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South Shore Bridges for Tog

By Rich Johnson

The cool snap and the brisk northerly winds of the last week or two, indicate to this sinker bouncer a fall pattern of weather has emerged and there may not be any Indian summer this year. To tell you the truth, that’s fine with me! I love this cool autumnal weather and the first thing I think of is blackfish. Believe me when I say that I’m going to take full advantage of it! I have already made a trip or two to several of the bridges in my homeport and have found the fish just starting to awaken from their summer slumber.

While most were small, falling short of the magical 14-inch minimum size, there was a 5 pounder caught from the Atlantic Beach Bridge this past week an some of my sources for the fishing reports each week, tell me that the divers who work the bridge for the construction crew have seen some very large tog waiting for the temptation that will send them to the dinner table. Fishing the bridges can be a lot of fun. You can choose the sum or the shady side of the bridge, depending on your comfort level, and the fish are usually very cooperative near these structures as well. This is the type of fishing that the whole family can enjoy as the action can be fast and furious at times.

ACCESSORIES. First off, a boat pole comes in handy for latching on to the structure you will be tying up to. Grabbing it with your hands may be all right for some of you, but in a strong current and any type of wake situation from passing boats the barnacles and mussels on the abutments can make mince meat of your hands and knuckles. Save your skin and use a pole! Whether it be the store bought variety or a home made job, the choice is yours.

Fenders are a necessity when fishing the bridges. These are purchased at all marine supply stores and come in a variety of sizes. I have had some luck in finding several in garage sales that I pass on the weekends. Some anglers will use old trailer tires strung together for this job, which does work very well. Rope or an old pipe will come in handy for tying up. While some bridges are easier to tie up to than others, always look for the safest and easiest way to ‘park.’ When tying up to the tee-pee shaped pilings in front of the bridges (ice breakers), you can pass the rope through the heavy cable that surrounds and bounds these pilings together.

I would recommend using a ‘throw away’ piece of rope in case you have to leave in a hurry due to the large ships and barges that come through our bridges. If you plan on tying to a bridge abutment, you will need a rope long enough to wrap around the abutment, for and aft. The purpose is to secure a good position and hold it there, steady. Tying an old piece of pipe to a throwaway line will also work for tying up to the bridge.

DOUBLE ANCHORING. It will be very useful if you plan on double anchoring in front of the bridge. Many of the bridges in our area have had some substantial work done on them over the form of ruble remains in the vicinity. This is especially true of the Atlantic Beach Bridge. The old bridge is submerged 20 to 50 yards in front of the new bridge. Once you find any sort of “rough patch” on your fish finder, you want to anchor in front and let out anchor line to drop you back with the current to the bridge. Now secure your “pipe line” to the bridge, and pull yourself back over the rough bottom in from of you. Once over the spot, you tie off all lines, and you are double anchored on what you hope will be successful piece of bottom.

BAITS. Now I’m sure you’ve read in these pages that tog will accept a variety of offerings during the course of the year. Soft baits in the spring and hard baits in the fall and so forth. Fishing is certainly no science and most of the time a good day of fishing comes from some experimentation. I have found that it pays to bring a variety of items to include on the tog’s menu. Crabs of course are number one on my list, fiddler, green or hermit. Also don’t overlook the possibility of using sand fleas taken directly from the beach for the free bait available. Clams, worms and squid will also accompany me on these trips due to the fact that not only can the blackfish be very picky on some days, but it pays to be prepared in case you find sea bass, porgies or any left over triggerfish that also inhabit this domain to be interested in you bait du jour.

TACKLE. When fishing the bridges for tog, I like to use conventional tackle. It’s a lot easier for me and tougher on the fish. Using a conventional reel will suffice. Although there is a possibility of a large tog on the bridges, you don’t need the stout outfit you would use on the outside pieces and wrecks. The rod should have some backbone in it to “tame the tog.” I like using a one piece, silaflex Browning blank. It has the stiffness desired and still has the light feel on the tip to feel the light bite of a skittish blackfish.

TERMINAL TACKLE. Most of the black fishing I do in and around the pilings is done with 15 to 20 pound line. For the size of the fish involved here, and the abuse the line takes, this is usually sufficient. If you feel more comfortable with heavier line, by al means feel free to do so. Lately I have tried the new Berkley Ultra Max braided microfilament line which is a braided line surrounding a monofilament core. /The line has the strength of 25-pound test and the diameter of 10-pound test. I have found it to be tough on the tog with no line stretch with good sensitivity and the power to pull tog from the ruble. While I haven’t hooked into any real bulldogs, I’m looking forward to using this on the bigger fish with no problem Like most anglers, I’ll lean towards using the black hooks and I’ll also scratch up my new sinkers to take the brightness away. Some fishermen go so far as to paint their sinkers black! Sinker weight should depend on the tide you are experiencing. Either bank or egg sinkers will work nicely in these conditions.

RIGGING. You have three choices here to choose from. The egg sinker, bank sinker and hi/lo rig. With the egg sinker method, just run the line through the sinker, tie a barrel swivel to the other end of the barrel. The advantage to this method is the fact that the sinker has less of a tendency to get hung up. With the bank sinker, you’ll need a 3-way swivel. The running line is tied to one ring, the hook to another and tied to the third is a six to 12-inch piece of lighter monofiliment such as 6 to 8 pound test. The sinker is looped onto the lighter mono so you can pull free of the snags without loosing hooks and the fish.

Using a hi/lo rig can increase your catch rate on most trips. There will however be those times when the tog only wants one hook, whether it is the high or low one. Tie a loop into your running line approximately 12 to 18 inches above the other hook. To this loop, attach your snelled #6 blackfish hook. I’ll start by baiting both hooks the same until I discover which hook they prefer. Once this is done, I’ll offer them a different morsel on the unwanted hook. Now whether it is squid, worm or clam, the results will soon be known. This is a good way to increase your catch rate with other species. The new soft bait will often tempt porgies and sea bass.

Sometimes I’ll get a couple of friends who have boats and we’ll tie up across from each other. This kind of fishing can also be a social experience. So before the fall passes you by and winter sets in on us, get out and take advantage of the fabulous fishing to be had at a bridge near you.


Copyright May 6, 1995-2020 The Fishing Line

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