Blackfish / Tautog
Tautoga onitis
Blackfish, also known locally as tautog, are hard fighting and excellent tasting bottom feeding fish. These fish are resident fish that spend the winter offshore in deep water, returning inshore from spring to late fall.

Rhode Island Bag Limit is here
Note that regulations on tautog change frequently, so be sure to check before going fishing.

Best Months- May through mid-June; late September through October.
Tautog start to arrive inshore in late April. Spring is their spawning season.

Best Times- During daylight hours.

Best Tide- Three hours before, to three hours after high tide.br>
Skill level- Supervised Beginner to Experienced Angler

Best Fishing Methods- Fresh bait on the bottom.

Best Areas

Rocky Areas: Tautog feed on crabs, mollusks and crustaceans that hide in rocks. Find a rocky beach, an area where rock ledge meets the ocean, or even a jetty that extends out into the water. Look for a spot where there is a deep pool of water next to a cluster of rocks. Tautog will cruise that rock formation looking for a meal. During the spring spawn, Tautog may also be caught along sandy/gravel beach areas in Narragansett Bay.

Popular Sports: Conimicut Point in Warwick, Sally Rocks at Goddard State Park in Potowomut, Colt State Park in Bristol, Beavertail State Park in Jamestown, Fort Wetherill in Jamestown, Fort Adams and Ocean Drive in Newport, Stone Bridge in Tiverton, Sakonnet Point in Little Compton, Black Point in Narragansett, Camp Cronin Fishing Area in Narragansett, the cliffs at Newton and Hazard Avenue in Narragansett, the West Wall jetty in Jerusalem, the Charlestown Breachway in Charlestown, and Watch Hill Lighthouse in Westerly.

Other facts

Plugs and lures are not used to catch tautog.

In the spring, anglers prefer soft natural baits such as clam bellies or clamworms on the bottom. These baits will also attract other species of fish and pesky bait stealers. If you wish to target tautog, and keep bait on your hook as long as possible, you should use live, green crabs. Green crabs can be purchased at most tackle shops, or trapped along rocky shorelines and jetties. Small crabs can be hooked through their leg holes and fished whole. Larger crabs must be split down the middle with a sturdy bait knife, and then hooked through the leg holes. Some anglers leave legs on and some prefer to snip them off. It's your choice.

Bait/Tackle shops will be happy to advise you on hooks and rigs for tautog. A sturdy size 3-5 Blackfish hook is common. You can use the same rod and reel combo you used for Striped Bass, but eventually you may add a longer, heavier rod to your collection for Tautog.

The average size of a keeper tautog will be in the three to four pound range from shore. Four to six pound fish are possible. An eight to ten pound tautog from shore is a trophy fish indeed.

Cast your baited hook and sinker rig into a deep pool of water next to rock structure. Use just enough sinker weight to hold bottom. When a tautog takes your bait, set the hook quickly and keep your rod tip high. Apply constant pressure to get the fish off the bottom and away from the rocks. Most often you will need to hoist the fish up over the rocks or jetty you are fishing from.

Strong monofilament line and leader is recommended.

BE CAREFUL not to slip on rocks.

When you see the size of the tautog's teeth you will automatically know better than to put a finger inside that powerful jaw.


Copyright © Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association 1999-2015.
All rights reserved.