Home Drifting Easy - Fishing Tips Fall Tautog Fishing In Ocean City, Maryland
Fall Tautog Fishing In Ocean City, Maryland


Drifting Easy by Sue Foster

Fall Tautog Fishing in and around Ocean City, Maryland

Tautog caught offshore Ocean City, MarylandFlounder season is done for the year in Ocean City, Maryland, so most anglers will be seeking other fish to put on the dinner table. One fish that is available and quite assessable from shore is the tautog. These fish fight hard and are excellent to eat. They are also guaranteed to test your patience, put a dent in your sinker supply, and sometimes make you down right mad trying to hook them!

The fishing rules from state to state are all different. The last day of flounder season in Maryland was September 13th, yet it remains open in Delaware. BUT, in Delaware, tautog is closed most of the month of September. SO, if you want to catch flounder, you need to go to DEL, but if you want to keep a tautog, you need to come to Maryland. So, if you are on vacation, just make sure you know what state you are fishing in and keep your copy of the Coastal Fisherman close at hand which gives you the size limits for each state along with a pretty little color picture of each fish.
“So where can I go to catch one of these tautog?”

Tautog are also called blackfish or simply, “tog”. The average fish caught by anglers is 6 to 10 years old and weighs 2 to 4 pounds. These fish like structure and deep running water.  They hang in the cover of rocks, pilings, mussel beds, and cement slabs. You will find tautog at the North Jetty and whole sea wall, the South Jetty (in a boat), around the pilings of the Route 50 Bridge, the rocks running from the entrance of Sunset Marina to the Homer Gudelsky Park (in a boat), and the bulkhead running from 2nd through 4th Streets, the end of 5th Street, and the end of 6th Street. Some are caught from the Pier at 9th Street. 

Tautog only bite during the day, so forget night time fishing when it comes to tautog fishing. You may accidently snag one, but at night, tautog lie still on the bottom, waiting for daybreak. The tautog feed best at dusk and dawn, so when it comes to tautog fishing, the early bird gets the worm!  So is the patient angler that skips dinner, waiting for that good bite at dusk. If you have a full flood tide at either dusk or dawn, you should have some really good fishing. Tautog often move into the bay following the high tides. They then go to deeper holes of the inlet and the very deepest holes in the bay during the low tide.

Tautog baits_ Green crab and sand fleas“What do tautog eat?”

Tautog love mussel beds. If you ever looked at the underwater rocks and pilings along the bulkhead and Bridge, you will see little blue mussels all over them. This is what the tautog come to feed on. This is why you are fishing these places for tautog. BUT, if you see a bunch of mussels on a piling or marsh and the area is not very deep you probably won’t catch tautog. They like deep running water. Thus, you don’t see many tautog up by Route 90 Bridge because the water isn’t deep enough, and the current isn’t strong enough.

Green Crab used for tautog bait in Ocean City MarylandTautog also eat barnacles, shrimp, clams, crabs of any kind including fiddler crabs, speckled crabs, green crabs, and marsh crabs. They have a set of flat grinding teeth in the back of their mouths that are just perfect for grinding the crabs and shellfish.   You will notice that the tautog has big rubbery lips, but that they do not have a real large mouth. Most anglers do not go overboard on the hook size when fishing for tautog. In fact, I have one good tautog angler that prefers the smallest hooks when the tide is running hard. He says he gets less snags with a smaller hook than a larger hook.

Tautog are very strong, so regardless of hook size, you want a good strong hook that will not bend out when hooking a nice tautog. Most anglers prefer black or bronze hooks. Octopus hooks are very popular in our area in the 1/0 to 3/0 size range when fishing from the shore. Mustad, Eagle Claw, and Gamakatsu all make an Octopus hook that works well. Sea Striker and other brands make a leadered hook for tautog that are labeled tautog hooks and are black. These are fine too.

Tautog Rig“Should I buy tautog rigs?”

You can, but they are simple to make. The most important thing to know is that “less hardware is best.” Take a piece of 30 or 40 pound test leader material, and make a loop for the sinker by making a double overhand surgeon’s knot. (This knot is a simple overhand knot that you go back thru twice.)  Go up a few inches and make another loop for your single loose hook. Then go up a couple feet and tie on a barrel swivel.  Many anglers actually tie in the leader onto the spool of their reel with a uni-knot to tie two lines together and make their rigs right on their line coming off their spool as they fish.  Many good anglers like to use a braid line such as Power Pro or Berkley Fireline or other brands in 40 to 50 pound test, and then tie in the 40 pound mono leader to make the rigs. This gives you more sensitivity and it’s easier to get your rigs out of snags because there’s no line stretch.

“OK, how do I hook the bait and set the hook on the tautog?”

Pierce a sand flea (also called sand crab or mole crab) thru the apron and out the outer shell. OR, take a green crab, pull the shell off, and cut it in half. You can either cut the legs off or leave them on. Shove the hook in the leg socket. Cast your rig out just a little bit from shore. During the running tide, you do not want to cast very far or you will hang up. During a slacking tide, you can go out there a little further and find a deep hole. Once you cast out, you can usually feel your sinker go into a deeper hole. When this happens, stop, and don’t move your rig any more until you feel a bite. The more you move your rig around, the more likely you will get hung up.

Wait to feel a tap, tap. Let your rod tip point towards the bite, then pull you rod tip up. Once you feel the weight of the tautog, set the hook hard and get that tautog up before it gets hung up. They are quick and you got to be quicker! Sometimes it’s the sinker that will get you hung up. Many anglers, myself included, loop a rubber band in the loop for the sinker, then loop the sinker on the other end of the rubber band. If you get a nice tautog on and the sinker gets stuck in a rock, you can break the rubberband, lose the sinker, but not the fish!

Tautog need to be measured carefully. Lay the tautog on top the ruler and make sure it is of legal size. Too many people lay the ruler on top the fish and wind up getting a ticket.  Ice your tautog down. Fillet the tautog once they are chilled, and then skin the fillet. They have no scales so forget about trying to scale one!  They are wonderfully tasty with pure white meat that can be broiled, baked, or sautéed with light breading. Please don’t overcook tautog or it can become tough!
Tautog bite offshore Ocean City, Maryland on the party boats this time of year. When fishing for tautog in the boat you want to keep your bait very still. If the boat is rocking, concentrate on not bouncing your bait up and down with the waves. Keep it still but keep no slack in the line…. It’s a fine line….

Tautog in fall in and around Ocean City, Maryland….

Good fishing….

Need bait and tackle? Come see us at Oyster Bay Tackle, Ocean City, Maryland (410-524-3433) or Fenwick Tackle, Fenwick Island, Delaware (302-539-7766), OR Shop Online!


Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 March 2011 00:45