No Fluke

Time to play tug-of-war with Tautog


“This is the largest tautog I have ever caught.” said Jeremy Webster of Pawtucket as he lifted his rod high to prevent the fish from going back down into structure. Jeremey’s fish was in the low twenty inch range. He and his family’s Newport tautog fishing experience, and that of other anglers this fall, has been pretty good. And as the water continues to cool, the tautog season will fall into the outstanding category like the past couple of years.

So if you have not fished for tautog, now is the time to give it a try while the catching is good and the catch limit is about to be increased.

As of October 15 the tautog limit in Rhode Island and Massachusetts increased to 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.

Tautog (or blackfish) is a great eating fish with nice tasting white/greyish meat. Anglers enjoy baking tautog but some prefer to eat it raw as sushi which is delicious too.

Here are some top tips on how to catch tautog.

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 and angler placement is important. When in a boat 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. You can even cast out 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 may time to move the vessel. When on land use the same strategy, fish on or next to underwater structure, change spots from where you a fishing from shore if no bites.

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 am usually prepared to fish a number of different style rigs depending on structure and water flow conditions. The best time to fish for tautog is when the water is moving. Rig types I use include traditional tautog rigs; jigs of all types, weights and colors; and a special egg sinker rig I make that has reduced angler bottom tie-ups and lost rigs by about 75 percent.

Where’s the bite?

Striped bass, bluefish, false albacore and bonito. Jeff Sullivan of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren, said, “Gator size bluefish are still being caught in the bay. And the striped bass migration is still running strong. Anglers are catching slot limit fish (28” to less than 35”) along with fish below and above the slot in the lower bay and out in front off Newport. Anglers are using large plugs with success. Larger fish in the 30 and 40 pound range are still being caught off Block Island. However, the false albacore bite has not been very good, all are hopeful that it will pick up.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence said, “40 inch striped bass are being caught the Seekonk and Providence Rivers all the way down to Conimicut Point. Some bonito and false albacore are being caught out in front. The shore bass bite from Westerly to the Sakonnet River has been good with anglers catching bass and blues with some false albacore mixed in as the fish feed on large schools of peanut bunker (immature Atlantic menhaden) and bay anchovies.” East End Eddie Doherty said, “Cape Cod Canal anglers were landing striped bass in the 20 & 30 pound class last week at Pip’s Rip in the east end with slots caught throughout the ditch as the menhaden buffet continues before their journey south.”

Tautog and cod. Tautog fishing remains very strong and is getting better every day as the weather starts to cool things down as the water has been very warm. I fished with Steve Burstein, Andrew and Jim Stevens of Warwick at General Rock, North Kingstown this weekend and they boated tautog in the low 20” range. Andrew caught his first tautog, a 20 plus inch brute that wanted to take him back into the rocks but he safely landed the fish. Angler John Stavrakas of South Kingstown said, “Cod fishing was slow at Shark’s Ledge last week for me and my friend John Jeffries from New York. We landed three keepers and one short after 3 1/2 hours. We then went back in to Point Judith and boated a half dozen keeper tautog. Another half dozen keeper black sea bass rounded out the day. Fish caught in 38’ of water with a plain tautog hook with bank sinker and green crab. One of our largest was over 22 inches and 7 pounds.”

Freshwater fishing continued to be good this week in ponds and waterways stocked with trout by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. “Anglers should use Power Baits until these fish acclimate to their environment and then switch to more natural baits. Olney Pond at Lincoln Woods and other stocked waterways doing well. Anglers are using shiners with success for largemouth bass with the pike and carp bite improving for anglers too.” said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle.

Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and charter fishing license. He serves on a variety of boards and commissions and has a consulting business focusing on clean oceans, habitat preservation, conservation, renewable energy, and fisheries related issues and clients. Forward fishing news and photos to or visit

Dave Monti

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