Tautog (Tautoga onitis)
- Food Value Excellent
- Game Qualities Good
- Habitats Nearshore, Reef, Wreck
Tautog is a staple of North American angling. Tautog fishing is one of the most popular pastimes for saltwater anglers in the Atlantic, since this fish is both tricky to land and absolutely delicious when cooked.
The usual size of a Tautog is in the 7’’-10’’ range with an average weight of around 2 lb. The IGFA world record catch is a true monster: 28 lb 13 oz.
When and Where
You can find Tautog on the Atlantic coast of North America, specifically from the Gulf of St. Lawrence all the way down to South Carolina. They’re most abundant between Cape Cod and Delaware Bay. Tautog live around rocky bottoms close to the shore, though they sometimes enter brackish waters. They usually stay in around 60’ of water while the weather is warm, but during winter months they tend to go offshore into deeper waters, up to 240’ in depth.
How to Fish
Tautog feed primarily on mollusks, gastropods, and crustaceans. They can be challenging to land, since they live around rocky ledges that can easily cause a snag. It’s recommended to use clams or crustaceans for bait, as these are the Tautog’s natural food. There’s a trick to successfully hooking one up: don’t set the hook as soon as you feel the strike, wait for the fish to swallow the bait first. Tautog are also popular targets for spearos, since they can be found around underwater wrecks and aren’t too spooky.
Good to Eat?
The ‘Tog has white and dry flesh with a delicate flavor and is considered one of the tastiest fish you can land, often compared to the taste of Red Snapper. You can prepare Tautog any way you would prepare a Flounder, or toss it in a chowder!
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