One of the great things about late fall for shoreline anglers near the coast is that at this time of the year, you don’t necessarily need to have a boat to target tautog. True, bayside tog are usually much smaller than those found beyond the inlet. And yes, you’ll likely have to weed through a number of throwback fish to find some keepers. But there’s the potential for plenty of action, and a very tasty reward at the end of the day. It’s also a fairly simple gig – here are the basic tactics:

tautog fisherman with a catch
This tog was caught at the rocks on Stinky Beach, in Ocean City, MD.
  • Go to a rocky inlet, or an area with rocks and similar structure within casting distance.
  • Rig up with a top-and-bottom rig with 1/0 hooks on 30-pound test leaders, and a bank sinker (never a pyramid weight, which tends to get snagged in the rocks much more often).
  • Bait the hooks with large sand fleas; when you can only get smaller ones, thread two or three of them onto a single hook.
  • Cast out, let the rig hit bottom, and reel all slack out of the line.
  • The moment you feel a nibble, set the hook asap. If you miss the fish, reel up and rebait because it’s almost certainly cleaned your hooks.
  • Whenever you reel in, keep your tip high and reel very quickly to get your weight up and out of the rocks, to minimize snags. Note: snags will still happen no matter how hard you try to avoid them, so bring plenty of extra rigs and weights.

For more information of catching this species, check out:

Rigging for Tautog: Precision Matters

Tautog Fishing: These Fish Like it Cold

Tautog Fishing Tactic: The Anti-Bounce