Nearly ten years ago, in late August of 2013, Chris Morrell of York, Maine set the state record for tautog—a species infrequnetly caught or targeted north of Massachusetts. His impressive 7-pound, 13-ounce blackfish remained the largest recorded tautog caught by rod and reel in Maine, until this past Saturday, July 1st, when Brian Boyt of Westbrook, ME hooked a state-record contender.
According to Maine’s Department of Marine Resources, tautog are occasionally caught along the southwest coast of the state, but rarely are they found in depths of less than 60 feet. Due to their scarcity in the Gulf of Maine, there is no season, bag limit or minimum size limit for tautog in Vacationland. While Boyt frequently notices small tautog and cunner among the rocks during his scuba- and free-diving escapades, he said it’s very rare to see a tog exceeding 16 inches. Then, on July 1st, Boyt surprised himself when he found a 7-pound, 13.2-ounce tautog on the end of his line. However, almost more surprising than the catch itself is how he caught it.
Fully confident in his abilities as an angler, Boyt said that he considers this remarkable feat to be nothing more than “dumb luck.” While striped bass fishing near Casco Bay, Boyt anchored up approximately 10 to 15 feet from a ledge where he and a friend had just released a 40-inch striper they caught on a live mackerel. In an effort to hook another 40-inch-plus bass, he set out a 10-inch mackerel on a non-offset 9/0 Eagle Claw Trokar Circle hook. Tied to the circle hook was a 3-foot segment of 30-pound-test Seaguar blue label fluorocarbon leader, which was connected to 30-pound-test braided main line. “Upon setting out the bait,” Boyt said, “the mackerel swam down off of a 25-foot ledge toward the bottom.” Moments later, he felt the distinct tap-tap of a fish that had taken interest in his bait. He drove the hook home, and when he got the fish to the surface, Boyt noticed his 9/0 circle hook sticking through the bottom jaw of—by Maine standards—a whopping tautog.
Boyt has caught tautog in Maine before, and every year around April and May, he spends some time targeting them; but few, if any other anglers can say they hooked a tautog that was trying to eat their live 10-inch mackerel, but that’s what keeps this sport so interesting.
Fully aware of the existing state record tautog, Boyt and his friend followed protocol for recording a new possible record. In Maine, anglers submitting potential state records are required to have:
- a photo of the fish.
- recorded the measured length, girth and weight of the fish.
- a photo of the angler holding the fish.
- a witness to the catch.
- a separate party weigh the fish on a state-certified scale.
After a few measurements and a brief photo shoot, Boyt brought the fish directly to Harbor Fish Market in Portland, Maine, to have it officially weighed. There, the fish tipped the scales to 7 pounds, 13.2 ounces—two tenths of an ounce heavier than Chris Morrell’s current state record.
If all checks off for Brian Boyt, he could be the next 10-year record holder for tautog in the state of Maine. His only regret of the experience: donating one of the two delicious tog fillets to a friend.
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