Blackfish are one of the most peculiar game fish species in the world. Known for their finicky nature, blackfish are also referred to as tautog, or ‘togs’ by anglers who regularly target them.
They can be found all along the North American coastline from Nova Scotia to Georgia and have a reputation for being excellent table fare.
Blackfish are not easy to catch like other saltwater game fish species and many anglers prefer the challenge of going after them as it is a test of their fishing skills that truly doesn’t compare to other types of fish.
Larger-sized blackfish don’t grow to gigantic sizes like some species of saltwater fish can. A 15 to 20 pound blackfish is considered to be a ‘trophy’ sized fish among anglers of any skill level.
Jigging is one of the most popular methods for catching blackfish and has proven to be an excellent form of targeting the elusive species.
Blackfish are usually found around large rock piles, reefs, shipwrecks and any other type of structure on the ocean floor that offers dark, mysterious crevices where blackfish can easily hide and avoid larger predatory fish like sharks and others.
For those who want to know more about how jigging can be a great way to catch these kinds of fish, this article should prove to be especially helpful in covering the finer points of jigging for blackfish, as well as when and where the best times to catch ‘togs’ are across the vast expanses of the coastal United States and Canada.
Where to Catch Blackfish
Blackfish can mostly be caught in the open ocean around structures such as shipwrecks, rocks, reefs and just about anything else, but anglers can often have success fishing from the shore if they’re able to find a suitable area where blackfish congregate.
According to the most experienced blackfish anglers, location is everything when it comes to going after this unique species.
Like most other fish that are known for having an affinity for biting a jig over other forms of lures, blackfish tend to stay near the bottom of any space they inhabit.
Most anglers who have experienced a decent amount of success going after blackfish will agree that these creatures can usually be found in water that’s about 30 feet deep or more.
They can be caught in water less than 100 feet deep in most cases, but some anglers have had success catching blackfish in depths as low as 200 feet in rare cases.
When it comes to jigging for blackfish, it’s best to stay around the 30 to 60 foot depth in order to have the most control over your lure and to know just when to set the hook.
Fishing for blackfish is especially challenging because it must be done in and around heavy structure if you ever expect to be successful at it.
It can take some practice to learn how to keep your jig head upward and avoid being snagged on the rocks or reef you’re fishing in, but jigging is undoubtedly a fun and rewarding experience that is a true test of an angler’s skills on the water.
When to Fish for Blackfish
Blackfish can be caught throughout the year with relative success by anglers who know where to locate these fish and just what type of bait to use in certain situations.
However, like almost any other fish in the ocean or freshwater lakes and rivers, blackfish do have certain times of the year when anglers will have a greater advantage when it comes to catching and landing them.
When it comes to finding out the best times of the year to catch blackfish, water temperature is going to be the single most important factor in your decision-making process, overall.
Blackfish are a peculiar species that prefer to live in water that is colder for many months out of the year. They are non-existent in tropical areas where the sun is capable of heating the water well above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Blackfish mostly prefer to stay in water that’s anywhere from 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit for much of the year, but they will also be found to be actively feeding at times when the water is just a bit colder or warmer than that temperature range.
These fish will often come closer to the shore during the spring and fall when temperate water is more comfortable for them and their feeding habits.
When the water gets too warm, blackfish will move to deeper water where it’s more suitable for them and where they aren’t exposed to warmer water.
However, if the water becomes too cold in a certain area, blackfish will leave in search of warmer areas as their bodies are not quite built to withstand the frigid water temperatures that are so common in the north Atlantic.
How to Jig for Blackfish
Jigging for blackfish is unique in and of itself as anglers have learned over the course of the last few decades. Using a jig to catch blackfish is done using a simple, heavy jig head that is attached to a single hook.
Natural bait plays a prominent role in fishing for blackfish and anglers will usually rig some species of crab on their jig hooks in an effort to appeal to the blackfish’s senses and entice them to bite.
It’s best to stick to certain types of crustaceans and mollusks that are naturally-occurring in the specific area where you’re fishing for blackfish.
Best Techniques for Blackfish
Blackfish jigging is very different from the techniques one might use in jigging for other game fish species like tuna, mackerel, and other popular catches.
You can use a much lighter jigging rod setup and lighter line combo.
Since they mostly stay at or very near the bottom, expert anglers who successfully jig for blackfish will admit that they rarely work their jigs very far off the ocean floor.
Many times, it’s best to drag the jig across the bottom as your boat drifts along or over the top of the specific area of structure.
Best Jigs for Blackfish
The best jig to use for blackfish is almost always going to be a very simple, one-ounce jig that features a metal head and single hook.
Since using artificial plastic lures is rarely done when targeting blackfish, it’s best to use a jigging presentation that helps to keep the fish’s focus on the natural portion of your rig.
For anglers who are just starting out fishing for blackfish, you can expect to encounter quite a few snags and hang-ups since you’re very likely to be fishing in and around heavy structures.
Learning to avoid letting your hook become snagged on these types of underwater objects is an entirely different subject that often requires a significant level of skill and mastery.
Since you’re going to be facing so much potential for becoming snagged on structure, it’s best to go with a jig that is very simple and straightforward in design and won’t present much risk in hooking structure.
Most companies manufacture jigs that are specially made and marketed for blackfish angling.
While most anglers prefer to use jigs that are rigged with natural baits, some anglers have successfully used bucktail jigs, as well as curly-tail jigs to catch blackfish.