Tautog season opens; experts share tips

Capt. Dave Monti with tautog… the spring season started April 15, the spring season limit is 3 fish/person/day with a ten fish boat limit. Capt. Dave Monti with tautog… the spring season started April 15, the spring season limit is 3 fish/person/day with a ten fish boat limit.

Capt. Dave Monti with tautog… the spring season started April 15, the spring season limit is 3 fish/person/day with a ten fish boat limit.

Capt. Dave Monti with tautog… the spring season started April 15, the spring season limit is 3 fish/person/day with a ten fish boat limit.

Tautog season is open and anglers are hoping for a good season again this year. Tautog has a split season. The spring season ends May 31, so now is the time to fish for them as they are illegal to fish June 1 to July 31 during spawning season. Fish have to be sixteen inches, and he catch limit for private recreational anglers from April 15 to May 31 and then August 1 to October 18 is three fish/person/day, which is likely to jump to six fish/person/day on October 18 to December 15 (2014 rules not finalized yet by DEM). There is a ten fish per boat limit in all periods. The boat limit does not apply to charter and party boats.
Over the past couple of years, I have asked noted Rhode Island anglers, fishing guides, charter captains and bait & tackle shop owners in Rhode Island for tautog fishing tips. Here is what some of them had to say:

Boat placement is important. Using electronics, find structure, estimate wind/drift direction and anchor up current from where you want to fish and drift back to the spot as the anchor is setting. Once in position, fish all sides of the boat, casting a bit to cover as much area as you can. If still no bites, let some anchor line out a couple of times to change your position, and then, if still no bites, it is time to move the vessel.

Favorite baits for tautog in the spring include clam worms, though green crabs cut in half (with legs cut off) or Asian crabs seem to work in both the spring and fall. Feel the bite… tap, tap and then get ready for a tug of war. Captain George Cioe said, “I believe with the first tap the tautog is positioning the bait for consumption.” So at the second tap I quickly raise the rod  to set the hook as tautog are fast, when I feel the weight of the fish I reel, reel, reel. Once the fish is hooked, keep the rod up and pressure on so the fish is not able to run for cover. Captain Rich Hittinger, RISAA vice president and a long time angler out of Point Judith said, “If you get two bites with no hook-up your bait is gone. Reel in and re-bait.”

Where to fish for tautog? From shore, look for rocky coastline like Beavertail Point on Jamestown, locations off Newport and off jetties at South County beaches. From a boat, I have had good luck at Plum Point light house next to the Jamestown Bridge, the rock wall north of Coddington Cove in Portsmouth, off Hope Island, around Brenton Reef in Newport, Whale Rock, and the boulder field off Scarborough Beach, Ohio Ledge in the East Passage, General Rock in North Kingstown and any other places there is structure, debris, rock clusters, wrecks, etc.

Chumming for tautog will enhance your catch dramatically. Capt. Kevin Bettencourt and his father Albert have been fishing for tautog in Narragansett Bay and southern coastal water off Newport, Jamestown and Narragansett for many years. Kevin 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!” Captain Robb Roach of Kettlebottom Outfitters from Jamestown said chumming is very important… “I chum with crushed mussels or crushed periwinkles.”

Fishing in the early spring or fall can be cold. Dress appropriately. If you dress in layers, you can take them off as the sun warms you. Do not forget the gloves, I usually have at least four pairs with me: water proof neoprene gloves, light cotton gloves, heavy winter gloves…whatever the conditions, be ready, (and of course, the gloves get wet.)

East Bay Anglers fishermen’s yard sale

The East Bay Anglers will hold their third annual fishermen’s yard sale on Saturday, April 26, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at the Riverside Sportsman’s Association, East Providence. Used rods, reels, fresh and saltwater lures, marine equipment, antiques and more will be on display. Donations $2 per person, children under 12 free. For information call Dave Fewster at 401/230-8201.

Free freshwater fishing… give it a try

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has announced that Saturday, May 3 and Sunday, May 4 are free fishing days in Rhode Island. During those two days, all Rhode Islanders and visitors can fish in freshwaters without a fishing license or trout conservation stamp. All the usual freshwater fishing regulations on size and limits apply. The free fishing weekend does not apply to saltwater fishing or saltwater licenses.
“Free fishing weekend is a terrific incentive to get outdoors and try something new, especially after the long, cold winter we’ve endured this year,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “Grab a fishing pole and head out to Rhode Island’s lakes and ponds on the first weekend in May to catch the beautiful brook, brown and rainbow trout raised in DEM’s hatcheries.”
Information about stocked freshwaters, size and creel limits can be found in the Freshwater Fishing Abstract, or by calling DEM’s Great Swamp Field Office at 401/789-0281, or the Aquatic Resource Education office at 401/539-0037. The abstract and regulations can also be found at www.dem.ri.gov.

Where’s the bite

John Migliori of Newport with a 20" largemouth bass he caught at an Aquidneck Island pond last week.

John Migliori of Newport with a 20″ largemouth bass he caught at an Aquidneck Island pond last week.

Fresh water fishing for trout, bass and carp has been very good. John Migliori of Newport landed a 20” largemouth bass last week on Aquidneck Island using one of his favorite baits, a Shady Creek Chartreuse Dynamite lure. “Cody Trostel limited out on brook and rainbow trout at Exeter Pond this weekend using Power Bait and Peter Fonts land pre-spawn bass up to four ponds.” said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence. Rich Falcone said, “ I was at Brickyard Pond (Barrington) last Sunday late and the pond was deserted. No one was fishing from the shore or in canoes. I did catch a largemouth on a Mepps spinner which was great for the outing, but no sign of trout.”

White perch: Shore angler Harold Hemberger said, “Monday night I fish just inside the Hurricane Barrier (in the Providence River)…..and hit a nice school of white perch.  Used a small white jig and fished it very slow…….fished for about 75 minutes and caught 11.”

Striped bass: Anglers are still catching winter-over striped bass in the Seekonk and Providence Rivers. Dave Henault said, “Winter over bass are taking bucktails with white grubs.” Striped bass are also still being caught in the Narrow River, Narragansett; with many fly fishermen joining in the fun last week.

Cod fishing is finally picking up as seas calmed down a bit last week. The Frances Fleet reports catching some nice green market cod this Friday which was a great improvement, with Fleet captains seeing evidence of fish moving back to hard bottom around Block Island.

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing 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 dmontifish@verizon.net.

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