Tautog fishing on the bottom is tops

Posted 9/30/20

Tautog (or black fish) fishing has been great. Anglers in Narragansett and Mt. Hope Bays are hooking up, the bite along the southern coastal shore has been good and those fishing off Newport are finding tautog along with some large sea bass in the low

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Tautog fishing on the bottom is tops


Tautog (or black fish) fishing has been great. Anglers in Narragansett and Mt. Hope Bays are hooking up, the bite along the southern coastal shore has been good and those fishing off Newport are finding tautog along with some large sea bass in the low 20-inch range.

Al Conti of Snug Harbor Marina, South Kingstown, said, “Anglers are catching a nice mix of sizes. Areas off Green Hill have been particularly good.”

“Customers are catching fish all the way up the Providence and lower Seekonk River to Richmond Street. Places such as India Point Park and Kettle Point, East Providence are yielding nice fish for anglers with the bite off Newport and Jamestown good too,” said Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence.

I fished alongside Liz Cyr and Don Smith of West Warwick and Liz boated a plump 22-inch tautog at General Rock Ledge. I had a blast there fishing in the fog Sunday morning catching two 16 inch fish, an 18, 19 and 20 inch fish with a bunch of shorts.

Jeff Sullivan of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren said, “The tautog bite has lite up. Anglers are doing well at the mouth of the Sakonnet in 40 feet of water. Fort Wetherill, Jamestown is yielding fish too.”

The minimum size is 16 inches with a three fish/person/day limit (and a 10-fish boat limit). Regulations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island change October 15 to five fish/person/day. Tautog tips…

Find structure to find tautog. Tautog can be fished from shore or boat and in both cases they like structure (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. Ken Landry of Ray’s Bait & Tackle suggests casting 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.

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 for a pre-snelled ‘Lazar Sharp’ brand hook (you need sharp hooks to get through tough tautog lips). The hook hangs about three inches below the sinker loop allowing it to float just above the bottom or lay on the bottom.

To reduce bottom tie ups by 50 percent I use an egg sinker rig when in heavy structure. The egg sinker slides on a small piece of monofilament adorned with red and white beads which has a two-way swivel on each end, a pre-snelled lazar sharp hook is attached to the end of the swivel and hangs down about eight inches. Anglers are also more commonly using tautog jigs tipped with crab with good success. The idea is to be ready with a number of bait & tackle arrangements on any given day. Where’s the bite?

Striped bass fishing remains strong with a big amount of smaller school bass in coastal waters. Jeff Sullivan of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren said, “Fishing at the Southwest Ledge, Block Island is very good and we have a lot of school bass all around the Massachusetts and Rhode Coast but the big fish we usually see with the fall migration are not here yet. A lot of large bluefish are at the ledge too.” “We have a lot of fish in the 26-inch range along the coast.” said Henault of Ocean Stare. Al Conti of Sung Harbor said, “Striped bass fishing at the Southwest Ledge is still very good.”

Black sea bass fishing is starting to change. Al Conti of Sun Harbor said, “The larger black sea bass are starting to move off shore with some nice fish being caught in the wind farm area at Block Island.”

Scup fishing remains strong in most areas where there is structure and water movement.

Tautog fishing is hot. See above report.

Offshore fishing for bluefin tunas has been difficult when weather is bad. However, angler Ben Grundy fished wit Cape Cod Offshore Charters with Capt. Rob and caught an 810-pound giant bluefin tuna. Gundy said, “We left the dock at 5:30 a.m. and we had this beast on board by 8 a.m. and we did not even leave Cape Cod Bay. Al Conti of Snug Harbor said, “We had some customers try to fish last week but the weather was just not good.” At press time we were trying to connect with Capt. Louis DeFusco of Hot Reels Charters as he had hooked up with some swordfish over the weekend. More on this next week.

Freshwater fishing continue to improve as water cools. “I would through top water lures, frogs if you have them as the big ass are starting to eat coming out of their summer haunts.” “Customers are starting to target trout again and DEM is expected to restock with trout around Colobus Day in Rhode Island.”

Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at or visit and his blog at

tautog, fishing


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