For many New Englanders, autumn’s arrival means cool temperatures, fall foliage and pumpkins. But for anglers in southern New England, autumn means fishing for tautog.
Also known as blackfish, tautog are a fun species to fish for. They put up a good fight and they are delicious.
As fall arrives and water temperatures dip into the low 60s, tautog start to migrate into rocky, shallow areas. Early on, tautog can be found in extremely shallow water, even less than 10 feet. They move deeper as the season wears on and water temperatures drop.
Fishermen can locate tautog over inshore structure such as a ledge, rockpile, wreck, reef or breakwater. Buzzards Bay is packed with the type of structure that tautog love.
Anglers should look for a small, rocky outcropping in 20 to 30 feet of water. Check out the bottom with your depthfinder. Once you locate structure, drop your anchor and try to position the boat right on top of the highest spot. A few feet can make a big difference, so precise anchoring is important.
For tackle, use a 6- to 6 ½-foot rod with a sensitive tip and stiff midsection and butt. Many bottom-fishing anglers swear by conventional reels, but a midsize spinning reel will also work. Use 30- to 40-pound-test braided line. Being thinner and more sensitive than monofilament of similar strength, it will let you feel your sinker tapping the bottom and the tugs of tautog chomping at your bait.
Tautog will go after clams and seaworms, but their preferred bait is green crabs. Cut the crabs into quarters or halves, depending on their size, and thread your hook through two of the leg sockets.
Lower the crab into the water and free-spool line until the sinker taps bottom. It’s important to make sure the sinker stays right on the bottom. Every few seconds, raise and lower the rod tip to stay at the bottom and keep your bait out of weeds.