What: Trophy tautog, 10 to 25 pounds
When: December through March
Where: Wrecks and deepwater reefs from New Jersey to Virginia
BARNEGAT LIGHT, NEW JERSEY
SEA ISLE, NEW JERSEY
Capt. Al Crudele
VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA
Tautog Tackle Box
Crabs are the bait of choice, but they are not all created equal. The invasive Asian crab has become a favorite tog food, and along with both fiddler crabs and green crabs, are potent baits, but “white-legger” or Jonas crabs and blue-claw crabs fit the bill for the biggest blackfish. To enter an elite realm, hermit crabs take the cake. “If you wanna play dirty, use hermit crabs. Befriend a commercial potter or barter a few beers to get a bushel from him,” Knie says. Hermit crabs can be hooked through the tail, twisted around the body and out through the claw, so a claw is exposed. Blue-claw or Jonas crabs can be fished whole on a two-hook snafu rig, or simply cut in half or quartered, and lanced through the bottom knuckle and out through the apron. Use green crabs with orange eggs intact and, if fished whole, crack the shells to let the juice spill out.
Rods: Medium to fast-action 7-foot rod Lamiglas TFX 7040CT, St. Croix TM66MHF, or equivalent. On party boats, an 8-foot rod helps to get baits out past the others.
Reels: Shimano Torium 16 or 20, Abu Garcia 6000 high-speed retrieve 6.2:1 reel or equivalent.
Line: 50- to 80-pound braided line, with an Albright or Alberto knotted to an 4- to 5-foot topshot of 80-pound fluorocarbon leader.
Lures and Baits: Hermit crabs, blue-claw crabs, white-legger (Jonas crabs) crabs, green crabs, fiddler crabs. Size 5/0 to 7/0 Owner Octopus hook.