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Thread: gearing up for blackfish

  1. #1
    NBS Extreme Angler Jim's Avatar
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    Jun 2006
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    gearing up for blackfish

    People either love it or they hate it! What's that? Tautog fishing!

    Tautog fishing takes a lot of patience and good supply of hooks and
    sinkers. The one good thing about tautog fishing is that you can do
    it from the shore. The other good thing about tautog fishing is that
    the conditions do not have to be perfect. The water can be cloudy,
    the wind can be blowing, and yet the tautog can still be biting.

    We have our annual tautog runs two times of year. Though tautog bite
    all summer long and sometimes into the winter if the conditions are
    mild, the larger fish bite in the spring and in the fall. The spring
    run generally starts some time in April and runs through June. The
    fall run starts in September and runs through November.

    "How do you catch tautog without getting hung up?"

    If you're not getting hung up at least "every once in a while" you're
    probably not catching tautog. Tautog live in areas of structure such
    as rocks, ledges where there are lots of barnacles and debris,
    underwater concrete slabs or riprap. Offshore, they live in shipwrecks
    or artificial reef sites. As soon as they get hooked, these strong
    fish head right for the structure, often causing the angler to become
    hopelessly "hung up."

    To do your best to avoid getting snagged so often, there are several
    things you can do. First and foremost is use common sense. If you
    cast to a certain spot and continuously get hung up, do not cast there
    anymore. Move up or down the rock jetty or bulkhead and try another
    spot. (Hint: A "hot spot" during an outgoing tide may be "snag city"
    on an incoming tide.)

    The trick to tautog fishing is to cast out far enough without casting
    out too far! If you cast too "short" you will get hung up immediately
    on rocks or the bulkhead where you are fishing. If you cast too "far"
    the current will move your sinker too fast and you will get hung up on
    an underwater ledge. Experiment with your casting distance,
    increasing it as the tide slacks and decreasing your distance when the
    tide runs hard. You want your sinker to stay relatively still on the
    bottom after you cast out. It can move a little, but you don't want
    it to move a lot.

    The next thing to keep in mind when tautog fishing is to "keep it
    simple." When tautog fishing from the shore you need to use only one
    hook and one sinker. You want no metal top and bottom rigs or sinker
    snaps. Most anglers make a very simple rig out of 40-pound test
    monofilament leader material. Tie a double surgeon's loop at the end
    of a 4 to 5-foot piece of 40-pound test leader for the sinker and then
    tie a second double surgeon's loop a few inches up the leader and
    insert a loose Octopus styled hook (a #2/0 or #3/0 Mustad #92553BL).
    Keep the loop 3 to 5 inches long, no longer. Tie a barrel swivel to
    the end of the 40-pound test monofilament. Don't make your rig too
    short, especially if your line on your reel is 20-pound test or
    lighter. Underwater rocks play havoc on your line. You want your
    leader material to take the brunt of the rock abrasion.

    Many anglers use 40-pound test on their reel and make these rigs
    right from the line off their spool. This works fine because a tautog
    fisherman does not need to cast out very far. You do need to have a
    "surf size"-spinning spinning reel if you want to spool up with
    40-pound test monofilament line. Other anglers have had good luck
    using the new super lines such as Berkley Fire Line, Power Pro, or
    other brands of Spectra fiber line in the 30 to 50 -pound test range.
    When you use these ultra-thin diameter lines, you can get away with a
    smaller reel. You want to make your leaders out of 40-pound test
    monofilament and tie the leaders into the "braid" line with either a
    barrel swivel or a uni-knot. It is very easy to feel the bites with
    the super "braids" and since there is no stretch, it is easier to pull
    "hung up" rigs out of the rocks.

    Another common problem when tautog fishing is having a big fish on
    and then having the sinker get hung up in a rock. You can feel the
    fish, but can't budge the line. Some anglers use a rubber band on the
    sinker, so when it gets hung up you can break it easily and still get
    your fish. Simply loop the rubber band through your surgeon's loop and
    then loop it through the eye of the sinker. It's easy and it works.

    Tautog are fast and you need to be faster! As soon as you hook a
    tautog, you want to get your rod tip up and start cranking so the
    tautog's head stays up so he does not go under a rock or ledge. Even
    if the fish is large and fighting hard, keep your rod tip high and
    pump the fish up. If you have never tautog fished before but have had
    any experience with grouper fishing in Florida or other southern
    areas, it is similar. If that fish gets its head down and goes into a
    hole, it is often, "all over." Since you need to keep the pressure on
    the fish, it is necessary to keep a fairly tight drag. (If you are
    using a no-stretch "braid line" you will want to loosen the drag up a
    little more than if you were using monofilament.)

    "I heard that you need to set the hook on a tautog before it even
    bites?" No, this isn't true and almost impossible to do anyway. The
    trick is to feel the tautog take the bait and wait until the fish gets
    it in his mouth before setting the hook. Once you feel the weight of
    the fish, set the hook. All fish bite differently on different days or
    tides. Big tautog will often "slam" the bait and while small tautog
    will "pick" at your offerings. Tautog are often harder to hook during
    a slack tide than during a running tide. Experiment around, and if
    you are successful at catching one or two, try to remember exactly how
    you were holding the rod and how you set the hook. Do it again!

    If you have the time, watch the veteran tautog fishermen and see what
    they do. Don't fish; just watch and you will be surprised what you
    may learn.

    "What do I need to go tautog fishing? Where should I go?"

    Even if you are not an avid tautog fisherman, it is something to do
    when you can't hold bottom in the surf with a cinder block or if you
    just have an hour to "kill" and don't want to do anything complicated.
    During tautog season I always keep a 5 gallon bucket in my truck with
    10 flat 2-ounce sinkers, a 10-pack of loose hooks and some 40-pound
    test leader material, a pair of kitchen shears and a couple barrel
    swivels. When I want to slip out tautog fishing for an hour I grab
    either a dozen green crabs or a pint of sand fleas. (Double the
    above for a two-hour tautog outing and hope you don't need that many

    When it is cold and nasty in the spring and fall many anglers like to
    go surf fishing when the wind is blowing from a westerly direction and
    go tautog fishing along the bayside when the wind is blowing from an
    easterly direction. This means that the wind will be at their back in
    either case (thus they are more comfortable) and the water in front of
    them is calm.

    Tautog generally bite before and after the flounder run, giving
    anglers another species to fish for. In the fall of the year, anglers
    are also likely to catch sheepshead, red or black drum, and even
    stripers while tautog fishing. In the summer and early fall,
    triggerfish are also around. All of these fish are very good to eat!

    Popular tautog fishing places in Ocean City on the bayside are: the
    bulkhead from 2nd through 4th Streets, 5th Street, 6th Street, the end
    of the Oceanic Pier, and near the draw of the Route 50 Bridge.
    Anglers, of course, fish for tautog at the Ocean City inlet and
    seawall. Indian River Inlet is also a very popular tautog haven.
    Indian River has the advantage of having two rock jetties and sea
    walls so anglers can fish with the wind at their backs whether the
    wind is blowing from the south or the north.

    "Does that really matter?"

    Not if the wind is blowing 5 to 10 miles per hour, but if the wind is
    howling at 20 to 30 miles per hour it is always nice to have it at
    your back. It is more comfortable and easier to control your cast.
    Controlling your cast and getting that sinker right where you want it
    is important to successful tautog fishing. Once you do it a few times
    you will learn to find the deeper holes where the larger tautog are
    hiding. You can actually feel the sinker fall in a hole when you
    nudge your line in. This is where you will get that "bite."

    "How about the bait?"

    Tautog like crabs or clam, but they especially like crabs. The little
    sand fleas (or sand crabs) that you dig on the beach are a great
    tautog bait. So are green crabs that you buy at local tackle stores.
    Any other kind of crab you can catch works good for tautog.

    To hook a sand crab, insert the hook point into the apron of the crab
    and out the outer shell approximately an eighth of an inch.

    To prepare a green crab, most anglers use a pair of kitchen shears to
    cut the crab in half. Then, you want to pull off the shell and insert
    the hook in one leg socket and out another. I like to cut the legs
    off as well. If the tautog are running large I like to use the
    whole body section. Cut off the legs, pull off the shell, and insert
    the hook in one leg socket and out the claw socket. (I save the big
    pieces for the slack tide.) Small crabs can be used whole with the
    legs and shell intact. Hook them near the swimming fin.

    Tautog fishing is not for everyone but these fish, pound for pound,
    fight harder than any fish around. If the sheepshead and drum are
    biting, tautog fishing can be "double the pleasure." It's worth trying
    it at least once or twice. And hey, they're all good to eat as well!

    Good fishing.


  2. #2
    Nice article. Blackfishing is good in the spring at the breakwalls in new haven, Fall is good on the reefs and rocks.

  3. #3
    Bob & Mag's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
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    Clinton, CT
    Good article to get us going.
    We just started Blackfishing for the first time last fall.
    Lots of fun and good eating.
    Sportfishing Forums | Saltwater Fishing, Deep Sea Fishing, Big Game and Sport Fishing Reports; for the serious Sportfisherman.

  4. #4
    While some of us have no choice and are designated to fish from shore for togs, fishing from a boat is the way to go if at all possible. When fishing from a boat for togs, leave your spinning gear home unless you wish to intentionally handicap yourself. Togs are not line shy so you do not need expensive fluorocarbon line, but I still use it because it is stiffer and more abrasion resistant than regular mono. Togs are brutes so there is no reason to play peek-a-boo with light lines; I use 65 pound test power pro with fifty pound test leader for my egg sinker to slide up and down on, followed by 40 pound test fluorocarbon to my blackfish hook (Virgina style.) Sooner of later you will get hung up so when you wrap your power pro line around the rung of an old broken wooden chair to break it free, you might as well place the odds in your favor of getting back as much of your terminal tackle as possible. I have found the best bait in my area is hermit crabs. While I doubt if anyone targets these crabs, if you put out any pots of any sort, those shells you see in your pots did not walk into them by accident, every one of those shells had a hermit crab in it and the hermits are likely to still be resident in them. Save these shells in a small holding cage for your next tog trip. The biggest problem with hermit crabs is trying to figure out how to put them on your hook without the togs stealing them before you even get your reel in gear. In learning how to bait a hermit crab I had tried everything including the use of small rubber bands and even tying the crab to the hook. A hermit crab basically consists of two parts: a fairly hard upper body and a very soft tail section. Leave that tail section hanging loose, and it will be gone in seconds. You do not need much of a hermit crab to get a tog all excited about it so here is what I now do. I break the hermit in two and fish the upper half slightly different than that of the tail section. When fishing the head section I give the tog a moment to mouth the bait before setting the hook. I do not give the tog anything when fishing the soft tail section since the tog knows what it is and almost always it is a hit and run affair. I never have enough hermit crabs for fishing so one will still need supplement ones bait supply with other forms of bait as well, but when things seem to be slowing down a bit, the hermit crab is my ace in the hole.
    "Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go" by William Feather

  5. #5
    Junior Member eric101's Avatar
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    Aug 2009
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    Anyone know of any good tog spots close to Wickford area I have tried around Hope Island recently with no luck mostly sea bass and scup same results near Jamestown Bridge.
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  6. #6
    NBS Member eastern boat's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
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    gearing up for togs

    Exellent information for all of us,don't over look using the high/low rig during slack tide with as little weight as possible keeping it verticle on the bottom,spinning gear-20 lb. test,medium action rod works for me all the time ,boat rod comes out on the running tides with the traditionl rigs and heavier sinkers
    Sportfishing Forums | Saltwater Fishing, Deep Sea Fishing, Big Game and Sport Fishing Reports; for the serious Sportfisherman.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by eastern boat View Post
    Exellent information for all of us,
    Who are you kidding! You have caught more togs than anyone else I know . See you on the rock piles shortly. For what it is worth, my daughter belongs to a divers group and she checked out the point where you like to fish and there is at least one monster tog she saw down there yesterday waiting for you. Do not normally fish the point but will now have to consider it; hope you do not mind some company. I think if you tie into the one she saw, you better have a hefty winch and boom rather than a spinning outfit. Cannot wait until the opening bell sounds Thursday.
    "Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go" by William Feather

  8. #8
    Senior NBS Member gverb1219's Avatar
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    Jan 2007
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    On The Edge Of Insanity, So Don't Push Me !!
    Ahhhhhh.........Tog Time...........just a couple more days............

    Tog Tog.....................
    I've done so much with so little for so long, that now I can do practically anything with nothing.
    That's why I'm the Piker Prez.

  9. #9
    NBS Member eatfish's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
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    N. Attleboro MA
    Quote Originally Posted by eric101 View Post
    Anyone know of any good tog spots close to Wickford area I have tried around Hope Island recently with no luck mostly sea bass and scup same results near Jamestown Bridge.

    Keep at it!!! Check your GPS for the rockpiles off Jamestown. Sometimes its a matter of moving a few feet. Good luck!!
    Sportfishing Forums | Saltwater Fishing, Deep Sea Fishing, Big Game and Sport Fishing Reports; for the serious Sportfisherman.

  10. #10
    NBS Angling Addict AquaLung's Avatar
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    Nov 2007
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    Windsor CT
    What's the real take from you guys?? I like a two hook rig set up, not really a high/lo, but similar, just the hooks are closer.
    I like to use red bead or tube also, any thoughts on adding color??
    Sportfishing Forums | Saltwater Fishing, Deep Sea Fishing, Big Game and Sport Fishing Reports; for the serious Sportfisherman.

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