If you’re looking to catch one of the most beautiful fish that swim in the ocean, you’ve got the wrong species. Tautog have buck teeth, bug eyes, and sometimes, rust stains. That’s right—rust stains.
But what they lack in good looks, they make up for in spunk. Pound for pound, you won’t find a stronger, more stubborn fish. They’ll bend hooks, break lines, snap rods, and shatter egos.
It doesn’t hurt that they’re also delicious, and plentiful in the nearshore wrecks and reefs off the coast of Ocean City, MD.
We usually fish for tautog (tog, for short) within a few miles of the beach. They love structure and nestle themselves into rocks, reefs, or piles of old steel cable sunk as fish habitat. Many of the tog we catch bear the unmistakable mark of living for years within these cables: skin streaked with orange rust (we weren’t kidding).
Tog live around bottom structure for two main reasons. First, they like to find the deepest nooks and crannies that they can and take up residence. Have fun trying to pull them out. The second reason they love structure is all the food. Tog love mussels, barnacles, crabs, scallops, shrimp, and lobsters. Not a bad menu at all (except for the barnacles).
Tog fishing is great for beginners and enthusiasts alike. Any first-timer can come out and learn the basics in a few minutes and catch their limit of keeper tog. A small percentage of those first-timers get hooked for life, turning into tautog enthusiasts that are as dedicated to tog fishing as others are to chasing marlin, bonefish, or trout.
Tog share the reefs and wrecks with sea bass, cunner, conger eels, red hake, pollock, cod, and more, and it’s not unusual to catch a variety of these fish while targeting tautog.
If you’re looking to do some near-shore fishing in Ocean City this spring or fall, a full- or half-day tog trip is a perfect option. They’re hard-fighting and fast-biting, and you just might catch a 20 pounder.