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Tautog: The Ultimate Winter Fishing Experience in NYC


After other fish have migrated south for warmer waters, blackfish remain behind in the waters around NYC to provide an action-packed fishing experience even on the coldest days. Known as tautog or blackfish, these fish are actively biting in the winter months, giving avid anglers a good off season fish and new anglers a unique wintertime experience.

Yet tautog fishing still requires a careful and knowledgeable approach, although it promises to be an exciting one, and it is helpful to know what to expect before you get out on the water.

Maximizing Your Blackfish Catch 

Part of what makes blackfish fishing a favorite among anglers is also what makes it a challenge. Tautog is considered an intermediate fish because of its location and its strength. Blackfish are bottom feeders that hide in rocky outcroppings, reefs, shipwrecks, and other underwater structures, so getting your bait to them is already difficult, and once you have hooked one, a blackfish will put up a fight as it darts for cover.

These challenges make tautog fishing great any time of the year, but it becomes more difficult in the winter when fish in general move more slowly and become more particular about what they eat. These tips can help you better understand blackfish and how to catch more of them:

  • It’s All About Location – With any fish, you will have significantly better luck when you go to where the fish are. With blackfish, this is even more important. Experienced anglers have found that blackfish are picky enough that fishing from different sides of the boat can yield significantly different results. Going with an experienced captain who knows how to set the boat directly over the underwater structure where a blackfish is will help your catch tautog.
  • Mark the Structure – Blackfish live within a natural or manmade structure beneath the water. If you can, picture in your mind what the structure looks like and where you are trying to work your hook to. Getting to the right place will almost always take a few casts, but this can also help give you a better feel for your fishing spot and the possibility of discovering pockets of tautog.
  • Use the Right Rod and Tackle – Tautog is known for stealing baits and tangling hooks so it is not unusual to have to cut a few lines free when tautog fishing. To reel in blackfish, you will need a heavy duty rod and line that are still sensitive enough to feel the more gentle tugs from blackfish. You will also need the right bait. Green or blue crabs are always a good option for blackfish, but the better option is to have multiple kinds of bait with you so that you can switch out depending on what tautog are going after on a particular day.
  • Refine Your Technique – Timing is everything with tautog. Wait too long and your bait will have disappeared from the hook, but reel in too early and the fish will not have bitten yet. Tautog will often prepare their bait on the hook by nibbling at it before going for the bite. You will want to hook your bait firmly so that it does not fall off when the blackfish are nibbling. You also need to wait long enough to feel the bite before you start reeling in. 

When you can brave a colder day out on the water, tautog is one of the most exciting fishing experiences in NYC. At Marilyn Jean Fishing, we offer tautog fishing nearly daily throughout the winter – as well as other seasons if you prefer to wait for warmer weather. Our trips are led by an experienced captain who has been fishing in NYC for decades and is able to take you to the best spots for winter tautog fishing. Our crew can also provide helpful advice on how to best hook these fish. Check out our calendar for upcoming blackfish trips and purchase your tickets online to reserve a spot on board.

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