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The Tautog or Blackfish fish identification, habitats, characteristics, Fishing methods

Blackfish, also known as Tautog, are hard fighting and excellent tasting bottom feeding fish. They are brown and dark olive, with white blotches, and have plump elongated bodies. They have an average weight of 1 to 3 lb (0.5 to 1.5 kg) and reach a maximum size of 3 ft (1 m), 25 lb (11 kg). A cold water fish, Tautog migrate seasonally inshore and offshore. The species frequents rock piles, bridge pilings, artificial reefs and old wrecks. Tautog feed entirely on invertebrates, including crabs, mussels, mollusks, sand shrimp, amphipods, and worms, using their strong back teeth to crush hard shells. These fish are active during the day and quiet and inactive during night, hiding from predators.
The Tautog Blackfish Fishing The Tautog or Blackfish, Tautoga onitis, also known as Chinner, Tog, Black porgy, Chub, Oyster-fish and Tautogue noir, is a fish of the northern relatives of the family of wrasses, common in tropical waters. They found in salt water along the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to South Carolina, with the greatest number lying along inshore waters from southern Cape Cod to the Delaware Bay.

Tautog are heavy, stout fish with short, rather rounded snout, nearly equal to eye diameter, small slightly subinferior mouth and thick rubbery lips. They have powerful jaws with 2 to 3 series of strong stout conical teeth which gradually decrease in size posteriorly, in the front of each jaw larger than the others. In the rear of the mouth they have two groups of flat, strong, rounded, crushing pharyngeal teeth. Together these are used to pick and crush prey such as mollusks and crustaceans. Posterior end of maxilla is reaching vertical through anterior nostril in adults and slightly anterior to vertical through front margin of eye in juveniles. The Tautog have plump elongated bodies and broad tails and a high, arched heads with moderate eyes. Head length is somewhat shorter than body depth. Their body is about 3 times as long as deep, not counting the caudal fin. Caudal peduncle is deep. Body covered with small, thin, cycloid scales and a tough skin; membrane of dorsal and anal fins partly covered with small scales. They have a scaleless cheek region that is smooth to the touch; top of head, preorbital, maxilIa, lower jaw, interopercle, and posterior portions of preopercle are naked. Their skin also has a rubbery quality with a heavy slime covering, which helps to protect them when swimming among rocks. Their dorsal fin extends the length of the back nearly to the tail over the gill slit. The anterior three-quarters of this fin possess a series of stiff, sharp spines, and the paired pelvic fins have one spine each. The dorsal fin continuous, originates over the upper corner of the gill openings and runs back the whole length of the trunk to caudal peduncle. Anal fin rounded in outline, originate posterior through midpoint to the soft portion of the dorsal, under which it stands. Caudal fin broad, truncate, or slightly rounded at the corners. Pelvic fin moderate, at vertical through midpoint of pectoral fin. Pectoral fin relatively large, broad, somewhat rounded. Lateral line complete and continuous, arched anteriorly. Each of the ventrals has one stout spine. Gill rakers are short, blunt. The dorsal fin has 16 to 17 spines and 10 to 11 soft rays. The anal fin has 3 stout spines and 7 or 8 soft rays. Pectoral fin rays 16. Lateral line scales 60-68. Gill rakers 9 on lower limb of first arch branchiostegals 5 or 6 vertebrae (16) 17 + 18 Maximum length is 3 ft (0.91 m), weight 25 pounds (11 kg). The average weight is 1 to 3 lb (0.45 to 1.4 kg). Tautog on different bottoms vary greatly in color and in their markings. Males and adults are mottled brown, dark chocolate and dark olive green, or black, with a white or gray chin and underbelly and irregular white blotches along the sides. The belly is only slightly paler than the sides, but the chin is usually white on larger fish, a very conspicuous character. Females and juveniles are paler in color with large mousy brown and grey mottling on the sides. Tautog become blacker in color as they grow older and their coloring also varies depending on the local bottom habitat. The distinguishing feature of the adult male Tautog is the large protruding forehead. Mature males are often referred to as chinners because of the white patch on the chin. Females tend to be dull mottled brown, usually with a series of lateral blotches. Tautog are related to, and often confused with, another species of wrasse family known as the Cunner. The tautog suggests an overgrown Cunner, but it is a heavier, stouter fish with caudal peduncle so broad and caudal fin so little wider than the peduncle that it is hard to hold a heavy one by the tail. The most obvious differences between the tautog and cunner are that the dorsal profile of the head of the tautog is high-arched (more pointed in profile in cunner), its nose is very blunt, and its lips are much thicker. A more precise if less obvious character is that the cheek region close in front of the gill opening is naked in the tautog (scaly in the cunner) and velvety to the touch. The fins of the tautog practically reproduce those of the cunner in relative size and location. Dorsal spines 16 or 17 in Tautog and 18 in cunner; anal fin rays 7 or 8 in Tautog and 8 or 9, rarely 7 or 9 in cunner. Also, the pelvic fins in tautog are located under the midpoint of the pectoral fins while at a vertical through anterior base of pectorals in cunner. Tautog also grow much larger than cunner.

Tautog are a strictly coastal fish and have many adaptations to life in and around rocky areas. They inhabit open water near rocky shores, pier docks, breakwaters, mussel beds. Juveniles inhabit areas near eelgrass and seaweed beds, rock and cobble bottoms. In the northern part of their range, they are typically within several miles of shore in water less that 50 feet deep, rarely occur more than 5-6 km from land or deeper than 9-18 m. More southern populations can be found father offshore. Tautog frequently follows flood tides inshore to feed and drop back to deeper waters with the following ebb tides. They are found in association with cover, hovering around steep, rocky shorelines or hiding near wrecks, wharf pilings, piers, jetties, mussel and oyster beds, and boulder strewn bottoms. Juvenile and adult are opportunistic sight feeders, exclusively daytime feeders, with feeding peaks at dawn and dusk. Feeding begins shortly after morning twilight and continues up to evening twilight. With the approach of evening they become inactive, lie motionless on the bottom, and they cease feeding during night time. They are feeding throughout the day on a variety of shallow water invertebrates, chiefly mollusks (both univalves and bivalves), especially mussels in northern parts of the range, barnacles that they pick off rocks and pilings; various other crustaceans including amphipods, isopods, and decapods, echinoderms, clams, crabs, sand dollars, amphipods, shrimp, small lobsters and occasionally small fishes. Juveniles and adults living around shoreline ledges feed heavily on blue mussels. Tautog jaws are equipped with large canine teeth on both the premaxillae and dentaries. The primary function of these jaw teeth is to capture and manipulate prey; not mastication of prey items. Tautog possesses a highly evolved pharyngeal jaw apparatus for crushing and grinding their hard-shelled prey.

Tautog are gonochoristic, males and females have different sex, males have more pronounced mandibles than females. Spawning occurs offshore, in late spring to early summer, from May until August, with peak spawning activity occurring in June at water temperatures of 62 to 70°F (9 to 10°C ). Males mature at age 3 and females mature at age 4 and size 14-25 cm. The number of eggs produced in a spawning season of females is directly related to their size and weight. Females 12 inches long and 1 lb in weight produce about 30,000 eggs, while a female 20 inches long and 5 lbs produce about 150,000-483,000 eggs per season. Tautog ages 3-9 may produce from 160,000 to 10,500,000 eggs. Most spawning takes place inshore in areas dominated by eelgrass beds. The fertilized eggs are buoyant, without oil globule, floating for about 2 days before hatching. Hatching takes 7 days at 16°C, compared with 5 days at 19°C and 4 days at 22°C. Within 4 days after hatching, the larvae begin feeding on microscopic plankton. The eggs hatch and develop while drifting. The young take residence in shallow protected waters and live and hide in seaweed, sea lettuce or eelgrass beds for protection, and are green in color in order to camouflage themselves. During the late fall, they move offshore and winter in a state of reduced activity.

Fishing Methods. Tautog are generally available to nearshore fishermen throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons, but many of the larger fish apparently move to deeper water during periods of summer high temperatures and winter low temperatures in inshore waters, and move inshore again with the onset of favorable temperatures. The sport fishing season is in May-July and September-October in New York and northward. Anglers are particularly successful from April through May and in early fall when tautog are concentrated in the greatest numbers along shorelines. Tautog are caught either from a boat at anchor or by casting anywhere along rocky shorelines. Large piece of sea-worm, whole or halved crabs (green, rock, hermits or fiddlers), clams, shrimp, mussels, sandworms and lobsters and pieces of conch or snails are the best bites. Popular among fishermen, tautog have a reputation for being not the easiest fish to catch on hook and line. 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. 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. Tautog passes the bait back to the pharyngeal teeth to crush the shells before swallowing them, and in doing so it gives several distinctive jerks or twitches. This is the time to hook it. Many fish are missed by being struck too soon. A medium action spinning or conventional rod with 20 to 30 pound test line is works great. It is important to stay alert after casting or lowering the bait into the water, as fish ofter hit the bait as soon as it reaches the bottom. All slack line should be taken in as soon as the bait stops sinking. Once the fish picks up the bait, let it tap once or twice, and set the hook hard, lifting the tautog away from the bottom before the line becomes entangled in rocks.

Tautog Blackfish Recepies Blackfish has a relatively firm white meat, which makes it well suited for a variety of different preparation methods including fish stews and chowders. In fact in many seaside towns blackfish is the traditional ingredient in fish chowder. Blackfish can be used in almost any recipe that calls for lean white flesh fish with a mild taste like cod, sea bass, tilefish or halibut. Baking, broiling or sautéing are all good choices for this versatile fish. The flavor of this fish has often been likened to that of the red snapper. Traditionally, it has been considered an ideal chowder fish. Its firm, mildly flavored flesh also lends itself well to baking and broiling, when using recipes developed for species such as striped bass.

Check more great easy Tautog Blackfish Recepies.
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