Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tautog Fishing off Cape Charles, VA

My friend Mike invited me to join his brother Wes, retired VIMS fishery scientist Jon Lucy, and his friend Charles Machen (boat captain of the RV Langley at VIMS before he and the boat were retired) for a day of tautog fishing in the Chesapeake Bay.

When Mike was a student at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, he studied the tautog fishery.  He's now in SC doing sea turtle research, but decided to return to VA to check in on some of the progeny of his research subjects.

We boarded the vessel Buccaneer in Cape Charles harbor marina and motored into the Chesapeake Bay.  Mike and Captain Jim Jenrette had some spots that they had surveyed during Mike's research days and in short order our rods were bent.

We were using a sort of fish finder rig with two trailing hooks coming off of a sinker.  The hooks were baited with bits of crab and the trick was to set the hook before the various denizens of the deep sucked all the crab meat out of the shell.

In between long-winded stories, put-downs, and the slinging of general criticisms, we saw a few sea turtles, and caught many, many, many oyster toadfish, many black seabass, a bluefish, a hungry triggerfish (twice!),  flounder, a pinfish, pigfish, northern pufferfish, a mullet, and a good many tautog.

Having three scientists, two boat captains, and a hard-core surfer and businessman on a fishing trip can be an interesting proposition!  Mike, ever the thoughtful researcher, made sure we tagged every possible fish that wasn't headed for the dinner table.  Between the black seabass, flounder, and tautog, I think we tagged about 150 fish all told.  Dude, that's not a fish, that's data!

Mike demonstrating good tagging technique...

Here's Mike doing QA/QC on the data collection.  Alright, who wrote down brook trout?

 Mentor Jon makes sure everything is correct.

Jon and his friend Charlie

A sample of the day's tautog catch ready for the captain's fillet knife.

Thanks to Mike, Captain Jim, and the rest of the crew for a memorable day on the water! 

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