Tautog fishing is good and big fish are being caught. In fact, just three weeks ago Scott Kiefer of Exeter caught a 16-pound tautog in lower Narragansett Bay. Now is the time to tautog fish, as the bite is on and the weather is still mild.
Chumming will enhance your catch. Capt. Robb Roach of Kettlebottom Outfitters, Jamestown said chumming is very important: “I chum with crushed mussels or crushed periwinkles.” Capt. Kevin Bettencourt of East Providence said, “Chumming is a critical part of tautog fishing. If you want to land numerous tautog you must establish an effective chum line. This can be accomplished with grass shrimp or crushed Asian/green crabs. Don’t be afraid to feed them! If you don’t, they won’t stick around long!”
I have successfully chummed for tautog with crab legs and clams using the following method learned from an angler reporting on the Rhole Island Saltwater Anglers Association blog. Once I accumulate a pile of crab legs from cutting green crabs for bait, I mix them with small pieces of cut up clam. I then put the mixture in a paper bag with a rock, tie a small line to the bag and send it down to the bottom under the boat. After it soaks for a minute or two I yank on the rope, the bag bottom breaks, and the chum is deposited under the boat—just where you want it to go.
Tautog can be fished from shore or boat, the common thread is structure. From shore it is a matter of trial and error to find a sweet spot or hole that holds big fish. You want to be near, next to or over structure. When fishing from a boat, locate the structure you want to fish (on sonar if you have it). Estimate wind and current and then anchor up current so that as the anchor line pays out the vessel is over structure or slightly before it. Tie off the anchor line and fish. Tautog are very territorial, so it is important to fish all sides of the boat, even cast a bit covering as much area as you can from different positions in the boat. If still no bite, pay out a little more anchor line to reposition the boat, repeat the process until you are totally off the structure. If still no bite it is time to move to another spot.
Tautog rigs should be kept simple. My favorite rig is homemade. I use one tautog hook connected to a swivel with a two or three once egg sinker on top sliding on a small three to four inch piece of monofilament line. Another swivel above the egg sinker connects the monofilament and the braid line (30 lbs.) coming from the rod/reel. Since I have started using this rig bottom tie-ups have been cut in half. Braid line does not stretch, so this is my preference, whereas monofilament line may stretch, allowing the tautog to reach structure.
I use green crabs and Asian crabs (when available). When using green crabs, break off claws and legs and cut the crab in half. Hook the crab though one leg socket and out another. This exposes most of the crab and makes it easy for the tautog to put its mouth on the bait.
Standard premade tautog rigs usually have two hooks and a loop below to tie on a bank sinker. I usually cut the upper hook off. Captain John Rainone of L’il Toot Charters said, “One hook saves rigs and fish… waiting for another fish to jump on makes no sense…I tie rigs with a lighter sinker line so it breaks and hook/fish is retrieved.”
Where to fish for tautog? From shore, look for rocky coastline like Beavertail Point on Jamestown, locations off Newport, the rocky shoreline off Point Judith, and off jetties along the southern coastal shore. Docks, piers, and bridges are good structure too. From a boat, I have had good luck at Conimicut Light, Plum Point light house next to the Jamestown Bridge, the jetty at Coddington Cove in Portsmouth, off Hope Island, around Brenton Reef and Seal Ledge in Newport, Whale Rock, Ohio Ledge in the East Passage, General Rock in North Kingstown and any other places there is structure, debris, rock clusters, wrecks, etc. Another key factor is water movement, so a couple of hours before or after high or low tide is good.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.