Paul Newman, 17, was fishing aboard the charter boat Tall Tailz out of Newport, Rhode Island on Nov. 7, when he caught a massive tautog (or blackfish), that could break a 67-year-old state record, according to the Daiwa fishing tackle company. The deep-water, bottom-dwelling tautog hit a white crab on Newman’s snafu rig and the fight was on.
“At first I thought the fish might be foul-hooked,” Newman told Daiwa. “But then the rod tip began to bounce and I realized it was a real solid fish. Once the battle got going, it cut in some heavy head shakes and made several strong runs that took it from within yards of the boat all the way back to the rocky bottom in deep water.”
Newman was fishing with Capt. Connor MacLeod, a Daiwa pro-staffer.
“It was immediately apparent that we might have a new state record when we decked that beast,” says MacLeod. “Our hand-held scale put it over 21 pounds, so we decided to put the fish in a big tub of water to keep it alive as we headed for the nearest certified scale. I told the anglers we would come back out after the official weigh-in and fill our limit, which we did.”
Newman’s tautog weighed 21.57-pounds on certified scales at a Stop and Shop store in Middletown, RI. The fish measured 33-inches long, with a 23-inch girth. Newman’s fish beats the current Rhode Island tautog record of 21-pounds, 4-ounces, caught in 1954 by C.W. Sunquist of Jamestown.
With Newman’s fish weighed on certified scales, measured, and photographed with witnesses, procedural paperwork is all that’s needed to have the fish officially recognized by Rhode Island as a state record tautog. Newman will have his record-size tautog mounted by a taxidermist.
Tautog are year-round inhabitants of the East Coast and hang out in shallow waters over rocky bottoms, shell beds, and inshore wrecks. The tautog is a member of the wrasse fish family, which includes the notably-good eating and colorful hogfish. The IGFA all-tackle record for tautog is 28-pounds, 13-ounces, caught in Jan. 2015 off Ocean City, Maryland by Kenneth W. Westerfeld.