A tog surprise during a sea bass trip

July 8, 2017

Did you ever plan a fishing trip and then have it turn out completely different than you hoped? That’s what happened to Larry Weldin and me Monday.

Our previous two trips proved where the fish weren’t, so we decided to try something different because you know what they say about people who keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I had reports of triggerfish on wrecks to our south, so we decided to run out to a wreck south of Indian River Inlet and east of Ocean City.  

Once on site, it took a few minutes to get on top of the wreck, but when we did, we began catching very small sea bass on our clam and bloodworm baits. Either the triggerfish were not there or the sea bass got to the baits first.

One of the sea bass I caught had two sand eels sticking out of its mouth, so I removed my top-bottom rig and put on a 1-ounce Stingsilver. I was using my new Tsunami Hybrid reel with 30-pound Suffix braid and the 1-ounce jig found the bottom with no problem. As soon as the lure hit the wreck I was hooked up to a larger class of sea bass. Still had to cull out more than I kept, but plenty of fun playing catch and release.

Then something occurred that only happened to me twice before - I caught a tog on the jig. Years ago, I caught one jigging for sea bass with Capt. John Nedelka on the Karen Sue and then again while doing the same over a wreck off of Virginia Beach. The tog was a little guy and he was hooked in the cheek. Then the same thing happened again, and again and then three more times. I caught six tog to 16.5 inches on the Stingsilver. During the tog blitz, I hooked something, I suspect it was a very big tog, that I could not get off the bottom. He was pulling down and I was trying to crank him up before the hook lost its perch. I think it was probably in his cheek.

Unfortunately, tog season doesn’t open until Monday, July 17, so all the keepers had to be returned. However, you can bet I will be back on this wreck as soon as we get a weather window after that date.

The only reason I can figure so many tog attacked my jig is there were so many sand eels on this wreck that they were going after an easy meal. Saying this, of all the sea bass we caught, only that one spit up sand eels. The rest gave up crabs, which is more common.

At the end of the day, we ended up with six sea bass in the box. The action was constant until the current dropped out and then changed from outgoing to incoming. The incoming was much stronger than the outgoing, and we needed 3-ounce Stingsilvers to reach the bottom. I don’t think we caught a keeper sea bass or a tog on the incoming.

The weather was so calm and the current so light in the morning that Larry was able to hold the boat over the wreck using his Minn Kota electric trolling motor. It is a new model and has an anchor watch function that holds the boat in one position. The stronger current on the incoming made this operation less effective.

As the action cooled and weather warmed, we decided to head back to the dock. It was a lovely ride back, and we arrived at Larry’s dock around 2:30 and had boat unloaded and the fish cleaned by 3. It was a great day on the water, and I thank Larry for inviting me along.

Party time

As Larry and I entered Indian River Inlet Monday afternoon, we both remarked that it sure didn’t look like a Fourth of July weekend. There were very few boats going in or out and even fewer trying to fish in the channel.

Then we entered Rehoboth Bay. I have been running boats around here for a very long time, but I have never seen so many in one place as I saw in the bay. There were hundreds of boats of every kind and description pulled up on sand bars.  Some people were out walking around in the shallow water while others sat half submerged in lawn chairs while still others remained on their boats. All appeared to have some sort of beverage in hand.

The boat traffic in the narrow channels was very heavy, and as you would expect not every captain was paying attention to his or her surroundings. We had two pontoon boats off our starboard side, and one cut directly in front of us trying to get into a side channel. The captain seemed surprised when Larry sounded his horn. And so it goes in the summer.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at