[taw-tog, -tawg]
tautog: see wrasse.
The tautog (tô'tôg', -tŏg', tô-tôg', -tŏg'), Tautoga onitis, is a fish of the wrasse family found in salt water from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. It lives along the bottom, in and amongst rocks, wrecks, mussel beds, bridge pilings or other bottom features.

Barlett (1848) wrote "[Tautaug] is an Indian word, and may be found in Roger Williams' Key to the Indian Language." The name is from the Narragansett language, originally tautauog (pl. of taut). It is also called a "black porgy" (cf. Japanese black porgy), "chub" (cf. the freshwater chub) , "oyster-fish" (in North Carolina)or "blackfish"(in New York/New Jersey).


Tautog 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).

Tautog have many adaptations to life in and around rocky areas. They have thick rubbery lips and powerful jaws. The backs of their throats contain a set of teeth resembling molars. Together these are used to pick and crush prey such as mollusks and crustaceans. Their skin also has a rubbery quality with a heavy slime covering, which helps to protect them when swimming among rocks.


Goode (1884) said "The tautog has always been a favorite table fish, especially in New York, its flesh being white, dry, and of a delicate flavor."

Davidson recommends grilling, baking, and using it in fish chowder.

Sports fishing

Popular among fishermen, tautog have a reputation for being a particularly tricky fish to catch. 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. The favorite baits for tautog include: green crabs, fiddler crabs, clams, shrimp, mussels, sandworms and lobsters. 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. When tog fishing, try to use rigs with minimal beads, swivels and hooks as they may cause you to get caught in the rocks, reefs or wrecks.

Because they are often found in wrecks, they are often seen by scuba divers. They are also popular with spearfishermen, as they are remarkably calm in the presence of divers and are relatively easy to spear.

Life cycle

  • Spawning occurs offshore, in late spring to early summer
  • 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.

In popular culture

The Tautog was the "secret ingredient" in the "_2008" episode of Iron Chef America, which aired in July 2008.

See also


  • McClane, A.J., McClane's Field Guide to Saltwater Fishes of North America, 1978, ISBN 0-8050-0733-4
  • Alan Davidson, North Atlantic Seafood, 1979, ISBN 0-670-51524-8.
  • G. Brown Goode, et al., The Fisheries and Fishery Industries of the United States, 1884-7, quoted in Davidson, 1979.
  • John Russell Barlett, Dictionary of Americanisms: A Glossary of Words and Phrases, Usually Regarded as Peculiar to the United States, 1848, ISBN 0-471-22877-X
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