In the Chesapeake Bay and coastal waters of Virginia, the cooler months of fall, winter and spring are prime times for catching tautog (blackfish). Virginia anglers often use the following baits and techniques for catching tautog:
* Fish directly over structure, including shipwrecks, rocks, rubble, bridge pilings and artificial reefs.
* Use a basic top and bottom fishing rig when snags and hang ups are not a problem.
* Switch to a single hook rig in areas of extremely rough bottom.
* Carry a wide selection of sinkers ranging from 3-8 oz.
* Use a rod and reel that can handle depths from 15-120 feet, and 3-8 oz. sinkers.
* Fish with braided lines for added sensitivity.
* Use baits such as blue crabs, green crabs, mole crabs, fiddler crabs, shrimp and clams.
* When fishing whole blue crabs or green crabs, some anglers imbed both hooks in a single bait and remove or crack the shell of the crab.
* When using cut crab, leave the legs on and check baits often. Replace baits that have had the meat sucked out of the shell.
* Avoid excessive tension on the line and pay attention for minute signs of nibbling. Give a short tug upward when movement is felt. If the fish appears to be in the line, set the hook, lift the fish away from structure and then reel in gently.
* Tag and release undersize fish.
* Take no more fish than needed. Release female fish when possible.
* Identify sexes – Male tautog have blunter heads and darker, more solid coloring with a faint lighter spot on their flank. Females have a more mottled appearance and sloping forehead.
* Support Artificial Reef programs
Virginia Tautog Links