It’s a safe assertion that no other species is as highly prized and respectfully regarded by Northeast and Mid-Atlantic bottom fishermen as the blackfish. Each year, as reports begin to circulate about bruiser tog hitting the scales, sinker bouncing aficionados develop the same unabated surge of excitement and impulsiveness to fish as one would observe among the striped bass crowd when the word “blitz” has been mentioned. So strong is the allure of blackfish that I consistently put all other fishing on the back burner when tog put on the feed bag in my neck of the woods.
Perhaps the greatest appeal to targeting tog is the challenge they present in both hooking and landing mammoth specimens. Outsized tog hardly lend themselves to being bested by novice anglers. Nearly any semi-competent angler can liveline around a bunker school and cull a cow striper if in the right place at the right time. Furthermore, how many times have you heard of someone dead-sticking on a drift and miraculously tying into a doormat fluke by virtue of pure dumb luck? Such an occurrence is rarely seen in the realm of the venerable tautog, which is why hefty, double-digit catches are so praised and envied.
The most recent catch to become the focus of attention is the gargantuan 21.06-pound brute bested by Capt. Greg Nardiello of the Ocean Eagle V in Sheepshead Bay. Taken November 24th, 2012, this fish falls just shy of the New York State blackfish record set December 9th, 2011, by Gene Pitaro of Flushing. Pitaro took his monster 21.55-pound bulldog while fishing with Capt. Nick Savene of No Time Charters out of Bay Park Fishing Station in Oceanside. That record breaker measured 30-1/4 inches long with a girth of 24-1/2 inches and edged out a 20.65-pound specimen caught by Yakov Elkin on November 11th, 2009.
Speaking of the world record, New Jersey remains the home of the reigning blackfish that has remained unchallenged for nearly 15 years. The granddaddy of all tog to date weighed in at 25 pounds even and fell victim to Tony Monica aboard the Ocean City party boat, North Star, on January 20th, 1998. Locating and hooking such a beast would be an incredible feet in the most placid of sea conditions but Monica nailed the slob in the midst of gnarly 6- to 8-foot rollers coupled with blustery winds and bitter snow. This stands as a shining testament to Monica’s skill and tenacity as an angler.
What’s also interesting to note in respect to the world record tog harkens back to an interview I did with Capt. Greg Nardiello. As Capt. Greg came to divulge intimate details regarding his trophy blackfish tactics, he specifically mentioned the merits of monofilament line for providing superior bait presentation under certain conditions. It turns out that Monica’s 25-pounder also fell to mono line, in this case 30-pound Ande pink. This effectively affirms Capt. Greg’s theory that braid isn’t always the optimal choice for bottom fishing.