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Species Information

Scientific Name:Tautoga onitis
Common Names:tautog, blackfish, black-fish, black fish, black porgy, oysterfish, oyster-fish
Environment:Inshore, Nearshore
Ideal Temp:50-68°F (10-20°C)

About Tautog

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.

Tautog Fishing

World Record:11.33 kg (25 lb 0 oz) Ocean City, New Jersey, USA 20-Jan-1998
# Fish Caught:304133 documented in database.
Earliest Record:1/1/1800 12:00:00 AM and located at 40.37519, -71.48438.
Latest Record:4/9/2024 12:39:00 AM and located at 40.58349, -73.94663.
Common Techniques:Bottom Fishing
Popular Lure Types:Bottom Rig
Fishing Spots:55 Tautog fishing spots.

Latest Tautog Fishing Reports and Spots

March 2024 - 4/3/2024 11:29:35 AM

3/4-day trips are baaaacccckkkkk!!!  The tautog bite is heating up and we are amped that the water temperatures are steadily climbing also.  Sma (View)

Ralph Pickering 1929-2023 - 6/11/2023 8:42:00 PM

Sea run brown trout on the fly rod!  It is with sadness that I report the passing of my father Ralph Pickering at the age of 93.  I know many o (View)

April 2023 - 5/3/2023 9:41:47 AM

Talk about togs! Holy blackfish!  The tautog bite was fire this month with some sizable individuals brought on board and several citations given (View)

February 2023 - 3/3/2023 10:54:24 AM

February is for Black Sea Bass Lovers! Well that’s how we’re spinning it anyway.  We had some incredible catches throughout the month and numero (View)

When The Going Gets Tough The Tough Go Fishing! - 11/1/2020 1:32:00 PM

Rhode Island Echo Newspaper November  2019 Published Article Rhode Island waters have experienced two major coastal storms in the first two w (View)

Tog on PLum ISland - 6/20/2022 7:30:07 PM

We’ve all heard the rumors for years now. Tautog and Black Sea Bass can be found around the island. And over the years I’ve never seen or heard (View)

May 2022 - 5/26/2022 10:56:53 AM

May is always one of our favorite months to fish as the bite is always changing.  Inshore trips saw some great tautog action with some drum and (View)

Sports Port - May 22nd fishing report - 5/22/2022 12:01:07 PM

By Striper Mike Sports Port Pro Staff The bass and bluefish have arrived on Cape Cod and big ones too! We now have reports from all over the Ca (View)

Squid Tautog and a few Striped Bass - 5/5/2022 10:24:09 PM

On the freshwater front many anglers are having a great time casting gold spoons from shore for a nice trout from one of the many beautiful Cap (View)

April 2022 - 5/3/2022 4:38:08 PM

April brought us back to our happy spot:  fishing!  Our 3/4 day trips saw a lot of action for tautog.  Red drum & black drum also mixed in on ma (View)