NJ’s Back In Blackfish: Inshore Tautog Fishing Tips - The Fisherman

NJ’s Back In Blackfish: Inshore Tautog Fishing Tips

The 11-year-old author shows off his passion for fishing, which has led to becoming a brand ambassador for Tsunami Tackle and frequent spots in The Fisherman’s weekly video fishing forecast.

As of August 1, New Jersey anglers can target and keep one tautog.

When you think about tautog you think of a cold-water fish right? What if I told you can catch them from the shore, in August?

Tautog every year migrate to the shore for warmer water to spawn. Tautog are hard fighting fish, they are feisty, and they are smart.  Of course, when it comes to targeting these blackfish, bait is clearly king.

Green Crab:  An invasive species of crab from Asia, these crabs came to the U.S.A. on cargo ships. They are easy to get almost every tackle shop has them in the where tautog are found they are abundant and tog candy if you use them on a tautog jig or on a rig.

Asian Crabs:  Another invasive species arriving from overseas cargo ships, Asian crabs are a little harder to get as most tackle shops don’t sell them.  About the only way you can get them is if you go on a jetty during low tide and flip rocks; these small little morsels are known as tog candy if you can get them. They’re small only about 1 to 2 inches but if you can get these jokers in your hands, you’ll be ready to go, I caught my personal best 5-pounder with a quarter-ounce tautog jig. You hook them on a small tautog jig, and you’ll be ready to go.

Fiddler Crabs:  Fiddler crabs are awesome and are about the same size as an Asian crab. These little crabs have some big pinchers, but they’re also tautog candy so some tackle shops do sell fiddler crabs, but they’re hard to get the only way you can get them is going to a sod bank getting a shovel in a bucket find little holes stick the shovel in front of the whole push out and get ready cause a bunch of fiddlers are going to come crawling out of there.

Sand Fleas:  Sand fleas or sand crabs are perfect for tautog. Most tackle shops sell them down south of the times they don’t like the easiest way to get sand crabs is by using a sand flea rake down on the beach; my favorite sand flea rake is made by Tsunami, as it’s light and very effective.

Hermit Crabs:  Hermit crabs are very hard to get, sometimes very easy to get if you go to your local Beach low tide on a flat You can see them walking around, and if you get a good dozen or so these jokers are awesome. Always have a hammer because sometimes if you rip them out of the shells, you rip the whole body, so I suggest you always have a good hammer, crack the shell lightly, and hook them however way you want on a rig or a tautog jig.

While November tautog action at the Jersey Shore is all about inshore wrecks and reefs, you can make quick work of the one-fish bag this month along the jetties, piers and bridges.

Pigs On A Jig

Tackle is very important. When tautog fishing you must have the right type of tackle; if you don’t, you will get either broken off or they will break your rod. Tautog, pound for pound, are one of the strongest inshore fish in the Northeast. Typically, from the shore you’re fishing on rocks, piers, and off bridges, so there are two main ways to catch these blackfish, one by using a tautog jig and two by using a rig. If you were tautog jigging it sounds like you’re moving the jig but you’re just keeping the jig right on the bottom.

The Tsunami Tog Treat is a flat bottom jig it comes in many different sizes from a quarter-ounce to 2 ounces and is one of my favorites. The jig has a good hook so you can put a nice size crab even a whole crab. The S&S Bucktails White Chin Wreckers are another flat bottom jig. My favorite sizes are half to 1 ounce. I love the way these jigs rest on the bottom because they sit nice and flat, and for tautog you need a jig sit on the bottom nicely. And with a good size hook you can put a whole crab or if you have Asian crab, you can put multiple little crabs on there.

Favorite colors with any tautog jig are white, white/glow, plain, green crab, blue crab, and Asian crab in my experience there are very effective.  Other popular jigs for tautog, as well as sheepshead along the rocks, include Salvo jigs, Magic Tails, Tog Candy jigs, and Bottom Sweeper jigs.

An assortment of tautog jigs that are ideal for deploying sand crabs, fiddlers, hermit crabs or greenies for both tautog and summer sheepshead in the New Jersey, Delaware Bay region.

Geared For Battle

In terms of rod selection, my go to rod is the Tsunami Slim Wave 7-foot medium heavy that’s built for power, yet very sensitive, lightweight, and quite comfortable to use.  This is the rod I use when I am using tog jigs.  The other I like is the Tsunami Trophy Series slow pitch 7-foot heavy. When I say heavy, you’re thinking “wait a minute if this rod is heavy, isn’t it too much for tautog jigging?”  The answer is no, it’s very light, parabolic, and sensitive, but it has backbone which need to the tog out of the rocks.  I’ll pair either of these rods with the Tsunami Evict 2000 or 3000 series reels for a good combo that can help put a nice tautog at your feet. Speaking of which, if you’re planning to work over a slick section of inlet jetty rock, be careful; a good set of spikes (like Korkers) will help you maintain your grip.

The typical size hook you are going to use with your rigs is a 3/0 to 5/0 hook, my favorite hooks being Tsunami Salt X octopus hooks and a sinker.  Rig weight of course depends on the current, so bring from anywhere from 2 to 6 ounces.  In terms of the rigging itself, one of my favorite tautog rigs is the slider rig it uses a two-hook system. It’s one of the most effective rigs you can use.  As for rigging you can either putting a whole crab on the hook or cut the crabs in half.

The Belmar Rig is another favorite for tautog fishing this a basic tautog rig for beginners. Again, there are two different ways for hooking up a crab. One of them is which you hook the crab whole through one leg socket coming out through the other leg socket. The second way is cutting the crab in half and putting it on the hook through the leg socket.  For details on how to tie the Belmar Rig check out Frank Mihalic’s short video piece at www.thefisherman.com/tautog-tips-how-to-tie-the-belmar-rig (just go to TheFisherman.com and type “Belmar Rig” in the search bar).

The young author with a jetty blackfish that fell for a Tsunami Tog Treat. If you’re working the jetties this month just be sure to use Korkers or other sole-gripping footwear to ensure your safety on slick, wet rocks.

Location, Location, Location

In New Jersey, anglers may possess one tautog/blackfish with a 15-inch minimum size from August 1 through November 15, when the bag limit goes to five fish through December 31.  The season reopens again April 1-30 with a four fish bag.

In Delaware the possession limit is four fish at a 16-inch minimum size from July 1 though December 31 and from January 1 through May 15.

New York tautog regulations are broken down by zone, with a four fish bag in NY Bight from October 15 to December 22, and two fish from April 1-30.  On Long Island Sound it’s three fish from October 11 through December 9, and two fish from April 1-30.  In both instances the minimum size is 16 inches.

Some tog fishing spots are areas with structure like rocks, big boulders, mussel beds, jetties, bridges are one of the easiest ways to get on the fish. First you need to find a pole or a pylon that is where the blackfish is mostly going to be hiding, and if you have a lot of current drop your bait in front on the pole or pylon and hold on because that big bulldog is going you destroy your bait.

Jetties are the best area to catch a tautog from but is the most dangerous; again, I highly advise you to wear Korkers while fishing on the rocks they can get wet and may slip so be aware of the wet rocks. One of my favorite ways to catch tautog from the jetty is to pitch you jig or jig in front of a big bolder and hold on, because a big one maybe passing by there just waiting for a crab to cross its path.

Catching a tautog from the shore is challenging, fun, hard, but rewarding. You can target team with many types of baits, and rigs and jig and with the right tackle you can catch a big tautog, but I do say this, please try and release the big females because they reproduce so we can have more tautog in the future.


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