While not at the level of the summer flounder opener when it comes to angler participation, the April 1st opening of the blackfish (tog) season is nonetheless greeted with over-the-top enthusiasm by those who enjoy probing the wrecks, rock piles and reefs trying to set the hook in the tooth-studded maw of this master bait stealer.

It’s a toss-up as to what technique is more successful: dropping a jig or a rig, some of the latter sporting a pair of hooks. The common denominator is that green crab is the top performing bait to be attached to either. Over the years we’ve experimented with cooked shrimp and sand fleas (mole crabs), but on a drop-per-bite basis, the greenie gets it done.

It’s imperative that the legs be removed, as this will greatly reduce the chances of the bait spinning in the bottom current.

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These crab crunchers can strip a bait with the speed of a sleight of hand artist, making braided or fused lines, because of their near-stretch and extreme sensitivity, the logical choice of line to use. While some hard-core toggers insist on a fluorocarbon leader because of its near invisibility and alleged superior abrasion resistance, we’ve found that standard hard monofilament leader works just as well. If you feel the far more expensive fluoro will up your odds, go for it.

Capt. Shaner Brown

As mentioned, tog are creatures of structure. Find any kind of rubble on the bottom, and chances are blackfish will be on it. Not to be overlooked are the deeper holes in the bays, the deeper drops off the sedge banks, or bridge abutments. Tog will be here. While they won’t be as big as their wreck and reef dwelling kin, there will be keepers in the mix.

The daily limit is four with a minimum length of 15-inches. Be sure to have your 2021 Saltwater Registry when fishing.

Listen to the March 27th Rack & Fin Radio Show (embedded below) for some hot April reefs suggested by Peter Clarke, the NJ Bureau of Marine Fisheries’ artificial reef coordinator. Captain Shaner Brown from Fish AC gives tips and tactics for togging in the bays and around bridges, and Chef Deana from the Pic-A-Lilli Inn shares a lip-smackin’ tog recipe.

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