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Fish Facts  »  Tautog


Tautog are brown and dark olive, with white blotches, and have plump elongated bodies. Tautog have many adaptations to life in and around rocky areas. They have thick rubbery lips and powerful jaws. The backs of their throats contain a set of teeth resembling molars. Their skin also has a rubbery quality with a heavy slime covering, which helps to protect them when swimming among rocks.


Tautog, in the northern part of their range, are typically within several miles of shore in water less that 50 feet deep. More southern populations can be found father offshore. Tautog frequently follow flood tides inshore to feed and drop back to deeper waters with the following ebb tides. Tautog are found in association with cover, hovering around steep, rocky shorelines or hiding near wrecks, wharf pilings, piers, jetties, mussel and oyster beds, and boulder strewn bottoms.


Juvenile and adult tautog are exclusively daytime feeders, with feeding peaks at dawn and dusk. They are so inactive at night that divers can easily catch them by hand as they lie motionless on the bottom. Tautog feed upon shallow water inverterbrates such as mussels, clams, crabs, sand dollars, amphipods, shrimp, small lobsters and barnacles. Juveniles and adults living around shoreline ledges feed heavily on blue mussels; their flat grinding teet are well suited for crushing the hard shells of such animals.


Anglers are particularly successful from April through May and in early fall when tautog are concentrated in the greatest numbers along shorelines. While the best fishing is centered on Cape cod, tautog can be caught all along the Massachusetts coast from Cape Ann to the South Shore. Tautog are caught either from a boat at anchor or by casting anywhere along Massachusetts' rocky shorelines. Anglers use bait such as a large piece of seaworm, whole or halved crabs (green, rock, hermits or fiddlers) and pieces of conch, snails or cracked clams. A rod with "backbone" is required to catch this battling fish. Most anglers choose a medium action spinning or conventional rod with 20 to 30 pound test line and use a "no hardware" 2 hook rig with a sinker tied to the bottom. It is important to stay alert after casting or lowering the bait into the water, as fish ofter hit the bait as soon as it reaches the bottom. All slack line should be taken in as soon as the bait stops sinking. Once the fish picks up the bait, let it tap once or twice, and set the hook hard, lifting the tautog away from the bottom before the line becomes entangled in rocks.


They have an average weight of 1 to 3 lb (0.45 to 1.4 kg) and reach a maximum size of 3 ft (0.91 m), 25 pounds (11 kg).


Found in salt water from Nova Scotia to South Carolina.