Late September through November can be a very productive time of year to catch tautog in the Northeast. It's actually become a tradition for the team. As the waters begin to cool the tautog begin to move close along the beaches and in the back bays seeking ambush structures. Such as rocks piles, bridge pilings, and really any structure in search of their favorite food which is crabs. There's a whole multitude of crab species on their menu as they're not too picky. Some of our local tautogs favorites include green crabs, mud crabs, Asian crabs, and sand fleas. Fishing for tautog can be highly productive, fairly easy, and a ton of fun. The three main factors for catching these tautog would be structure, current, and good crabs for bait. Bridges are some of our favorite structure to target. Just find a good spot with some pilings or rock piles. I recommend using a knocker rig or a crab jig. You will be fishing barnacle and muscle bed covered structure so I recommend using a 10-foot 50lb Bullbuster monofilament leader with a 1/2 oz to 1 oz egg sinker depending on the current. Number three SSW needlepoint owner brand hook.
If you're using green crabs pull the legs off, cut the crab in half, stick the hook through one of the leg sockets and out of the shell and you're ready to rock. Drop your rig as close as possible to the structure, up against a wall, or near a rock. Free spool your line, dropping your bait down until it settles on the bottom. Once you start to feel a bite wait a little while as it is a crab that the fish is down there chewing, so it may take a few seconds for him to get into his mouth. But when he turns to leave with it stickum. Be careful because they are strong fish and they will take you into the structure and wrap you around obstacles and break you off. When fishing from the bridge it's important to have a bridge net in case you hook one that's too large to flip over the railing. If you're not getting bit you can twitch your bait and open your spool and let the current move your bait around sometimes that's all it takes to get a good bite. And don't forget if you are using a knocker rig to give your rod tip a couple pops and make that weight click on the hook and draw the attention of any nearby fish.
These fish are very strong and very slippery if you plan on releasing the fish be careful when posing with the fish for a picture make sure to remain squatted down as often they will buck right out of your hand and face plant on the ground. It's smart to bring a rag to clean your hands with as again these fish are slimy. Also tautog have teeth, humanoid teeth. Don't try to "lip" this fish. You can also target them from the beach just go down to the water at low tide and look for any rocks revealing themselves a good time to do this is near full moon as the tide will be much lower revealing more than usual. Once you've located the rocks it's the same deal. Use a knocker rig or a crab jig with a sand flea or piece of crab and cast it out and wait for them to bite. If you're going to be harvesting them make sure you know your local state limit and size regulations. The setup I recommend would be a 4000 size reel with 20 - 30 lb Bullbuster braid or mono, 50 lb Bullbuster leader, with a 7 - 9 ft medium action rod depending if you're fishing the beach or from a bridge. Make sure you also take some gotcha plugs, topwaters, and soft plastics with jig heads for the bottom as this time of year there will be a lot of other fish moving through the same areas. This includes flounder, bluefish, striped bass, sheepshead, triggerfish, and even pompano. Another cool thing about tog fishing is that from my experience they only bite from sunup till sundown so you don't have to be out there super early or super late to catch the bite. Hopefully these tips help you in targeting this cool species. First on the list is to grab some Bullbuster line and get out there and spend more time fishing.
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