The Tautogs of Long Island Sound

by Dan Kenney

With the warm weather of 2017 continuing into November, I was lucky enough to get in some late season fishing off the shores of Connecticut, thanks to JB Sportfishing.

Based in Niantic, Connecticut, JB Sportfishing is the charter boat arm of J&B Tackle and the Douton family, which has been helping people fish the Niantic area since 1972. These days, it’s Kerry Douton that runs the show and Captain Kerry had invited me to go after tautogs, also known as blackfish, in Long Island Sound. Brown- and dark olive-colored with white blotches and plump, elongated bodies, tautogs can reach several feet in length. They were also a popular delicacy in the 18th and 19th centuries.

On many fishing trips you’re up at the crack of dawn and hit the water before sun-up. In this case, we were up early but we didn’t get out until a few hours later. Instead, we grabbed breakfast and coffee, then stopped by J&B Tackle to meet the crew and get our gear in order. With our leisurely place, we finally hit the water at about 9:30 a.m.

The plan was to use this opportunity to make a video for Dexter Knives. I’m responsible for some of their content on social media channels and we were hoping to capture a filleting segment. Of course, our plan depended on actually catching those tautogs, but in the days leading up to our trip Captain Kerry was quite reassuring, telling us, “Don’t worry, we’re going to get out there and find them. You’ll be getting your fillet clips in no time at all!”

Regardless, we knew we were in for a fun day on the Dot-E-Dee, JB’s sportfishing boat, thanks to the high temps and sunny skies. The only disappointment was learning that Kerry’s son, Kyle, had to stay on shore that day to take care of customers at the tackle shop.

That meant there were five of us—myself and Captain Kerry, plus Ryan, Justin and Evan from the JB team—on a journey that started from the Niantic River. A few miles later we were on Long Island Sound, where there are more than 100 species of fish, from striped bass, bluefish, summer flounder and scup to hickory shad, black sea bass and tautog. As we would find out pretty quickly, there are also loads of false albacore; if I had known they would be jumping and swimming around us for the majority of the day, I would have brought my light tackle setup.

Still, we were after tautogs and they didn’t disappoint. These blackfish are notoriously difficult to catch because of their tendency to live among rocks and other elements, but the crew knew what they were doing. Switching back and forth between jig heads and the six-10 ounce sinkers, we brought in several in the two to eight-pound range.

Then we were on to the filleting & skinning. With our Dexter Knives Justin prepared them in no time and i stacked them on ice. I was excited to bring this delicacy home to my family. Two hours later, I was back in Massachusetts, enjoying blackfish, rice and a side salad with my wife and kids.

So if you’re looking for a fantastic day on the water in southern New England, consider Niantic, Connecticut with its proximity to the Niantic River and Long Island Sound. The fish are plentiful, the guides really know their stuff, and those tautog can make it from the sea to your dinner plate in under four hours!

Until then, God Bless and Go Fish!

Dan is an avid angler and host of the television show “Go Fish with Dan Kenney.” The television program airs via the Charter Spectrum network and is seen on YouTube at Dan also runs the New England Fishing & Outdoor Expo. Dan wears Typhoon polarized sunglasses on all of his fishing adventures.