Monday, April 4, 2011

Tautog Rig

The Tautog may not be as well sought after as some of the more popular species like founder, striper, trout and reds, but I believe they are catching on.  Their reputation for putting up intense fights are well deserved, so if you decide to give it a shot at these bulldogs of the rocks, here are some of my personal preferences when fishing for them from a kayak.

I like to use a stout yet sensitive 6.5' - 7' rod paired with a quality baitcasting reel with tight but smooth drag.  Shimano Calcutta 200 Series and Daiwa Luna are top notch but others will do as well.  For bait I use either cut blue crab or live whole fiddler crabs.  Green crabs, hermit crabs, clams and other crustaceans also work.

Since togs are structure dwelling, you have to put the bait IN the structure.  There's a saying with tog anglers... if your rig is not getting hung up on structure often, then you're not fishing the right place.  The nastier, the better.  Rocks, wrecks, reefs, and bridge structures are the hot spots.  Since the potential for breaking off rigs is high, I tie several in advance.  I wrap them around a piece of cardboard and put them in a leader wallet so they are quickly accessible.  Instead of wasting time on the water, especially if the bite is on, it's better to be prepared.

When fishing bridge pilings, kayak anglers have an advantage because we can literally grind up next to the structure.  During the slow parts of the tide (top of the incoming and bottom of outgoing) as well as slack tide, we don't even have to anchor up usually.  Just maintain position with one arm paddling and drop your rig right next to the piling.  Usually if there's a little current, you can put your bait in the eddy directly behind the piling (on the back side of the current).  Move the the rig every now and then if you're not getting any bites.  Just a few feet away can make a difference.  As you lift and drop your rig, it will find other holes that the togs may be in.  Same goes for fishing the wrecks and rocks, especially over the tubes of a tunnel.

If current picks up you will need to anchor to keep position.  For local kayak anglers, wreck anchors for kayaks are available at Ocean's East 2 (Virginia Beach).  Kayak Kevin works there so give him a shout and ask about the "piling hugger's" special set up.
For more information about my anchor set ups visit this link.

Finally, togs are a structure dwelling specie that are known to stay in the same area for long periods of time.  I caught a tog last year that was tagged two weeks before, in almost the exact same location.  It's my understanding that they remain on the same piece of structure and since the number of areas that kayaks can fish for tautog are limited, I believe tautog fishing grounds can be fished out.  And once a kayakable area is fished out, it will be a while before it gets re-populated.  And like I mentioned in the beginning, more and more people will be wanting to appreciate the fight these brutes have to offer.  So, I always release all the females as well as any fish over 20".  These are just my personal preferences so take it or leave it as you will.  I do know they are absolutely delicious, but I'd like to be able to fish for them in my kayak for many, many years to come.   I hope you do too.

Male Tautog
Lighter gray coloring on top with white on bottom.  Face is usually blunt, sometimes having more of a "chin".
Female Tautog
Darker color all over, sometimes with a pattern.  Nose/face usually comes to a point.
They really are a blast to catch, so get out there, be safe,  
and feel the fight!


  1. Great piece on the tog rigs. I tied a bunch up today.
    Would you do anything different for a sheephead rig?


    1. Thanks, Joe. For sheepies I would put the dropper loop and hook a little higher up... maybe 12-18" above the sinker.

  2. Would you do the same rig when fishing for togs at shore?


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