Tautog or Blackfish is one of the most favored by anglers fishing inshore. This fish is a deep-dwelling fish known for its year-round habitation around Virginia waters! Get to know this mysterious but highly-favored fish below!
Tautog: What’s a Tautog Fish?
Tautog, or known by its scientific name Tautoga onitis, is a fish with a stout and speckled appearance with a rounded shape. Its body varies in color from black to grayish or brown, with irregular bars on its side. This fish possesses a rounded head with greenish eyes and thick lips. Female tautog and some small male tautog are observed to have black chins, while larger males have white chins. Its dorsal fin has about 16 spines and its length spans up to 12 inches.
It feeds primarily on mussels, crabs, clams, shellfish, barnacles during the day, and it is known to feed only during the day. Its reproduction rates are top notch as the female lays about 200,000 eggs. The eggs are characterized by a bright green color, and the eggs drift on the surface of the water for three weeks before finally settling in shallow waterbeds. Tautogs become sexually mature at the age of three where they consequently lose their bright green color.
When and Where to Catch the Tautog
The tautog can be pretty much sought for year-round. But it is good to know that this fish can have favorite seasons too. Since the tautog are known to tolerate colder temperatures than any other fish in Virginia, it is nice to know that you can still catch one even during winter. During most winter months, this fish can be actively seen in the areas of Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. But when temperatures dip into 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you can expect the fish to be inactive due to hibernation. While hibernating. tautogs lay motionless on their side on rocks. This fish can also be observed as extremely inactive when it’s nighttime, where several sport divers can simply pick them up by hand because of their inactivity. Cape Henry Wreck, The Cell, and the Concrete Ships are the other great areas when planning to catch this fish.
Catching the Tautog
The tautog are year-round citizens of Virginia waters. So you might wonder why this fish is one of the hardest fish to catch. The reason for this difficulty is the environment the tautog likes to live in. This fish is commonly seen in rocky structures such as boulders and jetties, which makes it difficult for anglers to catch since the nets get entangled with the rocky portions of the water. Since nets are inefficient at this particular rocky area, nets are not recommended to catch the tautog.
The recommended way to catch this rock-dwelling fish is through the use of a single fishing line with a heavy end. Jigging is also a recommended method to use to be able to catch a tautog since this mimics the movement of crabs, tautog’s one of its most favorite foods. When choosing bait, it is also recommended to use crabs (they like crabs very much).
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Enjoying your Catch
Enjoying your catch can be as simple as holding the fish with your hand or creating a sumptuous meal out of it. The tautog’s flesh is described as sweet-tasting meat with a mild taste just like the spadefish. This can make the tautog’s flesh perfect for light dishes, as well as soups where the tautog is well-known as a great ingredient for chowders. But you can experiment with your catch and you can also do baking, pan-frying, and simply making a soup out of it. Enjoy your catch!