Engine cut-off switch, cut-off link now required on boats less than 26 feet

April 10, 2021

As of April 1, the Coast Guard required all boats less than 26 feet in length to have an engine cut-off switch and an engine cut-off link installed on the vessel’s motor. It not only must be installed, it must work. When the helm is in an enclosed cabin, the ECOS is not required.

Congress passed this law to prevent boats from running away when the operator is tossed overboard. Without such safeguards, the boat will run in circles and may come back and strike the operator or, at the very least, become a serious problem for first responders who have to board the runaway boat and shut it off.

I have ordered an engine cut-off switch for my 16-foot Starcraft with its 40-HP Mercury motor. It appears to me that the motor never had a cut-off switch, but I am the second owner and perhaps the first owner took it off.

Just another thing to add to the joy of power boating.

Tilefish reporting

Please remember that when you go on a trip targeting or catching blueline or golden tilefish, you must submit your Vessel Trip Report electronically. You may choose from several smart devices and web-based apps to report your catch.

I do believe this is a glimpse into the future. We all know the data on recreationally caught fish is dismal. With everyone now having the ability to report their catch on the day it was made via their phone or computer, there is no reason why this system can’t be used to gather more accurate data on our catch. We all have FIN numbers, so it would be a simple process to keep track of everyone’s catch, giving fishery managers the correct data they need to properly manage our fishery. The commercial fishermen have to do this, and I don’t see why recreational fishermen should be treated any differently.

Tog fishing

The first fish that most charter and head boats will target this spring will be tog. Private boats will also go after these fish once the boats begin to come off their trailers.

Tog live in extremely harsh environments – shipwrecks, rocky bottoms, artificial reefs and along rock rip-rap. They eat mostly crabs, clams and other shellfish. They can suck a crab into their mouth, crush it, spit out the shell and swallow the meat quicker than you can blink your eye.

This is why we tell people you have to set the hook just before a tog bites.

For years we used fairly heavy tackle to drag a tog out of the rubble once we hooked him. I kept the drag tightened with a pair of Channel Lock pliers and used 30-pound monofilament line with 80-pound mono leader. I tied up single-hook rigs with Virginia-style beak hooks and no hardware because I always left some on the bottom. Circle hooks don’t work well on tog because they don’t get deep enough inside the fish’s mouth.

Today things have changed. Tog fishermen have gone to lighter tackle since the introduction of braided line and tog jigs. While I have not tried this setup, I understand you can now use 30-pound braid on a narrow spool reel with a top shot of 30-pound Fluorocarbon leader. The reel will sit on a fast-action rod. The tog jig is tied to the leader and baited with crab, clam or Gulp!

While it is possible to catch tog from a drifting boat, the best way to fish for them is at anchor. If you fish from a head or charter boat, the captain and mate will do the work for you. When fishing from your own boat, the job is left to you.

First find the piece of structure you plan to fish and mark it with a buoy. I use a large Tide bottle because it is orange. Next, run up to the buoy, then drift away with the current and wind. Once you are a few hundred yards from the buoy, run back, keeping an eye on your compass heading. Continue another distance on the same heading before dropping the anchor. The deeper the water, the farther you will have to run in order to have enough rode out to hold bottom. Play out the rode until you are over the structure.

Use enough weight to keep the line as close to 90 degrees to the water as possible. Braided line is very sensitive and will let you know when a tog is mouthing the bait. It is better to swing too early than too late.

Once the tog is hooked, do not hesitate. Start cranking right away. Get the fish away from the structure and keep him away. If he gets back home, he will cut you off.

Good luck.


  • 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 several publications and 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

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter