Tautog tips from the experts
Anglers are catching tautog and will be working harder to catch their limit by the end of the week. The tautog minimum size is 16", three fish/person/day with a boat limit of ten fish. Limit increases to six/person/
day on October 18 but the ten fish boat limit still in effect. Charter and party boats not subject to ten fish boat limit.
Chumming will enhance your catch. Captain Robb Roach of Kettlebottom Outfitters, Jamestown said chumming is very important… "I chum with crushed mussels or crushed periwinkles." Capt. Kevin Bettencourt from East Providence said, "Chumming is a critical part of tautog fishing. If you want to land numerous tautog you must establish an effective chum line. This can be accomplished with grass shrimp or crushed Asian/green crabs. Don't be afraid to feed them! If you don't, they won't stick around long!" Here is a chumming tip from the RI Saltwater Anglers Association blog. Accumulate a pile of crab legs then mix them with small pieces of cut up clam and place them in a paper bag with a rock. Tie a line to the bag and then send it down to the bottom. After it soaks for a minute, yank on the rope, the bag bottom will break, and the chum is deposited under the boat.
Tautog can be fished from shore or boat. From shore it is a matter of trial and error to find a sweet spot or hole that holds fish. You want to be near, next to or over structure.
When fishing from a boat, locate the structure you want to fish (on sonar if you have it). Estimate wind and current and then anchor up current so that as the anchor line pays out the vessel is over structure or slightly before it. Tie off the anchor line and fish. Tautog are territorial so it is important to fish all sides of the boat. If still no bites pay out a little more anchor line to reposition the boat, repeat the process until you are totally off the structure. If still no bites it is time to move to another spot.
Rigs and Bait. Tautog rigs should be kept simple. My favorite rig is homemade. I use one tautog hook connected to a swivel with a two or three once egg sinker on top sliding on a small three to four inch piece of monofilament line. Another swivel above the egg sinker connects the monofilament and the braid line (30 lbs.) coming from the rod/reel. Since I have started using this rig bottom tie-ups have been cut in half. Braid line does not stretch, so this is my preference, whereas monofilament line may stretch allowing the tautog to reach structure.
I use green crabs and Asian crabs (when available). When using green crabs, break off claws and legs and cut the crab in half. Hook the crab though one leg socket and out another. This exposes most of the crab and makes it easy for the tautog to put its mouth on the bait.
Standard premade tautog rigs usually have two hooks and a loop below to tie on a bank sinker. I usually cut the upper hook off. Captain John Rainone of L'il Toot Charters said, "One hook saves rigs and fish… waiting for another fish to jump on makes no sense… I tie rigs with a lighter sinker line so it breaks and hook/fish is retrieved."
Where to fish for tautog. From shore, look for rocky coastline like Beavertail Point on Jamestown, locations off Newport, the rocky shore line off Point Judith and off jetties along the southern coastal shore. Docks, piers, bridges are good structure too. From a boat, I have had good luck at Conimicut Light, Plum Point light house next to the Jamestown Bridge, the jetty at Coddington Cove in Portsmouth, off Hope Island, around Brenton Reef and Seal Ledge in Newport, Whale Rock, Ohio Ledge in the East Passage, General Rock in North Kingstown and any other places there is structure, debris, rock clusters, wrecks, etc. Another key factor is water movement, so a couple of hours before or after high or low tide is good.
Where's the bite
Tautog. Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly said, "We weighed in some very nice fish this week… most anglers are using green crabs and some are experimenting with tautog jigs, tipping them with green crab. Tautog fishing is good." Ken Ferrara, of Ray's Bait & Tackle, Warwick said, "We are selling a ton of green crabs. Anglers are catching tautog at Whale Rock, Brenton Reef, Plum Lighthouse, Coddington Cove, Hope Island and all the unusual places." "Large tautog are being caught from shore at Beavertail Point, Jamestown." said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, RI. "Tautog are being cauth off bridges in Warren, in Westport and in other placing around the Bay. The tautog bite is strong." said Manni Sousa of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren, RI.
Striped bass. Mike Wade from Watch Hill Outfitters said, "We weighed in a 50 pound, 12 once bass this week caught by Dale Sowle of Connecticut while he was fishing Watch Hill reef." The bass bite in Narragansett Bay has been good said Manni Sousa of Lucky Bait & Tackle, "Striped bass are being caught in the East Passage of Narragansett Bay from Providence down to Newport. Schools of pogies (Atlantic Menhaden) were up in the Providence River this week. Half of my customers are catching bass using pogies and half with native squid." said Sousa. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, "Striped bass are being caught both in the Providence and Seekonk Rivers with bass seeking shallow, warmer water."
Shore fishing for striped bass remained strong all along the southern coastal shore said Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters. Local shore fisherman and author Dave Pickering said, "I picked a location where the wind was blasting in my face (Friday) and good size waves were rolling in forming a sea of white. It is just the conditions that stripers love. Mix that with a lot of small bait (bay anchovies) and you have the recipe for a great fall day of fishing." Pickering said last week he had two of the best fall fishing days he has had all year.
The scup bite remains strong off coastal shores and in the Bay. Mike Wade of Watch Hill Outfitters said, "New England pan fish (scup) are being caught in big numbers along the southern coastal shore. And, they are very large."
Fresh water fishing has been good. Angler Harold Hemberger fished Stump Pond in Smithfield Sunday and said, "The bass bite was very good for about an hour and then would shut off for an hour. During the "on" time, they would hit anything I threw. I used deep divers, spoons, rubber worms, spinner baits and even switched to the fly rod for a while. I caught a total of eleven including bass, yellow perch and pickerel." Trout fishing picked up as DEM stocked local ponds and lakes with trout last week. Manni Sousa of Lucky Bait & Tackle said, "We had many customers fishing stocked ponds and lakes. The baits of choice were shiners and rooster tails." Locations stocked by DEM last week include: Meadowbrook Pond in Richmond; Carbuncle Pond in Coventry; Olney Pond in Lincoln; Barber Pond in South Kingstown; Silver Springs in North Kingstown; Carolina Trout Pond in Hopkinton; Big Round Top Pond in Burrillville; Stafford Pond in Tiverton; Blackstone River; Wyoming Pond in Hopkinton; Pawtuxet River in Cranston and West Warwick; and the Wood River.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain's master license and a charter fishing license. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.