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Virginia Beach wasn't really on my fishing list for this year. I thought it was too far, and planned to wait until next year to fish it. But with all the reports I had seen lately from the area, I started thinking about how I could make it down this year. I originally took a Friday off from work to go down to Rudee inlet to fish for those elusive speckled trout that I couldn't catch in my last outing. However, Hurricane Sandy came through and messed up that plan. I didn't want to go down for a recreational fishing trip while the rest of the town was cleaning up and recovering from the storm. And I could imagine a situation where I fell overboard and needed to call the coast guard away from their work to rescue me. That would be horrible!
Well, I had a second chance when I got a message from Ryan and Mike inviting me to join them on their trip to Kiptopeke for some tautog this past weekend. I hadn't really planned on fishing for 'tog this year, but it sounded like fun - I've heard they fight hard and taste good. Ryan suggested getting some rigging tips from Rob Choi's blog, which has some excellent diagrams on what to do. I went to Dick's Sporting Goods in the middle of the week to pick up some hooks, and wasn't really sure if I should get the Gamakatsu bait-holder hooks, or the octopus hooks. I usually just get eagle claw snelled hooks for baitfishing... They both seemed like they would work so I just got both in size 3/0 to try them out.
While checking out, the cashier asked me "so what are you fishing for?"
Me: "I'm going to Virginia beach for some tautog..."
Cashier: "Tautog! What the heck is that? Some kind of foreign fish or something? Tautog. That's a funny name. Tautog! Hey! <Other older guy's name>, have you ever heard of a Tautog? Tautog!"
Me: "No...it's not a foreign fish. I told you I'm going to Virginia Beach. Here's a picture of one."
Cashier: "EWW!! Why the heck do you want to catch one of those??? Well, have fun on your trip..for some Tautog. Tautog! Hahaha..."
So I leave the store slightly annoyed by the guy, thinking to myself that this dang fish better live up to its reputation! Anyway, I brought the hooks home to make some rigs for the trip.
Saturday came around, and I left home at 3AM for the 4.5 hour drive to Kiptopeke state park. That 5-hour energy stuff works pretty well!...or my excitement about the trip kept me wide awake. This was my first time in the Virginia Beach area, so just going through the bridge tunnels was an interesting experience for me. It's pretty wild driving over the water for 10 miles...
|The sunrise while crossing the CBBT.|
|One of the holes in the concrete ships.|
|My first tog.|
|First keeper tog! That blood on my finger is mine...don't put your knife next to your stringer in the boat.|
|I think they're rather cute...|
|Bayside view from inside a ship|
|My kayak getting scratched up. Ryan's on the other side.|
|Pretty fish when you look at them from behind.|
|All the peddling hobies in front of me.|
By the time we all packed it up, it was around 4:00, and we stood around discussing what to do. Ryan was going to check into his hotel and take a nap, because he had a late night flight home the night before and drove straight to the park without any sleep. The rest of us tossed around the idea of fishing at HRBT for some stripers. I drove 4.5 hours to fish the area, why not get the full experience, and do the light-line as well??
|The sunset while crossing the CBBT.|
After a quick stop at McDonald's for dinner, Mike and I went to the Willoughby Harbor Marina to fish the HRBT bridge. It was only 6:00 or so, but since it's been getting dark sooner, we launched in the dark. I had no idea what I was doing, and I couldn't see any shadows of fish in the light that I had read about. I just tried techniques that have worked for me elsewhere, which included trolling an X-Rap parallel to the bridge, and jigging some Bass Assassins from under the bridge. I did this aimlessly for about an hour and a half with nothing, and Mike hadn't caught anything either. We decided to call it quits around 7:30, and paddled against a moderate south wind back to the launch area.
|The light line. Can you see Mike?|
Tog Taste Test
So how did it taste? Delicious. While at Kiptopeke, I asked Ryan "So how do you cook this?" He replied "Any way you want. It's delicious however you cook it." I've heard of people deep frying it, eating it raw as sashimi, baking it, etc. I decided to fillet one of the fish to fry with some breading for dinner Sunday evening, and clean the other one to steam next week when my in-laws come to visit (hey, my mother-in-law gets fish again!).
|Tog with cornmeal|
|Tog with seafood batter|