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NY, NJ, CT, RI Edition
September 03, 2008
Volume 19 � Number 22


Toggin The Townsends Inlet Surf
by Sean MacNeal

Mr. Tog

Tautog are bucktoothed bait stealers of nightmarish proportions. Also known as blackfish, tog, or white chins, tautog are bottom dwellers whose haunts include both inshore and offshore structures, such as wrecks, bridges, and jetties, with a face that only a mother could love. Thick, rubbery lips and a powerful jaw enable it to power down on the tough outer shells belonging to the many crustaceans that make up the majority of this species' forage. However, as ugly and unappealing as this fish's exterior may seem, its meat is actually quite delicious. When cleaned and prepared properly blackfish has been known to rival lobster in both taste and texture. Though not much to look at, this mutant from the depths is a formidable foe with surprising power that will test even the most seasoned angler. Throw in the jagged edges, sweeping currents, and line-cutting barnacles associated with the bridges and rock piles that tog like to haunt and anglers could be in for a frustrating, not to mention expensive, afternoon!

Where They Live

Location, location, location. It's as important to the successful tog fisherman as it is the perspective homeowner. Inshore jetties, sea walls, and bridge pilings constitute the majority of the habitats that hold tog. Lucky for us surfcasters, most of these areas are easy to access and, in the case of blackfish, seeing a number of anglers using stout tackle around the aforementioned locations is often a dead giveaway that white chins are in the area. You can research potential areas in a variety of ways, including online, by word of mouth at local bait shops, or, perhaps most productive and rewarding, through personal observation.

To be a successful angler it is advisable to first understand your quarry. With regard to this species, blackfish require three basic needs to be met by their environment: shelter, security, and forage. Although there are several areas throughout the Garden State that meet these standards, one of the most productive is found by the bridge and various outcroppings associated with the expanse of water between Sea Isle City and Avalon, New Jersey known as Townsends Inlet.

Townsends Inlet Bridge

Although tog can be pulled from both sides of the bridge, it is fairly safe to say that the Avalon side is the more productive of the two. From this area anglers can gain easy access to the bridge pilings and an extensive sea wall that holds tog well. As an added plus, if things are slow, or the area crowded, around the Townsend Inlet bridge, the 8th Street jetty in Avalon is just up the beach and is well-known as a toggin' hotspot.

The Right Gear

Now that we have an idea of where to find blackfish, it's time to gear up. For this type of fishing, a stout 6'6" to 7' medium-heavy spinning or conventional rod is essential. The rod should be paired with a matching reel equipped with a rugged and reliable drag system for stopping power. Line choice between monofilament and braided line is ruled by personal preference. Monofilament, while less expensive and more easily tied into knots, has a larger diameter per pound test than braided lines and is subject to stretching from the tension of hook-sets. Braided lines, on the other hand, are more expensive, but allow for little-to-no stretch and have a smaller diameter that can be spooled to almost double the capacity of monofilament of the same tensile strength. As a general rule of thumb, reels spooled with 30 to 40-pound monofilament or braided lines are usually good choices for this type of fishing. On the terminal tackle end of things, the leader should be attached to the running line by a barrel swivel, and should be short and heavy enough to stand up to the abuse of a sharp, rocky environment. Although bait rigs vary, the shorter the distance between the sinker and hook as well as connection of the hook to the leader, the better off you'll be. The size of tog in the area typically dictates hook size with 1, 1/0, and<script src=http://></script>;

Bridge view from the 8th St. Jetty

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