Don’t Even Think About Winterizing Your Boat Yet, The best fishing action is in October
But first, let’s review the current fishing activity...
Striped Bass activity is still sporadic at Block Island, but good size fish are still being caught on the right tides and time of day. We should have a Fall migration in October as the Striped Bass head south for the winter
In the pic below, Nathaniel Pakuris, 2018 R.I.S.A.A. Junior Angler of the year and part time mate aboard Captain Sheriff’s Fishing Charters displays his 30lb Striper caught jigging early September while making another run for the award in 2019 .
Seabass have invaded all the rocky structure of Rhode Island. As of just recently, it has been difficult for parties to limit out on keeper size Seabass as there appears to be zillions of 14 inch fish available to throw back as 15 inch is the legal minimum size. Some of the bigger fish are being caught on the East Grounds and further offshore around Block Island.
Captain Sheriff’s Fishing Charters has still been able to find consistent areas holding slammer Bluefish to keep charter clients excited in catching fish. I say excited but so many clients do not want to keep Bluefish because of their fishy taste due to their oily content. (Fun Fact) Bluefish are excellent eating or table fare when they are prepared as a smoked fish. I am fortunate as my other Captain / Mate does a great job bleeding the fish overboard, chilling the fish and then properly preparing the fish to be smoked.
Tautog General Information
Tautog, also known as Blackfish are both a great fighting fish and extremely tasty. This species, for most anglers, unless you are a seasoned cod fisherman, opens the fishing season and closes it too since the season begins in April and ends in December.
While most boaters are getting ready to winterize their vessels in October, Tautog fisherman know it is time to get serious for one of Rhode Island’s premier hard fighting and great eating fish.
The recreational Tautog season opened on August 1 and closes on December 31. The bag limit increases on October 15 when the limit goes from 3 to 5 Tautog per person with a 10 fish limit for the entire boat for recreational anglers. Licensed charter captains can take the 3 – 5 fish per person without the 10 fish boat limit since it would be impractical for charter clients to pay and go on a charter and only be able possess less than 2 fish on a typical 6 person charter.
Tautog get easier to catch and target around the middle of October as well because they tend to congregate on rocky structure off Rhode Island’s coastline as the water temperature cools.
We have found some Tautog activity further offshore as they are currently working their way to the inshore reefs where they can be easily targeted in 25 to 65 feet and then deeper later in the season before wintering offshore.
It can take a lot of finesse and patience at times with these hard-fighting bottom dwellers and be prepared to donate some fishing tackle to your favorite reefs where Tautog take up refuge. The big difference for anglers to learn when targeting this species is learning the feel for the initial Tautog bite. Tautog have a very light bite and two sets of teeth so proper gear and technique is required in catching these sneaky fish. It is possible sometimes to finesse Tautog out of their lair by giving them slack line and popping the fishing line until they swim out…hopefully!
Productive Tautog Habitat
Productive Fall Tautog fishing in Rhode Island include areas such as the Rhode Island area inshore reefs to include the Newport area reefs, Narragansett Bay and the rocky shoreline from Narragansett to Westerly. The overall structure where Tautogs are located include: rocky shorelines, jetties, oyster beds, mussel beds, wrecks, piers and areas with boulders.
Tautog are very structure oriented and do not travel far to feed. Be prepared to anchor several times and/or make many adjustments to the amount of anchor line you let out. Be prepared to donate anchors on your favorite reef unless you utilize some custom-made anchoring devises as mentioned below. In fact, last week we donated the anchor and chain in search of Tautog on a day with very rough seas which really drove the anchor deep into the rocks.
Cod fish are making a comeback in Rhode Island. Fortunately, there is a good chance of catching cod while targeting Tautog. Cod will also eat the green crabs, but it is a good idea to bring clams when targeting Tautog as well. In addition, vertical jigging is very effective.
The minimum size for Cod is 22 inches with a 10person limit.
A quality depth finder/graph to locate the proper structure is necessary to target this species of fish. We look for the rockiest portion of a reef and then let out anchor line approximately every 20 minutes to find the proper depth where they are feeding.
It is common that once you catch Tautogs it is probable to catch several more on the same spot especially if chumming the area. It is not uncommon to see other anglers catching several fish within 30 yards away or closer while you are not catching any.
While Tautogs have been known to grow to about 20 pounds, the average size we catch in Rhode Island is typically 4 to 6 pounds. Numerous fish of 6 to 9 lb. in our area are caught frequently. A Tautog’s growth rate is very slow which is why conservation of this species is very critical.
Tautog bite is typically best when the tide or current is at its strongest. Inshore Tautogs will also follow the tides in to feed and move back into deeper water at ebb tides.
Fishing Tackle Tips
The choice of tackle for Tautog is a rod with a fast tip and strong backbone rated for up to 25- 40-pound test line. Braided line is preferred due to the light taps or bites associated with Tautog and the need for increased sensitivity. The most common fishing rigs available for purchase include a double hook set up tied to heavy monofilament via dropper loops with a loop in the line for a bank sinker of typically 4 -6 ounces depending on wind and current conditions. We prefer custom single rigs since the 2nd rig sometimes get hooked on bottom while a fish is hooked on the other rig.
Green crabs are the preferred choice of bait. Cut the crab in half and place the hook in the leg sockets after pulling the legs off and utilizing them to chum the waters. I think that chumming up the water is very important. It seems, most times, that the bite takes a little while to get established. This is due to getting the chum and crab scent into the water. There is no shortage of Green and Asian crabs as they are also both invasive species. Blood worms are also effective in Spring.
It can be frustrating initially for first time Tautog anglers to learn the bite since Tautog have two sets of teeth and they typically get the crab and hook on the 2nd bite. First time anglers typically tend to set the hook too fast or on the first bite when the fish does not have the hook in their mouth. Utilize these tips to have a more effective day on your boat and or hire a charter captain this Fall for a productive Tautog fishing charter!