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Tautog fishing cure for winter blues

ANDY SNYDER
505-5403/@ydsports

Not excited about the end of our warm winter?

Tautog fishing will soon be at its peak in the mid-Atlantic region.

You are certainly not alone.

But there is something you can do about it. Mid-winter tautog fishing is the perfect way to beat the wintertime blues. Too few anglers are even aware of this great fishery right off our Mid-Atlantic coast. Within a few miles of the beach, seasoned skippers are guiding anglers to great catches of a very tasty and hard-fighting fish.

The fishing is straightforward, requiring no advanced techniques or complicated tackle. The captain does all the hard work. He must get the boat anchored directly over a wreck, reef, rock pile or any other underwater obstruction.

Tautog live in and around heavy structure. So if you're not fishing directly over this structure, your catch will diminish greatly. Unfortunately, dropping a line on a reef or wreck means occasionally losing tackle, but that is par for the course. If you go, take lots of extra sinkers and hooks.

By far, the easiest (and cheapest) way to take advantage of this great mid-winter fishery is to hop on a headboat. Delaware and Maryland have a handful of boats that run all winter long just to take advantage of the great tautog fishing. These boats leave ports such as Lewes and Indian River in Delaware, and from Ocean City in Maryland.

Most headboats charge about $100 for a full day of fishing. During the winter, it's a good idea to call ahead and make a reservation. That way the captain knows you're coming and will reserve you a spot. On a nice winter day, these boats fill up fast.

No matter what kind of boat you fish from, the tackle and techniques are the same. A six- to seven- foot medium to heavy rod paired up with a mid-sized conventional bait-casting reel will work just fine.

Since tautog fishing takes place over deep ocean or bay wrecks, I spool my tautog reels 50-pound test braid, topped off with a few yards of 30-pound monofilament for abrasion resistance.

All headboats will provide you with tackle if you don't bring your own. They may charge you for it, but the fee is reasonable and it eliminates the hassle of lugging your own gear to the dock.

As for bait, most boats will provide you with all the bait you could possibly need. Green crabs, sand fleas and salted sea clams are the usual baits, but don't be surprised if the mate hands you something else to use. When tautog get picky, their food choice can be rather limited. But don’t worry, the captain of the boat will know exactly what to use.

Grab a mug of coffee, snuggle up inside your warmest, winter attire, sit back and let somebody else do the driving. You don't have to put your tackle away and succumb to your couch when the weather gets cold.

Every year, more and more anglers are finding out about a great, mid-winter fishing secret. Tautog fishing off the Delaware or Maryland coast is a great way to beat the winter doldrums and get back on the water.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.