The tautog or blackfish is a fish of the wrasse family found in salt water from Nova Scotia to Georgia. It lives along the bottom, in and amongst rocks, wrecks, mussel beds, bridge pilings or other bottom features.  

Tautog are brown and dark olive, with white blotches, and have plump elongated bodies. They have an average weight of 1 to 3 lb (0.45 to 1.4 kg) and reach a maximum size of 3 ft (0.91 m), 25 pounds (11 kg).
Tautog have many adaptations to life in and around rocky areas. They have thick rubbery lips and powerful jaws. The backs of their throats contain a set of teeth resembling molars. Together these are used to pick and crush prey such as mollusks and crustaceans. Their skin also has a rubbery quality with a heavy slime covering, which helps to protect them when swimming among rocks. 

Tautog become blacker in color as they grow older, and their coloring also varies depending on the local bottom habitat. The distinguishing feature of the adult male tautog is the large protruding forehead. Mature males are often referred to as "chinners" because of the white patch on the chin.

Tautog feed entirely on invertebrates, including crabs, mussels, mollusks, sand shrimp, amphipods, and worms, using their strong back teeth to crush hard shells. These fish are not active swimmers. When not feeding, they often gather in groups under the safety of a ledge or hole in the rocks, sometimes lying on their sides. Although, tautog are active during the day, they remain close to cover. At night, they are quiet and inactive, hiding from predators. Juvenile tautog stay near the sites where they were hatched, and are frequently found on eelgrass beds where invertebrates are abundant. The adults gather around rocky bottoms, ledges, pilings, and submerged wrecks.

Spawning occurs offshore, in late spring to early summer. The eggs hatch and develop while drifting. All of the young take residence in shallow protected waters and live and hide in seaweed, sea lettuce or eelgrass beds for protection, and are green in color in order to camouflage themselves. During the late fall, they move offshore and winter in a state of reduced activity.

Popular among fishermen, tautog have a reputation for being a particularly tricky fish to catch. Part of this is because of their tendency to live among rocks and other structures that can cause a fisherman’s line to get snagged. The favorite baits for tautog include: green crabs, asian shore crabs, fiddler crabs, clams, shrimp, mussels, sandworms and lobsters. Tautog fishing may also be difficult due to the tendency of fishermen try to set the hook as soon as they feel a hit, rather than wait for the tautog to swallow the bait. Rigs with minimal beads, swivels and hooks should be used to prevent entanglement with the rocks, reefs or wrecks tautog frequent.

Species Information

Scientific Name:Tautoga onitis
Environment:Inshore, Nearshore
Ideal Temp:50-68°F (10-20°C)
Technique:Bottom Fishing
Lure Type:Bottom Rig
World Record:11.33 kg (25 lb 0 oz) Ocean City, New Jersey, USA 20-Jan-1998
Other Names:tautog, blackfish, black-fish, black fish, black porgy, oysterfish, oyster-fish

Latest Tautog Fishing Reports and Spots

Weather and fish cooperate for excellent fall fishing - 10/16/2021 11:03:02 PM

First things first: albies are still here… I played hooky yesterday. There I said it. Thank you Frank for covering the shop for me. Here’s why: (View)

Albies on South Side… - 9/15/2019 6:49:00 PM

Still getting reports of albies biting from Hyannis to New Seabury. Depending on the day and the timing the schools may have thinned out or the (View)

Funny fish… - 9/22/2019 7:23:04 PM

Fishermen who have gone out to the Monomoy rips have been rewarded with schools of big bass. This has been a welcome change as the bass have be (View)

Trout and Tog - 10/6/2019 11:29:11 AM

Fisheries and Wildlife have dispatched their trout trucks and stocked over 60 000 rainbows and 4 000 brown trout to various ponds across Massac (View)

Big Largemouth and bluefish… - 10/16/2019 4:46:08 PM

This past long weekend brought lots of wind and rain…and then some sun. It also brought big blues to Rick and his fishing buddy (pictured below (View)

Trout fishing and Oysters - 11/14/2019 2:24:18 PM

A few customers are still tracking down those tautog with some green crabs. These cooler nights are probably driving them into some deeper wate (View)

Fall Fishing - 10/14/2020 11:17:17 AM

The tautog are taking green crabs off of the rocky structures in Nantucket Sound. Many are shorts and have to be thrown back but it sounds like (View)

Aces Wild to Launch Monday May 3rd! - 5/1/2021 4:07:25 PM

The time has come folks!  The 2021 season is about to begin.  This year the boat is going in a little earlier than usually to capitalize on Tau (View)

April 2021 - 4/16/2021 10:23:53 AM

With April’s arrival we were excited to get back on the water.   Spring fishing activity has proven to be great with a lot of action on our 3/4 (View)

Tautog7 - 4/1/2021 5:38:16 PM