Sunday, October 30, 2016

Tautog, Porgy, and Hickory Shad

It has been a while since I have cast anything other than a fly rod and discussed it on this here fly fishing blog, but I know as well as anyone that there are many species which are exceedingly difficult to catch on the fly, and because I do not consider myself a purist I am ready and willing to use any means necessary (aside from spear fishing, I draw the line there) to catch a new species. So when Mike's friend Joe offered to take us out on the boat for some tautog in the morning before we went out looking for stripers and bluefish, it was a no brainer! So it was that Mike, his buddy Ryan, and I were on the road early in the morning hoping to get on the water before boats took all the good spots.

I'd never caught  tog before, and doing so with the most effective methods and guy that clearly knows his stuff would lay the groundwork that could allow me to hook some of these crazy fish on a fly rod someday.

The bait of choice for tautog is crab. Joe traps them at the dock and loads up a bucket with them. This morning there were a couple spider crabs it the trap, including one quite large one. When everything was ready, we left the harbor and headed for open water and a reef area where Joe knew there would be some tog waiting.
When we got out there and got anchored Mike started cutting crabs (a half crab is more productive than just the whole big crab) and we rigged up the drop shot rods with big weights, ready to drop down for some hungry fish.
It takes a little while to get the feel for this kind of fishing. Some of the takes a fairly obvious, but most are light and hard to distinguish from bottom bouncing if you are new to this kind of fishing. I lost a lot of crabs before a really got the feel for it, and plenty afterwards too. These are some sneaky buggers!
Despite the increasingly snotty conditions we all caught fish. Some porgies were mixed in with the tautog, and though they are considered an annoyance by togers they are absolutely gorgeous fish and I was pleased to add them to my growing list. As with the tautog, it won't be long before I'm trying to get one on a fly! It was a pretty awesome morning. I can't say I'm completely addicted to blackfish, but they are awesome and whenever I get a chance to fish for them I'm definitely going to jump on it!

Now as you all know I am a conservationist and for the most part, strictly catch and release. But tautog are a very prolific species and it does not hurt to keep a few, and that's what we did. Though I won't be eating any of our catch I'm told they are one of the tastiest fish in the ocean.

Crab Crushers

Of course, it is time to address that last species in the title. Mike, Ryan and I geared up to get some fly rod fish to close out the day. We were hoping to get a good striper bite. Unfortunately the conditions were not on our side. It was brutal out. Far worse than it had been when Mike and I got the epic blitz last weekend. Mike and I landed a few tiny fish, but it was abundantly obvious that there were fish there that had already fed, and that they were probably not going to feed again while we were there. And then it happened... hickories to the rescue! I'd never caught hickory shad, and suddenly we were slamming them on my secret silverside/anchovy patterns. They were tough little fish. Mini marsh tarpon!

So that was pretty cool, four species in one day and three that I have never caught before! We left under an incredible sunset. What a day!


  1. That was an interesting day! New species for your list. I've never heard of them before. So tie up a half crab with some good weight to it and see what happens next time. Enjoyed your description and photos.
    Tie, fish, write and photo on...

    1. Tying up a half crab would not work. I'd use the same crab patterns I have for stripers and carp.

  2. A few weeks ago I came across several nice schools of hickory shad. Couldn't stop catching them, they were excellent fishing and liked to leap. I was wading when I hooked into them (4.5 miles upstream from the mouth) and wasn't expecting them but they were great. They preferred white streamers.

    1. They are fun aren't they? I would have liked to have caught them on lighter gear, like a 5wt or a 4wt.