This section is from the book "Frank Forrester's Fishermens' Guide", by Frank Forrester.
This fish was called the tautog by the Indians. It is caught in the vicinity of Massachusetts and New York Bays, in Long Island Sound, and in nearly all the inlets of Rhode Island. Of late years, black fish have increased in numbers, notwithstanding the numbers caught to supply the Boston and New York markets. The upper end of Long Island is a famous place to catch them. Their feeding ground is generally on rocky bottoms, and reefs, though they are caught in other places. It is a singular fact that those found close in on rocky reefs are shorter or more chubby, and of a darker color, than those that sport in the running tide. The color is a deep bluish black on the back and sides, with light belly. The usual size of the black fish varies from one to three pounds, though larger ones have been caught. Eight and ten pounders are reported to have been taken in Rhode Island.
Tautog, Or Black Fish.
Black fish are usually caught with hand lines from a boat, though your true sportsman prefers his rod - a stiff one some twelve or fifteen feet long. A flax line of ten to thirty yards in length, with slide sinker, and triple gut snells, is all that you want. You can dispense with the gut if you wish, as the fish is not timid or wary, and a plain flax leader of ten to fifteen inches in length, will answer. You can catch them with almost any kind of a hook from No. 10 downwards. They frequent eddies made by the running tide, and there watch for shrimps or small crabs. By dropping your line back, and letting it run with the tide through an eddy, you are generally successful. As soon as the fish bites in earnest, pull up, starting your pull by a quick motion to fasten the hook in his mouth, which is tough and hard. The baits used are shrimp, soft crab, shedder lobster, soft clam, ordinary clam, etc. The crabs and lobsters are the best. If a thunder storm comes up while you are fishing for black fish, you may as well go home, as you will not be apt to catch any more that day. A school of porpoises will frighten them so that they will leave for the day. There is a good deal of sport in catching black fish, his bite is so earnest, and he is so readily taken. In hand line fishing, many sportsmen have a brass ring at the end of their line, and to it they fasten two or three leaders, of different lengths, sometimes catching two fish at a time by this means.
The black fish begins to bite early in April, and is then easily taken. As the hot weather comes on he is not very fierce for a bait, but yet he is taken all the season through, until the cold weather benumbs him, and he refuses to eat. He never runs into fresh water, but remains in his haunts the year through. It is an excellent table fish, whether stewed or fried, though it is very difficult to dress.