The Tautog is a species of wrasse. Although capable of reaching relatively larch sizes, Tautog are very slow growing. This species inhabits hard substrate habitats in inshore waters at depths from 1 to 75 m (3.3 to 246.1 ft). It is currently the only known member of its genus. The largest Tautog caught with hook and line in Massachusetts was 22 pounds 9 ounces. However, the average fish caught by anglers is 6 to 10 years old and weighs 2 to 4 pounds.
Tautog are brown and dark olive, with white blotches, and have plump, elongated bodies. They have an average weight of 1 to 3 lb (0.45 to 1.36 kg) and reach a maximum size of 3 ft (0.91 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.
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, asian shore crabs, fiddler crabs, clams, shrimp, mussels, sandworms, and lobsters. Tautog fishing may also be difficult due to the tendency of fishermen try to set the hook as soon as they feel a hit, rather than wait for the Tautog to swallow the bait. Rigs with minimal beads, swivels and hooks should be used to prevent entanglement with the rocks, reefs or wrecks Tautog frequent.
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.
Tautog lives along the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to south Carolina, with the greatest number lying along inshore waters from southern Cape cod to the Deleware Capes.