Generally when you hear anglers talking about fishing for blackfish (known as tautog) you will hear them telling you about using crabs and sandworms over the sides of their boats and enjoying the fight of this feisty fish. In fact, many will regale you with tales of their rods practically bending in half as they fight to drag these fish out of the rocks. You might be wondering – what if you don’t have your own boat or access to a boat – are you going to miss out on this fish? The answer to that is NO! While you might not be able to find a lot of information about shore fishing for blackfish, it is an option for those who prefer it.
Areas where shoreline waters are in the 50 to 65 degree range are perfect spots to find tautogs as long as they have rocky areas. Remember the blackfish prefers cooler waters and they will be found in these more shallow waters in both the spring and fall. In the springtime, tautogs will be seeking out shallow water rock piles to feed and they will also head to these areas for spawning before they move out to deeper, cooler waters.
Once fall arrives, the blackfish tend to move back towards the shore in an attempt to make sure that they are able to fatten up and prepare for the winter months that lie ahead. This is when you can find them in shallow rock piles – 6 feet in some instances. This is where they are scrounging for crabs, mussels and barnacles to fill up on. This is a great opportunity for those who are interested in shore-fishing to have a chance to land a blackfish or two.
A good chart will help you locate the ideal spots for landing blackfish. If you find the right one, they will allow you to easily identify rock piles that are in the general area of beaches and jetties, which are good areas to start. If possible, the chart should also have depth contours which should help you identify the right areas. Rocky formations that extend into the water are also great places, and sometimes you’ll find them easier to spot under breaking waves as the tide changes. These areas can contain tautogs.
Your gear will have to be up to the task of taking on this feisty fish. You won’t get away with a weak rod or reel with tautogs. Since the goal of the blackfish is to separate themselves from your line by any means necessary and they have the bulky body and broomstick like tail that will allow them to do this, you have to be quick. Remember that these fish want to break your line off and they will immediately head for the nearest rock formation in their quest to do so. Make sure you have a good stout rod, and a reel that you can control well. Whether your reel is a spinner or a conventional one the secret to success with blackfish is having complete control of that reel. You are going to need to be able to stop the line from being released as quickly as possible since this fish is going to hit hard and he’s going to hit fast. Using a 10 or 11 foot rod might serve you better than the normal 8 foot rod that is preferred by most shoreline anglers. Not only will it be stronger, but it’s likely to give you the extra leverage you need to get the right upward pulling power needed for tautogs.
Line is a concern when blackfish are the game you are after. These fish will do their utmost to snap off your line at on every boulder that they encounter. While braided line is quickly becoming a favorite, because it does not stretch and because it is very sensitive to a bite, it’s problematic with tautogs. Braided line does not have the abrasion resistance that is available in monofilament and fluorocarbon line and therefore it’s likely to break if a blackfish drags it across the rocks. You can probably work around this by using a one and a half or two foot fluorocarbon or mono leader with a thirty to fifty pound braided line.
Rocky holes are the favorite hiding spots of tautogs. These blackfish are going to head straight towards any rocky hole that is available when they find they’re attached to your line. What winds up happening is that you are quickly going to discover that your line is being dragged over every rock that is in their path – monofilament line between 17 and 30 lb weight is probably the best possible choice for blackfish.
Your bait rig will be your next consideration. An octopus hook (2/0 size) on a fluorocarbon leader will be a good option. Create your own slider rig with a slider sinker in the 2-4 ounce range, and thread that onto your line. Your barrel should be rated for upwards of fifty pounds and a fluorocarbon or monofilament leader around 2 feet long should be the best possible rig you can use.
Bait isn’t that much of a challenge if you know the dietary habit of the tautog. Crabs, clams and sandworms are all part of their diets and so are mussels. You can toss your rig complete with any of these bait choices into rocky areas to lure blackfish. Just make sure that instead of using a sand spike that you are holding onto your rod – remember, these fish are interested in not getting caught and if you don’t start reeling them in right away they are liable to take off immediately after stealing your bait. As many others have, northeast anglers will enjoy tackling these aggressive tautogs from onshore.
When you are getting prepared for a saltwater fishing adventure, having the proper equipment is essential. Some of the most popular products on the market include van staal fishing reels, okuma reel, and shimano spinning reel.