Tautog Fishing Tips

Autumn is tautog season for New England fishermen, who enjoy bottom fishing for this hard fighting, great tasting fish. Also known as blackfish, tautog migrate into shallow, rocky areas once the water temperature dips into the lower 60s, and then move deeper as the season goes on and temperatures drop. Here are a few tips for catching this New England fall favorite.

  • Know where to look. Tautog can usually be found over inshore structure such as rockpile, ledge, reef, wreck or breakwater. Look for a small, rocky outcropping in 20 to 30 feet of water.
  • Position matters. Use your depthfinder to locate structure, then drop your anchor and position the boat directly over the highest spot. A few feet can make a big difference, so be precise.
  • Be prepared to move on. If you’re anchored in the right place, you should get a bite quickly. If you don’t, try re-anchoring or move to another location.
  • Use the right tackle. For tautog, use a 6- to 6 ½-foot rod with a sensitive tip and stiff midsection. Conventional reels and midsize spinning reels will both work. Using 30- to 40-pound-test braided line lets you feel your sinker tapping the bottom and the tugs of tautog biting your bait.
  • Green crabs work great. While clams and seaworms will entice tautog, green crabs are their preferred bait. Cut the crabs into quarters or halves and thread your hook through two of the leg sockets.
  • Stay out of the weeds. You want your sinker to stay right at the bottom, but every few seconds make sure to raise and lower your rod tip to keep your bait out of weeds.