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Tautog bite getting stronger

Captain Dave Monti
Posted 11/5/14

The tautog bite is on. Good sized fish are being caught off Newport in water up to 70 feet to the Sakonnet River and along the southern coastal shore. Reports of tautog in deeper water started to …

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Tautog bite getting stronger


The tautog bite is on. Good sized fish are being caught off Newport in water up to 70 feet to the Sakonnet River and along the southern coastal shore. Reports of tautog in deeper water started to come in last week, prior to that the bite was restricted to shallow water and anglers were catching keepers (16" minimum) with a lot of undersized fish mixed in.

I write about tautog (or blackfish) a couple of times a year because they have a split season… spring and fall and their white dense meat it good to eat. Their bulldog- like fight (similar to grouper) is very exciting and much like a tug of war between you and the tautog. Once a tautog is hooked it will try to bulldog its way back down into rock or structure. So when the fish bites, it becomes the angler's job not to let it bury itself in the structure.

Three weeks ago I fished the General Rock, North Kingstown area which yielded three keeper fish over sixteen inches with the largest tautog being 23 inches and just over eight pounds. Three fish was the tautog limit back then, however, as of October 18th (and through December 15) the limit is six fish/person/day with a ten fish per boat maximum (does not apply to charter boats).

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 ounce egg sinker on top sliding on a small three to six inch piece of monofilament line with red and white beads on both sides of the sinker. Another swivel above 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 what I prefer, you feel the often subtle bite of a tautog positioning your bait for consumption and the line does not stretch, whereas monofilament line may stretch making it easier for 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 (or you can make your own single hook rigs). 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, off bridges, locations off Newport such as Ft. Adams and off jetties at South County beaches. Fishing close to docks and bulkheads is often good too. From a boat, I have had good luck at Plum Point light house next to the Jamestown Bridge, the rock wall north and west of Coddington Cove in Portsmouth, off Hope Island, around Brenton Reef in Newport, Whale Rock, the boulder field off Scarborough Beach, Ohio Ledge in the East Passage, General Rock in North Kingstown and any other places there is structure, debris, rock clusters, wrecks, etc.

For 2015… it's one striped bass at 28"

Rick Bellavance, president of the RI Party and Charter Boat Association (RIPCBA) said, "The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) Striped Bass Board decided (Wednesday) to manage the recreational fishery of coastal stock of striped bass with a one fish at 28 inch size limit (for 2015). Included in the action was a provision that will allow conservation equivalency proposals."

Conservation equivalency would allow the charter and party boat industry to secure a two fish option for its customers. States may use conservation equivalency to develop state-specific measures that are different than a one fish bag limit and 28" size limit for their coastal fisheries but still achieve a 25% reduction in harvest.

The ASMFC's approval of Addendum IV to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass established new fishing mortality (F) reference points, as recommended by the 2013 benchmark stock assessment. In order to reduce F to a level at or below the new target, coastal states now have to implement at least a 25% harvest reduction from 2013 levels.

Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) said, "The ASMFC striped bass meeting (in Mystic, CT) started at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday and when I left after the vote (around 7:00 p.m.) the Board was still meeting. The Rhode Island delegation to the ASMFC (Senator Susan Sosnowski, Bob Ballou of DEM and former DEM fish manager and fisheries consultant Dave Borden) all supported the one fish option that RISAA supported. We are happy coastal states will be implementing a one fish at 28" option in 2015." The new regulations (and other options considered) only have a 50% chance of rebuilding spawning stock to desired levels.

The approved Addendum includes changes to the coastal commercial quota to achieve reductions in 2015. Commercial quotas established in Amendment 6 will be reduced by 25%. The Board also maintained no transfer of unused commercial quotas as a conservation benefit to the resource.

Addendum IV will be made available on the Commission's website, www., under Breaking News by mid-November.

Where's the bite

Striped bass bite along the southern coastal shore continues to be good. "A lot of school bass being caught with some very large fish to 40 pounds mixed in. We weighed it two 40 pounders caught in the Weekapaug area last week. Saturday I fished Misquamicut form shore and landed many school bass" said Christian Silvia of Watch Hill Outfitters, Westerly. Noted fly fishermen and author Ed Lombado said, "Fished the Narrow River last week at night and a lot of shad and bass where caught. More hickory shad where taken than bass but as expected once the sun got down below the tree line we started getting some nice bass, all football in size. Flies with some heavy epoxy bodies worked well and of course our standard patterns worked as well. We have been seeing some good size schools of menhaden and skipjacks which means larger bass should be coming into the river the whole month of November."

The tautog bite is good if you are on them. "It was an excellent day of black fishing (Friday)… with a number of limits and near limits around the boat. Largest black fish was just shy of ten pounds." said the Seven B's on their website. "Some days anglers are fishing and coming back with nothing and other days they are weighing in some very large fish in the 12 to 16 pound range." said Christian Silvia of Watch Hill Outfitters. Roger Simpson of the Frances Fleet said, "The tog fishing Friday was red hot! The best trip of the season so far with many limit catches around the boat and sizes to 10 lbs."

Cod fishing continues to get better. "The cod/sea bass trip enjoyed its second best day of the season last week with lots of nice market cod and a few bigger ones up to 15 pounds along with plenty of big sea bass. Hi hook on the cod had six keepers with three other anglers having four nice keepers apiece and a handful of other anglers who had two and three cod." said Roger Simpson of the Frances Fleet.

The black sea bass bite is still on with anglers catching then along coastal shore. "There were many sea bass limits and sizes upwards to six pounds Friday with many of the sea bass over three pounds. A decent amount of big scup to over two pounds." said Roger Simpson of the Frances Fleet.

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 or visit his website at


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