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BLACKFISH DREAMING

On November 14 Bill Taylor bested a truly monstrous bulldog of 22.53 pounds which took the lead in The 2014 Dream Boat Challenge.
By Capt. Joe Wenegenofsky
Tags: inshore
BLACKFISH DREAMING

Two years ago, a catch was made that I credit with jump-starting my career at The Fisherman. Within days of accepting my position as associate editor, Capt. Greg Nardiello of the Ocean Eagle V fed a whole white crab to a 21.06-pound blackfish on November 24th, 2012. Not only did this beastly white chin come tantalizingly close to breaking the New York state record, it became the subject matter for my first feature article.

Since it was published, I’ve written a few other pieces touching upon Capt. Greg’s fish and chronicling trophy tautog landings along a historical timeline. Such editorial work forced me to cross-reference compiled statistics against my personal catalog of knowledge regarding blackfish and our region. In doing so, I developed a strong, supportable notion that another record-breaker was due to be caught; likely in or adjacent to the New York Bight and during the month of November or December. Such intuition was finally validated on Friday, November 14th when youthful blackfish sharpie, Bill Taylor bested a truly monstrous bulldog of 22.53 pounds.

When Bill hung his prized “togzilla” on the scale at Bob’s Bait and Tackle in Amity Harbor he managed to accomplish two things. First, he smashed the current New York state record by nearly a full pound. The previous record holder was a 21.55-pound slob taken by Gene Pitaro on December 9th, 2011 while fishing with Capt. Nick Savene of No Time Charters. Second, he caught one of the largest blackfish ever to be submitted in the 15 year history of the Dream Boat Challenge.

This catch goes to show that The Fisherman’s subscribers represent some of the most elite anglers on the water!
In fact, he’s second only to New England subscriber Ken Owens. Ken targeted a shallow water rock pile in Long Island Sound on October 28, 2011 and struck gold with a whopping 23.55-pound behemoth. Ironically, Ken’s largest of species winning tog simultaneously earned him the Connecticut state record. So there’s a pattern being formed; two record-breaking tog in a span of only three years. That doesn’t just happen by chance; it really goes to show that The Fisherman’s subscribers represent some of the most elite anglers on the water.

There’s also nothing coincidental about neither the location nor date of Bill Taylor’s recent milestone catch. As mentioned earlier, the New York Bight has a unique history of cultivating mammoth blackfish and so far three 20-plus-pounders have been cited in this article; all caught between November and December. Now it’s time to pick out a fourth. On November 11, 2009 Yakov Elkin yanked another state record from these magic waters; a hefty 20.65-pound female. Step back and look at these figures for a moment and tell me that’s not incredible. The New York state blackfish record has turned over three times in only five years!

Meanwhile, the New Jersey state record (which also happens to be the all tackle world record) has remained unchallenged for 16 years and is only 2.47 pounds larger than Bill Taylor’s specimen. Looking further north, most of New England’s state record blackfish have reigned for decades. Case in point, a 21.25-pounder has held Rhode Island’s title for sixty years! Then you have a 22.56-pounder which has owned Massachusetts’ record since 1978, a total of thirty six years.

Given the longevity of these aforementioned records, one might be inclined to question whether or not New England waters have the ability to produce monstrous blackfish anymore and if Ken Owens’ Connecticut record was simply a fluke. Admittedly, this thought had crossed my mind a time or two until a string of New England beauties were submitted for the Dream Boat Challenge back in October. Starting the roll call was Connecticut resident, Donald Coher. While fishing local waters on October 10th, he nailed an impressive 16.75-pound female. A little over two weeks later, Rhode Islander, Cathy Muli culled another big momma of 17.30 pounds from the Watch Hill area. Then on Halloween, Adele Trueb of Connecticut worked her black magic at Black Ledge to trick a slob white chin into biting. She was treated with a 16.35-pounder at the end of her line and graciously released this trophy after being weighed, photographed and certified.

Under normal circumstances, in a tournament setting, such fish are virtually impossible to challenge but as a collective they foreshadowed something truly gigantic to come. It’s just that ironic fate would have Bill Taylor’s New York Bight fish buck the trend New Englander subscribers were establishing this season.

At this stage of the game, I’d be willing to bet my career on Bill Taylor’s 22.53-pounder holding onto first place through the conclusion of the 2014 Dream Boat Challenge. At the same time, however, I am left with many questions and curiosities regarding next year’s competition. Could a Long Island or New Jersey subscriber fishing the New York Bight luck into the next world record tog? Perhaps a Long Islander will break the New York state blackfish record yet again.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, is it possible that 2014’s New England slobs are suggestive that a monster is lurking in their waters and a record spanning a lifetime is due to fall? One cannot say for certain but it will certainly be exciting to see how things play out. That’s exactly what keeps anglers hungry and striving to catch bigger and better. In the meantime, another warm and deserving congratulation to Bill Taylor for catching one hell of a blackfish.

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