Time for tug of war
The spring tautog bite is on with a season open until June 1. Minimum size is 16” with a three fish/person/day limit (and a ten fish boat limit). Anglers across the region reported limiting out on tautog this week.
With tautog, you 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, get ready for a tug of war… keep the rod up and pressure on so the fish is not able to run for cover back into structure and cut your line.
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.
“The tautog bite has exploded. Customers are catching them all over the Bay.” said Neil Hayes of Quaker Lane Bait & Tackle, North Kingstown.
I fished Sunday for a short time at Plum Light in North Kingstown. Tied alongside Tom and Dawn Wood who were there since 6:30 a.m. with Dave Michel. Tom shared where I should drop and sure enough I was on with a feisty tautog in five minutes. I used a tautog jig from Tom with a half green crab.
Tautog (or blackfish) is a great eating fish with nice tasting white meat. 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. This weekend three out of the six boats fishing Plum Light when I was there were using Spot Lock trolling motor by Minn Kota to hold their position over structure rather than anchoring. 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. However soft baits like calm worm and clams are often used in spring as some angler believe the tautog like soft baits this time of year. 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.
Where’s the bite?
Tautog. It looks like after a great year in 2019, 2020 is shaping up to be a great tautog fishing year too. Angler Jeff Sullivan of Bristol County spoke with me when he was visiting Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren. Sullivan said, “The tautog bite is real strong everywhere. Anglers are catching them out in front and in the Bay, off jetties from shore and over rock piles on a boat. Tautog are everywhere.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence said, “We weighed in a six pound tautog that was caught in the Providence River this weekend. Customers can’t miss with tautog, for two weeks now the fishing has been great and does not look like it is letting up.” The fishing blogs including the RI Saltwater Anglers Association blog exploded with reports from members catching their limit of tautog (three fish) in no time.
Striped bass fishing is outstanding. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “Soft plastics like Al Gag’s Whip-It-Eel are doing well in white, pink and confetti. Other fish are being taken in the Seekonk River with clam sea worms. We also have a good squid bite going on.” Hayes of Quaker Lane said, “Striped bass fishing continues to improve with some larger keeper fish in the 29” to 30” range being caught too.” Gil Bell relates a good striped bass bite from the beach at Charlestown since the water started to warm up again this weekend.
Freshwater fishing remains hot with a great trout amd largemouth bass bite. Anglers Tom Mihalko of Warwick and Harry Culler, Coventry caught twenty fish last week, both Salmon and trout on the Wood River with one salmon weighing 4 pounds and measuring 25”. Tom said, “A really amazing, unforgettable time. When we launched at 6 a.m. there was ice on the ramp and the grass, fog on the water…, after the fog lifted and sun hit the water the fish bite exploded.” Jeff Sullivan said, “Bass are prespawn so they are in low water at the banks as the water starts to warm. The males appear first followed shortly after by the females. The Reservoirs (that have deeper water) are starting to be good too. Swim baits, spinning bait and jigs are working well. The Brickyard Pond locally yielding some nice bass too.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, said, “Some nice largemouth bass are being caught tin the Woonasquatucket River in North Providence and a good trout bite continues at Round Rock Pond, Burriville”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.noflukefishing.com and his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com.