Tautog bite outstanding, get out and fish

Posted 11/8/23

Fishing for tautog (also called black fish) has been outstanding in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The fish are abundant and quite large.

Anglers are allowed just one trophy fish, 21 inches or …

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Tautog bite outstanding, get out and fish


Fishing for tautog (also called black fish) has been outstanding in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The fish are abundant and quite large.

Anglers are allowed just one trophy fish, 21 inches or larger, the minimum size is 16 inches. The enhanced fall season runs Oct. 15 to Dec. 31 with a five fish/person/day limit and a ten fish boat limit for private recreational vessels.

Here are what tautog sharpies have been saying

Ian Lumsden of Red Top Sporting Goods, Buzzards Bay, MA said, “Tautog fishing is on fire. Anglers are fishing areas such as Cleveland Light and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy with great success. We had two customers catch nine pound fish this week.”

“Tautog fishing has been very good. Still some big fish in the Bay but they are starting to move out front,” off Narragansett, Jamestown, Newport and the Sakonnet River said Greg Vespe of Tiverton. 

Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown, said, “We weighed in an 8.3-pound fish and two ten pound fish this past weekend, so the fish are very large with anglers catching their limit.”

Jeff Sullivan of Luckey Bait & Tackle, Warren and mate on K & M Coastal Charters, said, “Right now, we have a well-balanced tautog fishery with large fish to small fish and everything in between. We caught some nice seven to nine pound fish off Newport last week and Capt. Kurt Rivard of K & M Coastal Charters, Warren caught a 14-pound fish using a jig off Newport on a small piece of structure.  It was the only fish caught on that structure.”

Tautog tips

Find the structure to find tautog. Tautog can be fished from shore or boat and in both cases they like structure including rocks, wrecks, bridge piers, dock pilings, mussel beds, ledges holes and humps along the coast.  So, no structure, no tautog.

Boat placement is important. Find structure, estimate wind/drift direction and anchor up current from where you want to fish and drift back to the spot as the anchor is setting. Once in position fish all sides of the boat. Cast a bit to cover as much area as you can. If still no bites let some anchor line out to change your position, if still no bites it is time to move the vessel. Many tautog experts now deploy electric motors with GPS based lock spot rather than deploying an anchor.

Tautog baits. Green crabs or Asian crabs are the baits of choice in the fall. When using green crabs make it easy for the tautog to bite and take the bait. I like to break off most of the legs and claws leaving one per side on the end, cut the crab in half and hook it through one leg socket and out another. 

Tautog rigs should have as little hardware as possible to avoid bottom tie-ups. I make single hook rigs with about 7 or 8 feet of monofilament line and attach it to the main braid line directly with a dropper loop for a pre-snelled ‘Lazar Sharp’ brand hook (you need sharp hooks to get through tough tautog lips). The loop is about five inches above the sinker. Anglers are also using tautog jigs tipped with crab with equal (and often) better success. The jigs are made in a variety of colors mimicking Asian crabs, baby lobsters, green crabs (whole or cut in half). And, to reduce bottom tie ups by 50 percent I use an egg sinker rig when in heavy structure. 

Where’s the bite?

Striped bass, bluefish. “The striped bass bite was still fairly good with smaller fish being caught along with perch in brackish waters up in our rivers and estuaries,” said Jeff Sullivan of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren.

Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, said, “Customer Jeff Spicer caught a 31-inch striped bass from India Point Park, Providence. Anglers are using top water lures with success with 1.5-once soft white plastic lures working well for distance. However, the fish are smaller than they have been earlier this fall.”

Expert shore fly fisher and instructor Ed Lombardo said, “Fished the Narrow River (Narragansett) last Thursday. Lots of bait and birds working the whole time I was there. As always, I used my Ed’s Flies, hot pink and an assorted color dark burgundy marabou tail. I caught two keepers. Water exceptionally clean and clear.” 

Declan O’Conner of Breachway Bait & Tackle, Charlestown, said, “Fishing off the beaches the action has been coming at dawn or dusk. The striped bass have been smaller with mostly school bass with an occasional 35-plus inch fish. There have been very few bluefish in the mix of blitzing fish.”

Tautog fishing has produced for anglers this week in the Bay and along our ocean coastal shore from the Sakonnet River to Watch Hill.

O’Connell of Breachway Bait & Tackle said, “Tautog reports have been solid with some great seas and some solid fishing. Most boats are limiting out on tautog to around 7 pounds in less than 20 -35 feet of water. We had one 10.7-pound fish come into the shop this week as well. A few customers have been picking up some cod out around Block Island.” 

Sullivan of Lucky Bai & Tackle, said, “We are catching tautog in eight to eighty feet of water with both bait rigs and jigs working. Last week the jigs were doing better. We would set up on structure and chum, a chum slick or line would develop and before you knew it, we would be onto the fish in a big way.”  “Tautog fishing has been very good for customers with some in the upper Bay having to work for them, but customers are catching large fish with one catching a 10.8-pound fish off Westerly.”

Scup continue to be caught by anglers targeting tautog. Henault of Ocean State Tackle, said, “The scup are still here, however, the bite has slowed down.”

Dave Monti holds a captain’s expert license and charter fishing license. He serves on a variety of boards and commissions and has a consulting business focusing on clean oceans, habitat preservation, conservation, renewable energy, and fisheries related issues and clients. Forward fishing news and photos to or visit


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