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How Do You Load Crabs on the Fishing Line to Catch Tautog?

In the last post, we talked about the types of baits that people use for Tautog fishing, and how the best baits are usually crabs since blackfish prefer crustaceans. For newer anglers, the idea of loading crabs onto a hook can seem like an odd one, or even a difficult one. Our team is happy to help you learn how to load bait if you like, and of course we have plenty of guests that are experts and would be happy to guide you.

But, in order to help start the process, let’s talk about the different ways that we would hook a crab so that you can get an idea of what the process is like.

Selection of Crabs

Before rigging, the selection of the right type and size of crab is crucial. Green crabs and Asian crabs are popular choices due to their size, hardness, and availability. The size of the crab should be appropriate for the size of the tautog being targeted:

  • Smaller Crabs – Ideal for medium-sized tautog.
  • Larger Crabs – Can be used whole for larger tautog or halved for a broader appeal.

Most crabs are going to make great bait, since the smell of the crab will attract blackfish looking for a quick meal.

Hooking the Crab

Proper preparation of the crab ensures that the bait is attractive and accessible to the tautog. Start by removing the top shell of the crab to expose the inner flesh. This step is crucial as it releases the scent of the crab, making it more enticing to tautog.

Optionally, legs can be removed to prevent the tautog from nibbling on them without taking the hook. Some anglers, however, prefer to leave the legs on for added movement and attraction.

Then you need to start hooking the crab. The method of hooking the crab can vary, but is still important in ensuring the bait stays on the hook while also maximizing the chances of a hook-set.

  • Hook Placement – Insert the hook through one of the crab’s leg sockets, then out through the opposite side. This method secures the crab effectively and allows for a natural presentation.
  • Exposing the Hook Point – Ensure that the hook point is exposed to facilitate a clean hook-set. The crab should be secured firmly but not so tightly that it impedes the hook’s ability to penetrate the tautog’s mouth.

This style of hooking the crab will make sure the crab both stays on the hook and is placed in such a way that a fish taking a bit will latch on. To further secure the crab on the hook, some anglers use bait elastic. This thin, stretchy thread can be wrapped around the crab and hook, holding the bait in place without masking the scent or hindering the natural presentation.

Tautog are bottom feeders, so it’s essential to present the bait near the bottom. A weight may be used to ensure the bait stays down where the tautog are feeding. Tautog often reside around structures like rocks, wrecks, and reefs. Positioning the bait close to these structures increases the likelihood of attracting a tautog. We know of some great locations to take you to during blackfish season.

Keep in mind that tautog are known for their ability to steal bait without getting hooked. Regular checks and replacements of the bait ensure that your hook is always presented with an enticing offering, so that you’re not wasting your time with a line in the water and no bait to attract the fish.

Come Join Us on the Marilyn Jean!

We take countless trips to catch blackfish over the course of the year, and we’re more than happy to provide you with tips and tricks. We also have amazing guests that are happy to help as well. Come aboard and let’s get started!

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