Saltwater Fishing - Helping you catch that fish of a lifetime


by Geoffrey English

Tautog (Tautoga Onitis)
The Tautog (Tautoga Onitis), more commonly known as a Blackfish, belongs to a group of fish called Wrasse. The Wrasse family is one of the largest families of fish with over 450 known species. This family covers a range of fish from tiny to large. The Tautog is one of the smaller members of this family, weighing in at an average of only one to three pounds, and reaching a maximum length of about three feet.

The skin color of the young Tautog is green and brown, with white blotches all over its body. Adult Tautog are usually black with a green over tone, though they still maintain their blotches. It has only small teeth on its jaw, with a few larger canines at the tip.  Their mouths contain a set of molars that they use to crush tough food like crustaceans and mollusks. 

Tautog are usually found in saltwater. They are known to live in the western Atlantic Ocean, commonly traveling from Nova Scotia, Canada south to South Carolina. Most of these fish live among the wreckages, rocks, and other structures found at the bottom of the ocean. They will move inshore or offshore to adjust to the changing water temperatures. However, they prefer the shallow waters of the coastline.  Tautog are most abundant off the eastern coastlines of the United States near Cape Cod, Massachusetts and the Delaware Bay. 

Tautoga reproduce in late spring and early summer. Once the eggs are laid, they will drift in the water currents until they hatch.  The babies will find shelter in the shorelines in grass and seaweed.  They can use the green color of their skin as camouflage amongst the plants, shielding them from potential predators.

Tautog are not the fastest or most aggressive fish, but they do put up a good fight.
There are many techniques for catching Tautog, and most methods include fishing in areas that are extremely rocky, or contain wrecks or others ocean dwelling objects where these fish tend to hide. The best time to catch these fish is in late spring and in some fall months right off the shoreline. Some of the most popular baits for blackfish are crabs, shrimp, sandworms, and mussels.

Though the Tautog are not the most active fish, they will put up a decent fight. The main issue that anglers deal with is not the fight of the fish, but the fight of its home. The rocky areas in which the Tautog live often tangle and cut off fishing lines, making the angler start over after every failed attempt. They best way to avoid this is by fighting aggressively to keep the fish from reentering the protective cover of the sharp rocks.  It’s also important to minimize the weight on the line, as anything extra could add to the chance of getting hung up or cut off.  One unnecessary piece of equipment could tie up the entire line.


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