Selection the right hooking for tog fishing makes all the difference.
For avid anglers who enjoy targeting blackfish, also known as tautog or tog, hook selection is a crucial aspect of successful fishing. Blackfish are renowned for their hard-fighting nature and delicious taste, making them a highly sought-after catch along the Northeast coast. To maximize your chances of landing these elusive and bullish fish, it’s essential to choose the right hooks. I’ll explore the factors to consider when selecting hooks for blackfish and provide insights into the best choices for various situations.
The size of the hook you select should match the size of the blackfish you’re targeting. Smaller hooks (2/0 to 4/0) are ideal for smaller blackfish, while larger hooks (5/0 to 8/0) are better suited for the trophy-sized fish that you might come across during the month of November and into December. Always ensure your hooks are razor-sharp. Dull hooks can result in missed strikes, as blackfish have tough mouths that require a sharp hook to penetrate. I’ve personally witnessed sharpie toggers carry a hook file with them on a tog trip. Remember, hooking hard baits such as crab all day will dull the point of your hook quickly and this could result in poor hook penetration into the mouth of a fish.
The space between the point and shank of the hook, known as the “gap,” is an essential factor. A wider gap provides better hook-setting opportunities. Blackfish have stout jaws, and a hook with a larger gap can help increase your chances of a solid hookset. Crabs will also fill in a good portion of the hook gap since the baits are harder. Choosing a hook that fills gap but leaves enough point exposed will make a difference.
Octopus: These are a typical choice for most of my early season togging. I’ve found that the Octopus style hooks do a fine job at holding a piece of crab on the hook long enough for a tog to take the point of the hook. When togging, I usually buy this style in a bulk pack in brands of Gamakatsu, Eagle Claw or Owner in sizes from 2/0 to 5/0
Baitholder: The baitholder barbs on this longer style hook will give you a little extra hold and prevent a blackfish from ripping a bait off a hook too quickly. I tend to use this style with softer baits that are more prone to falling off the hook such a hermit crabs and clams. I like to use sizes 3/0 to 6/0 depending on the size of the fish I’m going after. They make a good choice for Snafu Rigs too.
Live Bait: In recent years I’ve learned to love this style for togging. Most live bait style hooks come with a bigger eye which make passing heavier monofilament Dropper Loops through them super easy compared to the smaller eyes on the other styles mentioned — when the weather gets colder and hands don’t work as well, this comes in handy. Also, this hook boasts a thicker gauge metal that will stand up to the burliest of tog. I’ve had fish bend out lighter gauge hooks when they get the proper leverage. If you’re fishing for tog during the latter portion of the season and going for the jumbos, give these a shot. VMC and Gamakatsu both make their own versions that I’ve used and have been successful with. Live bait hooks tend to run smaller so a 5/0 to 8/0 will work best for togging purposes.
Circle: This style tends to get less play with blackfish by most but they do come in handy when fishing tougher current and wind conditions and in deeper water when you might have a little more slack in the line. The fish will set the hook themselves with this style and instead of missing the usually bites that you would with some slack in the line, you will hook with the circle. Stick with a 3/0 to 5/0 in this style for the best results.