Species Spotlight: Tautog - The Fisherman

Species Spotlight: Tautog

A trophy-sized tautog may put you on top and clear your path for victory.

Throughout much of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, fall togging has been off to a great start. While the action is all you can ask for at times, the size of the fish tends to lack during this portion of the year. Don’t get me wrong, you can still catch the significant outlier among the endless shorts and barely keeper-sized fish. Lucky for Dream Boat and Coastal Kayak Clash participants, the month of November brings on colder water temperatures which brings larger tautog out to feed throughout the entire region.

Outside The Box

Many spots that both kayak and boat anglers hit during the month of November can see a lot of traffic. This means they will be picked over in a short amount of time. If you’re not the first to hit the spot, you may not be able to cash in on its rewards. This is when thinking outside the box comes in handy; it’s the exact mindset that could get you the fish you’re looking for.

While at times some anglers get caught up in the trap of following the fleet, I can personally attest to the fact that getting away from the fleet and finding new bottom can pay off in the end. Remember, new bottom is a spot with a fresh batch of fish that have only seen a few or no rigs, if that.

Finding new bottom isn’t the most challenging thing. With the electronics available today, it makes the task much easier. Keep in mind tog will discover any sort of structure down below, so don’t be afraid to try small pieces you mark. Some anglers many years ago used to build their own artificial reefs in secluded parts of bays and sounds, and while this practice is illegal, these homemade reefs would produce fish year after year. It’s just one of many examples of how these fish will find any sort of bottom debris to cling to.

Rocks do an excellent job at attracting fish but don’t forget about those old wooden structures. Wood will draw significantly more marine life than rock or metal since it’s a natural material that breaks down. This, in turn brings in more blackfish to feed. And when I say wooden structures, I mean anything made of wood (pilings too). Don’t be afraid to try a new unfished spot!

Fishing an ocean reef for tog like the author did for this fish can land you a trophy-sized contender.

Go Big For Big

Using big baits for big fish stands valid once again for tautog, and while the other phrase “elephants eat peanuts” has also proven itself true over time, the results with bigger baits are clear. Quick case in point: I was fishing tautog not too long ago, and smaller crab pieces were only gaining the interest of smaller tog and other bottom dwellers. After an hour or so of committing to the pieces, I decided to switch over to whole green crabs slightly larger than a silver dollar. Immediately I was greeted with a larger class of fish than I was dealing with a few minutes before. This wasn’t the first time this switch got me larger fish either.

As the season progresses, familiarize yourself with the entire menu. This means green crabs, white leggers, hermits, and Asian crabs if you can catch them. Big tog can key in on certain baits. I’ve fished in November before and have seen trips where green crabs weren’t nearly getting the touches that white leggers were. On the other hand, the hermit crabs can be candy to a large tog, but the only downside is the price they cost and the common opinion that once hermits are employed, the fish will turn off any other bait you put on the bottom.

Along with using larger baits is employing a rig that will accommodate them. With smaller, whole crabs you can get away with a single hook but the best way to rig a whole crab is with the Snafu Rig. The two hooks on a Snafu Rig can be placed on both sides of the crab to get maximum hook coverage when that large tog decides to take your bait. If you’re unfamiliar with how to tie a Snafu rig, visit youtu.be/FJNnaTUhFDg for some helpful insights from Capt. Joey Leggio.

The Fisherman Magazine’s yearly contests are coming down to the wire, but it’s still anyone’s game. A trophy-sized tautog may put you on top and clear your path for victory.


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