As the temperature starts dropping and leaves start falling, multiple species start to frequent the Chesapeake Bay and coastal Virginia. When striper aren’t to be found tautog certainly can, when weather conditions permit. Taug are a very delicious fish, often referred to as “poor man’s lobster.” Many fisherman looking to make an all day trip will often taug fish during the day and striper fish at night along the light lines because taug cannot be caught at night. They are one of the few species of fish that actually sleep at night. Tautog range from here in the coastal waters of Virginia all the way up to New York. They can be found along any hard structure such as pilings, rocks, and offshore wrecks. Once the water temperature start to climb over the mid-forties, taug action really starts to pick up in the Chesapeake Bay, anything colder than the mid-forties many anglers will travel to offshore wrecks to find more active fish.
Tautog gear involves using somewhat heavy tackle in the bay but even heavier tackle when fishing the offshore wrecks because of a larger class of fish trying to burry down deep into the line busting structure you just enticed them out of. A good 6-1/2’ to 7’ heavy to extra heavy action rod paired with a conventional reel with a heavier drag and 50lb braid is ideal. Tautog are structure oriented fish so if you aren't feeling structure as you're hoping your rig off the bottom, the less likely you will be to hook up. As your rig is on the bottom you almost want to feel like you're picking your rig up and dropping it in all the nooks and crannies you can find as that’s where taug live and feed. A taug bite is very subtle and quick, so your line and concentration must be tight at all times. Sometimes you can feel the taug traveling down your line before you actually feel the bite. Taug are shellfish and crustacean feeders, so using blue crab, green crab, Jonah crab, fiddler crab, clam, mole crab, hermit crab, or mussels would be ideal. When using larger crab for bait you can get many baits out of one crab by cutting them in half or quarters and hooking them through the knuckles. Taug have very strong almost human like teeth as they spend their life eating rock hard shellfish and other crustaceans, so a strong thick gauged hook is a must. While tipping
the bait on a plain butterbean jig head is trending up in Maryland and New Jersey, a dropper loop rig is what has been the standard rig down here in coastal Virginia. A dropper loop rig consist of 50-60 lb. test monofilament leader, a 4/0 - 6/0 hook, and your weight. The popular hook styles for taug are a j-hook, octopus hook, or even a treble hook. Gamakatsu octopus 4x strong series and Owner cutting point series are awesome lines of strong hooks for the toothy critters. The size of the hook will vary on where you fish for them. A 4/0 will be plenty fine in the bay where as a 5/0 or 6/0 would be preferred for those bigger class of taug found offshore. When using a treble hook a size 2 or 1 would be fine in the bay where as a 1/0 to even a 3/0 would be better for your bigger class of fish offshore. The weight used is determined by how fast the current is moving.
Here in the Chesapeake Bay you can use anywhere from a 4 oz. weight to a 14 oz. weight. The lightest weight you can use to keep your rig on the bottom is the key. In Virginia for the 2015 season, the minimum size limit for taug is 16 inches and you are allowed three per person. Also keep in mind that taug season is closed from May 1st to September 19th. Even though a boat helps, if you don’t have one, taug can still be caught from the shore. Every year taug are caught from the 1st island pier, the jetties at Rudee Inlet, and even Lesner Bridge in Lynnhaven. Get out there and give taug fishing a try while waiting for that water to warm up here in coastal Virginia. And as always, if you have any questions concerning taug or any kind of species for that matter come see our friendly and knowledgeable staff here at Oceans East. We are eager to help.