The fall season is a great time of year for fishing in Long Island Sound. Along with targeting striped bass and bluefish that are bulking up for their annual migration south, anglers can ply the craggy bottom for a year-round resident synonymous with autumn fishing.
Tautog, also known as blackfish, are creatures of habitat that never stray far from rocky zones where they dine on their favorite foods like mollusks and crabs. The Sound is home to an abundant population of these bottom dwellers and some large ones at that! Just last week, a 14.75-pound specimen was weighed-in at Rivers End Tackle in Old Saybrook. And that doesn’t hold a candle to Connecticut’s new 22.55-pound state record, caught by Ken Owens in Niantic waters last October!
Tautog are a strange looking fish. They are short and round for the most part with leathery brown skin and white blotches. They have big rubbery lips and powerful jaws sporting molar-like teeth for crushing hard foods. A large part of the tautog’s popularity amongst anglers is their fine table fare. Blackfish have always had a reputation as one of the best tasting fish swimming in the Northeast.
Locating tautog this time of year is not hard, yet successfully hooking and landing them is another story. They have a knack for stealing bait off the hook, as well as snagging rigs on bottom. Most any rock pile, jetty or breakwall in Long Island Sound will host blackfish throughout October and November and even into December for the diehards. It’s suggested to use a pretty stout fishing rod and reel to quickly hoist tautog away from the rocks after they’re hooked, and spooling your reel with sensitive braided line will greatly improve strike detection.
The number one bait to use for catching tautog is crab, specifically invasive Asian and green crabs. Baiting crabs on a simple high/low rig, which consists of a lead sinker on bottom and two dropper hooks above it, is the most popular tactic for blackfish. However, the method of jigging is quickly gaining steam with tautog anglers today. By placing a half green crab or whole Asian crab on a weighted jig-head and slowly crawling it along the rocky bottom, you will enjoy a more active, in-tune angling experience.
The fall season for tautog in Connecticut waters opened on October 10 and runs through December 6. In New York waters, the season began on October 5 and goes until December 14. The take-home limit in both states is four fish per angler at a minimum of 16-inches in length. Good luck!
Posted by Kierran Broatch, outreach associate for CFE/Save the Sound and an avid fisherman. Read more about fishing on Kierran’s blog, The Connecticut Yankee.