Rod bending tautog tips
Anglers across the region reported limiting out on tautog this week and last. Early last week, before the storm, anglers on my boat caught fifteen nice keepers to 25 inches all in about three hours of fishing. And, this weekend three anglers boated fifteen nice keepers to 22” as the limit had increased to five fish per person. It has been a remarkable tautog season so far.
So if you have not fished for tautog, now is the time to give it a try while the catching is good.
Tautog (or blackfish) is a great eating fish with nice tasting white meat. As of October 15 the tautog limit in Rhode Island and Massachusetts is five fish/person/day with a ten fish boat limit that does not apply to party or charter boats. The minimum size is 16” and the season ends December 31. Here are some rod bending tautog 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, ledges holes and humps along the coast). 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. Ken Landry of Ray’s Bait & Tackle suggests casting a bit to cover as much area as you can. If still no bites let some anchor line out to change your position, if still no bites it is time to move the vessel.
Tautog baits. Green crabs or Asian crabs are the baits of choice in the fall. When using green crabs make it easy for the tautog to bite and take the bait. I like to break off most of the legs and claws leaving one per side on the end, cut the crab in half and hook it through one leg socket and out another.
Tautog rigs should have as little hardware as possible to avoid bottom tie-ups. I make single hook rigs with about seven or eight feet of monofilament line and attach it to the main braid line directly with a dropper for a pre-snelled ‘Lazar Sharp’ brand hook (you need sharp hooks to get through tough tautog lips). The hook hangs about three inches below the sinker loop allowing it to float just above the bottom or lay on the bottom.
To avoid tie ups I also use an egg sinker rig when in heavy structure. The egg sinker slides on a small piece of monofilament adorned with red and white beads which has a two-way swivel on each end, a pre-snelled lazar sharp hook is attached to the end of the swivel and hangs down about eight inches. Bottom snags have been reduced in half using this rig. I have also used jigs and snafu rigs with two hooks placed in one whole crab. I am ready to employ a number of bait and rig tactics depending on conditions and what the fish want any given day.
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. Get ready for the second tap and set the hook hard. Once the fish is hooked, keep the rod up and pressure on so the fish in not able to run for cover.
Use braid line with little drag. Braid line allows you to feel the fish tap. Monofilament line may 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 pressure so the tautog comes up once you have hooked.
Where’s the bite?
Tautog fishing. Limit increased from three to five fish on Tuesday, October 15, (see above article on tautog). Many Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren, said, “Anglers have focused their attention on tautog fishing and it has been fantastic with customers limiting out. The bite seems to be good just about everywhere… at the Sakonnet River, around Gall River and off Newport.” John Lavallee of Continental Bait & Tackle, Cranston said, “The tautog bite in the Bay all the way up to India Pont Park, Providence and where the sunken Russian sub was has been fantastic. And all the way down the Bay to Ft. Getty Jamestown and from shoe at Castel Hill Newport has been great too. The limit switched to five fish last week and the fishing just got better.” We fished off Newport last week and limited out with fish to 25”. All fifteen keepers were nice sized and caught in about three hours. This past weekend after the storm the tautog bite continued off Newport with three anglers on board catching 15 nice keepers to 22” in about 3.5 hours of fishing. The most successful rig once the water got flowing was a single hook on a dropper loop above three inches above the singer but dangling down about four or five inches below the sinter so it lays flat on the bottom or gets kicked up a bit by the current. During slack tide we had success with tautog gigs. Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Black fishing started last week and it was as good as it gets. We saw full boat limits on Tuesday and Wednesday. Saturday was just a few fish shy for a great group of anglers. Biggest fish on the week was right at 11 pounds.”
Striped bass, bluefish. John Lavallee of Continental Bait said, for the past three of four weeks school bass from 22” to 26” with striped bass mixed in have been caught in the upper Bay at Edgewood and the Pawtuxet Village are. Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow and other swimming lures are working well for anglers.” The bite off East Providence and Barrington has been good too. The striped bass bite off Block Island has been spotty, however, large bluefish have been caught and now most vessels are starting to focus on tautog.
Freshwater bite for largemouth bass has been good with anglers targeting trout with success at stocked ponds. For stocking updates, follow DEM’s outdoor education page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RIFishwildlife/ . John Lavallee of Continental Bait & Tackle said, “Angels are catching trout at stocked ponds in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. One customer caught a 21” rainbow trout at Meadowbrook Pont, Cranston last week. The RI DEM has done a great job stocking ponds.”
Dave Monti 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, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at email@example.com or visit www.noflukefishing.com and his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com.