• Tautog

Latin name

Tautoga onitis

Other names

Blackfish, tog, Molly George, chub, oysterfish; French: tautogue noir.


Blunt-nosed and thick-lipped, has high forehead and heavy body. The back and sides are brownish, lighter underneath, and blackish speckles all over the body. The belly and chin are white or gray, and there may be spots on the chin. During spawning, the female has a white saddle in the middle of each side. The caudal fin is rounded at the corners and square at the tip. The dorsal and anal fins with soft rays are rounded. The first dorsal fin has 16-17 spines. The short second dorsal fin consists of 10 slightly longer soft rays. The anal fin has 3 spines and 7-8 soft rays. There is a detached area of small scales behind and under each eye, but none on the operculum. The lateral line more or less arcing follows the contour of the dorsum and has 69 to 73 scales. There are 9 gill rakers on the first bronchial arch, 3 on the upper limb and 6 on the lower limb. There is a row of small teeth on the sides of the jaws and 2 to 3 large canines on their tips.


Tautog inhabits the western Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to South Carolina, with the largest numbers between Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Delaware Bay. It overlaps in range with its smaller and more northerly relative, the cunner.


The tautog is known to move in and out of bays, on shore and offshore depending on water temperature, but they do not make extensive migrations up and down the coast. Preferred habitats include shallow waters with rocky bottoms, barnacles, coastal wrecks, etc., where they often inhabit year-round.


These fish average 3 pounds or under. However, specimens weighing 6 to 10 pounds are caught with some regularity, and the world record among all tackle is held by a New Jersey fish weighing 25 pounds.

Life history and Behavior

No information

Food and feeding habits

The tautog's diet consists mainly of mollusks and crustaceans, among which blue mussels are especially preferred. For crushing shells, it uses flat, rounded, strong teeth located at the back of the mouth.


No information

Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Squad Labriformes
Family Labridae
Genus Tautoga
Species T. onitis
Conservation status Vulnerable
Habitat Littoral
Life span, years No information
Maximum body weight, kg 13.1
Maximum length, cm 90
Sailing speed, m/s No information
Threat to people Edible
Way of eating Predator

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