Blackfish, also known by its Native American name Tautog, is
found from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. They are most
abundant from Cape Cod to the Chesapeake Bay. Blackfish live
both in near shore coastal waters as well as offshore ocean
waters. They prefer structured habitats and are frequently
found near piers, breakwaters, artificial reefs and areas with
rocky bottoms. They are distinguished by their large lips and
teeth, which are used to catch and eat their favorite foods,
shellfish and crabs. Blackfish have a strong affinity for
their chosen home site, and adults only travel about one-third
mile in search of food each day. In the spring when water
temperatures approach 50°F, blackfish migrate inshore to
reproduce or spawn. They remain in waters near the shore
throughout the summer. As the water temperature begins to drop
again toward 50°F in the fall, blackfish move back to deeper
ocean waters for the winter. Blackfish can grow up to 25
pounds, but smaller fish up to three pounds are more typical.
When not feeding during the day and when resting at night,
tautog often become so docile that they appear to be sleeping
and can be touched by divers.
Blackfish are usually caught in the early spring and late
summer. Fishing with Green crabs and Fiddler crabs from an
anchored boat works well. Any rock pile in the bay or ocean
will hold fish at one time or another and blackfish are
territorial so if at one time your catching big fish the it
turns to smaller fish you might have cleaned out the area.
Locating and catching these fish requires a good bit of
knowledge and skill. It's not for amateurs. Fishing the ocean
is some what tricky since the fishing is done by locating
wrecks and rock piles . It's best to fish from a charter or
party boat that knows the wrecks and how to fish them.
Blackfish are notorious bait stealers. You have to be fast.
Some sharpies say you have to set the hook before the fish
It's a great way to cure your fishing itch over the long
winter. The Easter holiday usually kicks off the season and
that's when the part boats start. into full swing.
Blackfish is primarily harvested by recreational anglers who
according to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
have accounted for about 90% of the catch since 1980. Most
commercial landings have been by otter trawl, fish traps and
gill nets. Tautog are also caught commercially by
hook-and-line gear and as bycatch in lobster or other pots.
Fishing methods that allow fish to be captured live have
become more widely used in recent years due to the demand for
live tautog in Asian markets in metropolitan areas in the
Northeastern U.S. and Canada.
Blackfish has a relatively firm white meat, which makes it
well suited for a variety of different preparation methods
including fish stews and chowders. In fact in many seaside
towns blackfish is the traditional ingredient in fish chowder.
be used in almost any recipe that calls for lean white flesh
fish with a mild taste like cod, sea bass, tilefish or
halibut. Baking, broiling or sautéing are all good choices
for this versatile fish.
Time of year:
Blackfish usually like cold water so late winter/early spring
and fall are good times.
Green Crabs or Fiddler Crabs are great baits but I know that
hermit crabs are the best when you can find them. A 3 way
swivel with a sinker and a 6 to 8 inch leader works well.
You have to be right on the wreck or in the rocks or you won't
Best fished from a boat. When your line hits the bottom and I
mean as soon as it hits the bottom get ready to slam them
blackfish they are fast.
Any natural or artificial reef is a good spot.
Any rock pile in the ocean or bay is likely to hold fish at
one time of the year or another.
Bridges are great spots but only early in the season then they
move out into the ocean.
Make sure to bring plenty of rigs. You'll need them since
you'll be fishing in areas full of snags.
Use a pole with a strong tip so you can get a good fast hook
Some people like to tie the sinker on with lighter weight mono
then the line your fishing with. If the sinker gets snagged it
can break free and allow you to save the rest of the rig. When
using green crabs first take the top shell off then split it
in half and remove the leg.
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