Get ready…it's tug of war season
I love the fishing in September. We have so many species to target. Black sea bass, scup, striped bass, bonito, false albacore, cod, tautog and the freshwater largemouth bass bite is great too. Depending on the conditions, and your taste, we as anglers have a lot of choices in September.
To me there is nothing better than the civility of tautog fishing. You get to anchor up on structure and fish for these ferocious fighters. In the process you get to talk to fellow anglers, who are usually family or friends , have a sandwich or beverage and catch fish. Once you are on tautog, you are on them with little need to move the boat.
The minimum size in Rhode Island is 16” with a season that runs to October 14 with a three fish/person/day limit and from October 15 until December 31 the limit increases to five fish/person/day. However, there is a ten fish per vessel maximum which does not apply to party and charter boats.
Tautog fishing is much like a tug of war. Once you hook one the battle is on to keep it from going into structure. Many bottom hook-ups that occur when fishing for tautog are caused by a fish that takes the angler’s bait into the rocks before they know it.
So, get ready, here are some tautog fishing tips.
Find structure to find tautog. Tautog can be fished from shore or boat and in both cases they like structure (rocks, wrecks, bridge piers, dock pilings, mussel beds, holes and humps along the coast and in the Bay). So no structure, no tautog.
Fish where the fish are. This is particularly true with tautog because they are a territorial species, you have to find the tautog, they are not going to find you. So if you get no bites move to another spot. When you find them, you find them and the bite is on.
Boat placement is important. 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, if still no bites it is time to move the vessel.
Feel the bite… tap, tap and then get ready for a tug of war. I believe with the first tap the tautog is positioning the bait for consumption. So get ready to set the hook anticipating the second tap before the fish takes your bait into structure. Once the fish is hooked, keep the rod up and pressure on so the fish in not able to run for cover.
Green crabs (and Asian crabs) are the baits of choice in the fall. When using crabs make it easy for the tautog to bite and take the bait. Break off claws and legs, cut the crab in half and hook it through one leg socket and out another.
Losing rigs is common when tautog fishing due to bottom hang ups on rocks and structure. To save tautog rigs, anglers can use rubber bands to attach sinkers. If the sinker gets hung up on a rock the elastics breaks, you lose the sinker but save the tautog rig. I have developed a tautog rig that has reduced tie-ups by 50 percent. It is an egg sinker on a 40 pound six inch piece of monofilament with swivels on either end. The main braid line connects to the top swivel, and a snelled tautog hook with an eight inch leader is on the bottom. I buy tautog hooks of various sizes already snelled. The objective is to tap the sinker on top of structure and pull it up a couple of inches so the bait hangs on or in the structure. If the egg sinker gets logged in structure it generally frees itself.
Use braid line with little drag. Braid line allows you to feel the fish tap. Monofilament line will stretch allowing the fish to run for cover, braid line does not stretch. It is important to put little drag on the reel and apply continuous pressure so the tautog comes up and does not go back down to hide in structure once you have it hooked.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.