The tautog or blackfish is a fish of the wrasse family found in salt water from Nova Scotia to Georgia. It lives along the bottom, in and amongst rocks, wrecks, mussel beds, bridge pilings or other bottom features.
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. Together these are used to pick and crush prey such as mollusks and crustaceans. Their skin also has a rubbery quality with a heavy slime covering, which helps to protect them when swimming among rocks.
Popular among fishermen, tautog have a reputation for being a particularly tricky fish to catch. Part of this is because of their tendency to live among rocks and other structures that can cause a fisherman’s line to get snagged. The favorite baits for tautog include: green crabs, fiddler crabs, clams, shrimp, mussels, sandworms and lobsters. Tog fishing may also be tricky because most fishermen try to set the hook as soon as they feel a hit. You have to wait for the tog to swallow the crab or whatever bait you're using. When tog fishing, try to use rigs with minimal beads, swivels and hooks as they may cause you to get caught in the rocks, reefs or wrecks.
Because they are often found in wrecks, they are often seen by scuba divers. They are also popular with spearfishermen, as they are remarkably calm in the presence of divers and are relatively easy to spear.
Tautog are brown and dark olive, with white blotches, and have plump elongated bodies. 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).