For most of my fishing life I have been obsessed with striped bass. However, in recent years I have really enjoyed branching out and fishing for other species. One species of fish I find super fun to target is the tautog (also called blackfish). Tautog fishing is a blast because they are extremely strong and put up a great fight. They are a challenge to find and hook, plus they are also wonderful to eat.
In my opinion, the simplest way to catch tautog is to use a Togzilla jig. These jigs are specially made to present a crab (one of the tautog’s favorite prey items) right on the bottom amongst the rocks and boulders where tautog call home.
Tautog Fishing: How To Hook Green Crabs Onto Togzilla Jigs
In my home waters off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the most common bait to use when targeting tautog is the green crab.
These crabs can be easily caught in most estuaries, or purchased at a reasonable price from bait shops.
The first step to hooking a crab onto a Togzilla jig is to snip off the crabs legs using a pair of bait scissors. Once the legs have been removed, use the scissors to snip the body of the crab in half. Then take one half of the crab and peel off the shell. Next, take the point of the hook on the Togzilla jig and thread it through the largest leg socket and out the fleshy meat part of the crab.
The color of the Togzilla jig probably doesn’t matter much, however the weight of the jig does.
In calm shallow areas without much current. I will use a jig in the 1-ounce to 2.5-ounce range. If you are fishing a deeper area with more current, then you may want to use a jig as heavy as 4-ounces or 5-ounces. Use a weight that keeps your line vertical and straight beneath the boat when fishing.
Tautog Fishing: How To Fish The Jig & Crab
When tautog fishing, you will almost always want to present your bait right along the bottom. Tautog generally hold very close to the bottom and are often found in and around rocks and boulders. When you drop your jig and crab overboard, allow it to head straight for the bottom.
Once it hits bottom, leave the jig sitting there – do not reel it up off the bottom.
Tautog can be a tricky fish to hook. They will often try crushing the crab with their teeth before swallowing it. It can be challenging for anglers to resist the temptation to immediately set the hook when they feel that initial “bump” on the line. Instead of immediately setting the hook, try waiting a moment to allow the tautog to swallow the bait. Then set the hook a moment after the initial bump, once you know the tautog has taken the crab.
For tautog fishing, I will use 50-pound braided line tied to a 50-pound fluorocarbon leader. This may sound like overkill based on the average size of the fish, however tautog live in rocky environments and are a strong fighting fish. You will want to pull big tautog off the bottom quickly using a fairly tight drag and a rod that has some backbone. If you don’t apply enough pressure early on in the fight, then there is a chance the tautog will cut you off on a rock or get you snagged in the boulders.
Tautog Fishing: How To Find Tautog
In my home waters off Cape Cod, Massachusetts I will generally fish for tautog in the spring during April and May, and again in the fall during October and November. I do not fish for tautog during the summer because I’m occupied with other species like striped bass and bluefin tuna.
During the spring, tautog move into shallow water to spawn. During this time of the year, it is not unusual to find tautog in water depths of 5 to 30-feet. The general protocol is to anchor up in an area where tautog spawn or like to feed (often around underwater rock piles or weed beds).
If I don’t get any bites within 10 or 15 minutes, then I pull anchor and move the boat to the next spot.
I start fishing again for tautog once autumn arrives, during the months of October and November. The only issue is the weather. Cold windy days occur pretty often, especially during November, which can make fishing difficult. Nevertheless, the protocol is almost the same as during the spring – anchor up over underwater rock piles and just keep moving around until you get on the bite.
Tautog Fishing: Final Thoughts
Tautog are a ton of fun to catch and are also delicious to eat! They are a good fish to target during the spring and fall “shoulder seasons”. Another bonus is that you don’t need a big fancy boat to go tautog fishing, and you often do not have to travel far from shore to catch them.
Using a Togzilla jig tipped with a green crab is a surefire method to fooling tautog on a regular basis. In my opinion it is the simplest way to catch tautog of all shapes and sizes.
Best of luck if you give tautog fishing a try this season! I think you will find it challenging but also a lot of fun.
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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