t get that crab within a couple of feet of the structure, then you’re not really in the game.

THE TERMINAL END
Terminal tackle considerations when targeting blackfish should be kept just about as basic as it gets; hook, leader, sinker, done! I’ll snell a 3/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook on foot-long length of 40-pound Perlon leader material. Then, I’ll tie in another leadered hook midway down the first leader to create a tandem rig. I’ll position these hooks 3 inches about my sinker and I’m ready to go.

Gearing up, I tie in a 15 feet length of 40-pound mono leader connected via a double-uni knot to 30-pound braid. My deep water fluking outfit consisting of a Tsunami Airwave TSAWIC701H rod and Shimano Calcutta 400 reel fit the bill perfectly for inshore blackfishing; lightweight and smooth with plenty of lifting power.

BAITING UP
Lastly, the preferred bait is going to be in the crab family. Fiddlers work well inshore but are very fragile. Small, whole Asian crabs are awesome if you can find them in the bait shop but more often you’ll have to catch them yourself. Sand crabs, hermit crabs, and even small pieces of blue claw crabs also work very well.

However, the most readily available is the green crab and when quartered or cut in half, makes a great blackfish bait. Stick the point of the hook into the leg socket and out through the shell and you’re good to go. Keep your crab alive until you’re ready to bait your hook, then remove the outer top shell and cut them into pieces. A scissor works great for cutting up crabs and I’ll always have one on the cutting board when blackfishing.

Putting the time into exploring new little inshore blackfish pieces is a great way to hone your skills, find a secret blackfish honey-hole, and have a lot of fun in the process. The satisfaction once you start to put a few fish in the cooler will far outweigh the exploration and anchoring time.

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