Saturday, January 3, 2015
World Record Blackfish
A potential world record blackfish was landed in Maryland yesterday. The fish weighed 28.8lbs. and was 35 inches long. Just recently the NY state record was broken after being set only a year before with both of those fish well over 20lbs. Last week a few fish between 15 and 18lbs. were landed on the Jersey Shore. I have heard stories about huge blackfish thirty and forty years ago, that could not be moved off the bottom, but why are these monsters being caught today? Before the live fish market began over twenty five years ago, blackfish were only sought after for a limited time in the fall of the year, after fluke fishing and before the whiting and cod started biting. Some old time Long Island captains told me they were treated like trash fish while cod fishing and tossed overboard. (I also heard this about ling while whiting fishing but I never saw one go back, and that's another story.) Blackfish became more popular due to the lack of other fish to catch, were targeted more, and just like all other fish, once they became commercially valuable, the stocks decreased. There were even draggers tearing up the traditional fishing grounds, trying to net blackfish. All this lead to size and bag limits as well as seasonal regulations to protect the remaining fish. Back in the glory days of the fishery, you just tossed back smaller fish and 3 to 6lbers were average, and most days it was common to see pool winners of 7 to 11lbs on a daily basis. I could remember personally landing a fish over ten pounds on a weekly basis between mid November to mid December. Today party boats are returning to the dock with a catch for the entire boat that one good angler would have for himself back in the day! Advances in technology have lead to better fishing tackle suited to landing these beasts and navigational electronics have helped to to find better fishing grounds and that is part of the story. The building of artificial reefs is also important in helping the population and should continue. All that being said I feel the reason these huge fish are appearing is because they have a chance to get to a baited hook. Smaller fish are more aggressive and would jump on the baits and you could sit on one drop all day, bailing fish. Bigger, older fish, the spawners, were always harder to catch and could not be easily fooled, leading to many different tricks good blackfish anglers invented to catch them. We all heard stories of monster tog from scuba divers but why couldn't we catch them? In the past you could not keep a baited hook on the bottom very long before you had a bite. Now I feel these big fish that would be cautious have a chance to come out of a wreck or rockpile and find a bait on the bottom that wasn't immediately set on by smaller fish. Congratulations to the anglers landing these beasts as it takes a great amount of skill to get the bites and win the battle. Just my thoughts, and something for you to read on a cold winter day.