Tautog - Blackfish
This page has information on tautog, also known as tog or blackfish. These odd looking fish are intelligent, long lived and extremely challenging to catch.
Tautog live along the Atlantic coast of North America from Nova Scotia to South Carolina, with the greatest numbers of fish being found from southern Cape Cod to Virginia.
Tautog live in inshore waters around rocky bottoms, ship wrecks and reefs where they feed on mullosks, crustaceans and invertebrates.
Tautog are stout bodied fish. They are equipped with a thick-lipped mouth that has large conical teeth in front and flat crushing teeth in back. The single dorsal fin possesses a series of stiff, sharp spines, originates over the gill slit and runs back nearly to the tail.
The color of the tautog's body ranges from dark green to black, with these shades mottling a lighter background color of the sides. The belly is only slightly lighter than the sides. The white chin characteristic of large tautog has led to many anglers to call this fish "white chin."
Tautog are very slow growing. Large tautog caught with hook-and-line sometimes exceed 20 pounds although typically anglers may catch fish that weigh 2 to 10 pounds. Males typically grow faster and live longer than females. The maximum age for males appears to be about 35 years.
Tautog or Blackfish
Tautog are a challenge to catch and thrilling to fish for. Tautog live in and around structure such as rocky bottoms, coral outcrops, sunken ships and artificial reefs.
Tackle and techniques are simple and no prior experience is needed to catch these tasty fish. They vary in size from about 12 inches to perhaps 12 lbs or more. They are very tough fighters and excellent table fare.
Tautog Fishing on DVD
This DVD has tips on catching tautog-blackfish.
Anglers use a variety of leaders for tautog. Since the fishing is all in very rough terrain, tackle should be as snag resistant as possible.
The simplest rig is a hand made leader, usually of 20-40 lb test monofilament line. Anglers can increase the rigs resistance to snagging by using only one hook, tying on the sinker with a weak knot and using light hooks that can be straightened out.
A loop in the leader using a surgeon's knot or other knot can be used to attach the hook. A similar loop at the top allows connection to a swivel.
Tautog -Blackfish Links
How to Clean and Cook Tautog - Blackfish
Tautog are excellent table fare.The meat is firm, white and mild flavored. Tautog fillets are delicious fried, baked or grilled.
Here is a simple recipe for baked tautog with vegetables:
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 lb. mushrooms chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 lbs. of fillets
Place the fish in a buttered baking pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bake 5 minutes at 325°. Meanwhile, sweat onions, garlic and mushrooms in butter until soft.
Add the tomato, salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Top the fish with the sauce and return it to the oven for 5 minutes.
Best Baits for Tautog Fishing
Anglers use a variety of baits for catching tautog. The following are a few of the most common baits used by Atlantic Coast tautog-blackfish anglers:
The Atlantic blue crab is found in inshore environments from Nova Scotia to Argentina. These crabs make excellent bait for tautog. They are fished as cut bait and occasionally fished whole.
The green crab is an introduced species that is originally from Northern Europe. Their shell size can be up to 3". Green crabs are now found from New Jersey to Nova Scotia, and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The rock crab is a common species of shallow-water crab. It is usually found sheltering in nooks and crevices. It is a fairly unaggressive species, with shell widths up to about 5". Range: Labrador to South Carolina.
The Jonah crab is a species of crab found on the Atlantic coast of North America. It is closely related to the Dungeness crab of the Pacific Coast. Jonah Crabs look similar to rock crabs due to similar color and possessing 9 teeth on each side of the eye. Jonahs have black tips on their claws and a rougher shell edge as compared to rock crabs.
Mole crabs are sometimes used for catching tautog. Fishermen gather them by hand, with special metal mesh scoops or with meshed wire nets attached to poles. They can be purchased at bait and tackle shops in some areas.
Fiddler crabs are found along beaches, marshes and mud flats. They are sometimes gathered by fishermen and used for bait for species such as tautog, scup, sheepshead and black sea bass.
Fresh shrimp are available in from seafood markets, farmers markets and roadside vendors. Shrimp are sized by "count", the value being the average number of shrimp specimens per pound. For example, shrimp of 16/20 count means there are 16 to 20 shrimp per pound. Shrimp are an excellent choice for bottom fishing on structure such as fishing piers and artificial reefs.
Sea clams are tough and stay on the hook well. They are one of the few tautog baits that can be frozen. Sea clams are available in coastal tackle shops.
Quahogs are another effective bait for catching tautog. Quahogs are best when fresh. Large quahog clams are sometimes available in seafood markets or roadside stands.
Commercial Fishing for Tautog
Several American states allow commercial fishing for tautog. Tautog are sometimes caught commercially in traps, trawling or by handline. They are also sometimes bycatch in other fisheries. Tautog commonly enter inshore and offshore sea bass traps, lobster pots or other fixed gear.