Author: Captain Mike Littlefield
Blackfish, also known locally as tautog, are hard fighting and excellent tasting bottom feeding fish. These fish are resident fish that spend the winter offshore in deep water, returning inshore from spring to late fall.
Note that regulations on tautog change frequently, so be sure to check before going fishing.
Best Months- May through mid-June; late September through October.
Tautog start to arrive inshore in late April. Spring is their spawning season.
Best Times- During daylight hours.
Best Tide- Three hours before, to three hours after high tide.br>
Skill level- Supervised Beginner to Experienced Angler
Best Fishing Methods- Fresh bait on the bottom.
Rocky Areas: Tautog feed on crabs, mollusks and crustaceans that hide in rocks. Find a rocky beach, an area where rock ledge meets the ocean, or even a jetty that extends out into the water. Look for a spot where there is a deep pool of water next to a cluster of rocks. Tautog will cruise that rock formation looking for a meal. During the spring spawn, Tautog may also be caught along sandy/gravel beach areas in Narragansett Bay.
Popular Sports: Conimicut Point in Warwick, Sally Rocks at Goddard State Park in Potowomut, Colt State Park in Bristol, Beavertail State Park in Jamestown, Fort Wetherill in Jamestown, Fort Adams and Ocean Drive in Newport, Stone Bridge in Tiverton, Sakonnet Point in Little Compton, Black Point in Narragansett, Camp Cronin Fishing Area in Narragansett, the cliffs at Newton and Hazard Avenue in Narragansett, the West Wall jetty in Jerusalem, the Charlestown Breachway in Charlestown, and Watch Hill Lighthouse in Westerly.
Do you attempt to catch blackfish with jigs? You should! At times they out fish rigs and produce really big catches. I must ask… How did anglers target summer flounder 10, 15, 20+ years ago? The majority now target them with jigs. The migration to the jig occurred in the sea bass and tuna game years ago and guess what… The tog game too!
Light tackle jigging for tautog is still a relatively new technique and the concept is simple. Lighter line, small reels and lighter rods all directly contrast conventional tog fishing wisdom. Lighter tackle allows the small jigs to get to the bottom faster, entice more bites and with its stealth approach gives the fish a sense of security so they take the bait. Unlike heavy blackfish rig fishing (typically use 6+ ounce bank sinker) the tog can pickup the smaller jigs and swim away without feeling the tug of the line and weight as they crunch and munch the bait. Light tackle jigging for tog allows anglers the most natural presentation of baits. This directly results in more bites and opportunities to catch. The obvious first step top catch blackfish with jigs is to pick out the jig.
The rod and reel combo we recommend for deep water blackfish (tautog) should be capable of handling 50lb braid. The rod should be 6’6″-7″ with a fast to extra-fast action. We prefer a Crafty One Custom that has a little more beef to the rod to muscle the fish away from the structure. This is a very versatile conventional outfit and is perfect for choice for blackfish when using sinker weights up to 16 ounces. Levelwind reels are certainly easier to use, but may present a handicap when dropping the bait down in fast currents (because the line goes out more slowly). Do not be confused by the suggested lure weights specified on the rod blanks. These weights pertain to the size of lures that can be cast effectively using that rod.
The reel should be loaded with 50lb-65lb Bullbuster braid. We use the Finnor Marquesa 16 that has proven itself many times over. Heavier braid is preferred when fishing bouncing sinkers up to 16oz on the bottom. It also allows the angler to put enough pressure on the fish and stop it from wedging itself into rocks or rubbing the line against structure. Since braided lines have a thinner diameter and less water resistance, they provide an added advantage and allow the angler to hold bottom with lighter sinkers. The lack of stretch transmits even the softest of hits back to the angler.
Deep Water Blackfish (Tautog) Rigs
The rig we recommend consists of a 4ft length of 50lb - 80LB Bullbuster fluorocarbon leader attached to the main line using a 75lb barrel swivel. A loop is tied to the end of the leader and passed through the eye of a 4-10oz bank sinker. The long leader is required so that the braid does not rub against the structure. Fluorocarbon is required because blackfish can be notoriously line-shy. When this occurs some anglers reduce their leader size to 30lb. A dropper loop is added 6″ above the perfection loop. This dropper loop will be used to attach the leader and hook.
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