Updated: Nov 16, 2021
By: Christian Bellomo
Published: November 9th, 2021
Black fishing (aka Tautog or Tog) have been documented in New York since 1953 where they were first caught in the Hudson River. Tautog has two seasons: April 1st - April 30th and Oct 15 - Dec 22 (New York). Personally, I find the April season to be the most productive as these fish start to spawn towards the end of April. This is when the bigger fish move in to lay their eggs and you'll have opportunity to score a backwater, double digit fish. The big tog are in shallow water, 6-15 feet, feeding and cruising around structure such as rocks, broken down docks, and even barges that haven't moved in a while.
The author Christian Bellomo (@cjb_fishing_longisland) with a spring pair of healthy, female blackfish quickly released after the photo!
Although they look awesome to take home, I do not recommend keeping the bigger fish as they need this time to spawn. Mature, female tog carry an average of 200,000 eggs; it's crucial they have the opportunity to spawn out during the spring season. They are awesome to take photos with, grab a quick weight, and send them back on their way.
Christian (@cjb_fishing_longisland) on the left with a backwater slob that was harvested to claim the town record and Sam Black (@sb_fishing8) on the right with a solid fish that fell victim to a bottom sweeper tipped with green crab.
When fishing for the big tog, I buy green crabs from Atlantic Outfitters. It's one of our local tackle stores here in long island and we have greenies at four dollars a dozen, can't beat that! I use the green crabs for chum then use Asian crabs as the actual bait. For tackle I prefer to use a Bottom Sweeper black fish jig. It's an awesome jig as it cuts through current quickly and it settles on the bottom hook facing up. Since black fish feed facing down, when you go to set the hook you (almost) always get a perfect hook right in their rubbery lip. I hook my Asian crabs in one leg and out the other as this presentation is , and if do it this way you will never lose your bait setting the hook.
Bottom Sweeper jigs have really changed the game for targeting these fish with light tackle. These jigs are designed to fish for tog, sheepshead, drum, and any really species that utilizes structure. Be sure to check them out here: https://bottomsweeperjigs.com/ (@bottomsweeperjigs)
The October to December season is more consistent with numbers of fish. While they're more fish around, there is typically no size unless you hit the honey hole. Most fish are under the size limit or just taping out, but that doesn't mean you can't hook a quality fish! During this season I use the Green crabs as bait instead of Asian crabs as they can run up to 18$ for a pint. I cut my crabs into quarters and pull the top shell off. When cutting the crab, you flip the crab upside down and cut so you do not crush the crab ruining it.
A heavy duty pair of scissors are great for cutting crabs quickly and precisely. The bottom sweeper jig is perfect for presenting these crab baits to tog in and around structure.
If they are feeding really well you even can throw down a leg of the crab and they will readily take the offering. This is known as a good "chew" or a hot bite. I prefer to fish the outgoing tide because I feel that the fish are pressured to feed before all the water pushes out. The tide always has to be moving if you want to catch as these fish feed around barnacles, mussel beds, and rock structures.
A floating crate allows you to keep live crabs stocked at your slip all season long.
Get Bottom Sweeper Jigs
When you are getting bait stolen with half a crab, cut into quarters!
Use as light weight jig as possible
Look for broken docks, seabeds, and underwater rocks
25 pound or less fluorocarbon leader
Stomp on a few crabs as chum, when bite slows....chum more!
Fish different sides of the boats, this matters if your not anchored directly over structure
Set the hook hard after 2-3 bites
Hook crabs threw leg holes
When fish is in the structure DO NOT FORCE IT OUT be patient and wait it out
Looking to target blackfish on the reefs this winter season? Check out our article on how to target these fish on a head boat to make sure you're successful (well, at least prepared) on your first time out. The article (click the title link!) "The How-to of Party Boat Tog/Blackfish for First Timers" covers exactly how to navigate a tog party boat and avoid a hefty learning curve that comes along with the fishery.
Check out our article "The How-to of Party Boat Tog/Blackfish for First Timers" for more on targeting blackfish from a party or head boat this fall.
Check out our Green Crab tog hoodie available now on our site! Click here to shop: https://www.blueoceanmagazine.com/product-page/green-crab-hoodie
Tight lines this season and be sure to tag us in your blackfish and tog pictures! @blue_oceanmagazine