Author: Tyler Warker
Land based Tautog
The Tautog, Tog or Blackfish can be a frustrating fish to target. Snagging weights and hooks on the rocky structure or missing hook sets on those finicky little bites you feel at the end of your rod can be discouraging and drive some anglers to not even bother targeting them. With a little patience and preparation, you will fill the cooler with these tough fighting and great tasting fish in no time!
Where and when?
Let’s start with the most frequently asked questions. “ Where and when? “ Tog will be found on structure. Rock piles, wrecks, bridge columns, dock pilings and jetties. Inlet jetties make perfect homes for Tog and are my go to structure when fishing from land. The steep ledges and deep holes can produce some BIG fish!
As we know - Moon phases, tide, wind and current can all play a factor in our success as fishermen. In the fall, as warm water exits the bays I have found the bite to be more active then slack or incoming. For the most part, all of these tides can be productive. Heavy wind days can be tough depending if the wind and tide are moving in the same direction, it can be extremely hard to hold bottom. I stick with the saying , “ You can’t catch them from the couch. “ , and find myself fishing all of the condition types from sun up to sun down.
Note - Tog only feed during the day
Rods and rigs
I use a 7’6 medium heavy rod, spinning or conventional, you decide! Something with good action and a beefy back bone to pull big Tog from the bottom. When a Tog hits, its first instinct is to dive deep into the rocks and you’ll want that extra “ Umph “ to redirect it. Too light of a rod can lead to a lot of lost fish!
Typically on a jetty I use 8ft or more of 60 lb Bullbuster mono with a uni to uni knot connection to my braid. ( The bigger or taller the structure I’m fishing, the longer my mono ). At the very end of my mono I use a simple end loop with a bank sinker ( 2-6oz depending on the current ). I only loop the end loop once.. When you snag your sinker, the less loops the better. You want it to break at the sinker, not your braid connection! Imagine hooking into the fish of a life time and at the same time snagging your sinker? Your sinker is knotted so much it won’t break? Yeah, no thanks. Lastly, approximately 6 inches above my end loop, I tie a dropper loop and attach a 3/0 - 4/0 Octopus hook.
Note - The longer your mono, the less likely your line is to cut at your braid when fishing deep holes or structure. You can also easily cut the damaged mono off and re tie your loops without having to re-tie to your braid. Easy!
Okay, let’s talk bait! A togs diet consists of clams, mussels, crabs , and barnacles. Any shell fish! When you catch and fillet a fish, it’s always a good habit to open up the stomach and see what the fish has been eating. Opening the stomach could direct you into what bait to use next time! My main go to baits are Green crabs, Asian crabs and “ White leggers “.
As most species of fish, there is definitely a technique to enticing and hooking a Tautog. You want to drop your bait and let your line out until you hit bottom. Notice I said drop, not cast. Often times you will see anglers cast off the jetties and within seconds or minutes they are snagged. They will spend more time getting there rig out of the rocks rather then fishing!
This is where a good pair of jetty cleats such as Korkers come in handy. You can find holes from the very beginning of the jetty all the way to the tip. Each hole will vary in size, depth and shape. Drop your weight and slowly bounce it off the bottom until you feel your sinker drop and the rod tip dips down. This is where you let more line out because you have found a hole. The deeper the hole, odds are the less pressure. Hopefully in your case, that means more fish!
Once you have found your hole you want to keep the line tight. Not tight to the point where you are lifting the weight off the bottom. You don’t want any slack in your line either. Keep your weight still as any further bouncing could scare fish away. My rule is if I don’t feel nibbles or I’m not hooking up within a few minutes, it’s time to try a different hole. Continue working different holes until you find action.
Tog are very finicky eaters with small mouths and are known for stealing bait. Just like small Sea Bass or Bergalls which you probably will encounter while targeting Tog. So be patient and let them eat! Set the hook on the tug, not the tap. Even the big boys will pick around your hook!
Note - Standing out on the slippery rocks can be dangerous for obvious reasons, especially in the fall when the water is freezing cold! Investing in jetty cleats could save your life.
I could go on and on about different rigs, jigs and techniques you could use to target Tog. These seem the most simple and effective for me. Thanks for reading, I hope this article helps some of you fill that cooler!
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