Weakfish are the most common sea trout caught in coastal
waters around Long Island and southern New England. Weakfish
is also known as the gray sea trout and by it’s original
Native American name, squeateague. The name weakfish is
misleading because it is really a powerful swimmer and a
strong fighter when hooked. The name “weakfish” was
bestowed on this fish by recreational anglers because of its
fragile mouth structure, which permits a hook to tear out
rather easily. This characteristic has undoubtedly been
lamented in many tales of the trophy fish that got away.
How to catch:
Sandworms from a drifting boat is perhaps the most popular and
effective ways to catch Weaks. A three way swivel with a
sinker and a 3 to 4 ft leader works well.
Chumming from an anchored boat with grass shrimp is also
Jigging with lead headed jigs works as well. Tip your jig off
with a Sandworm, Grass Shrimp or FinS.
Weakfish are members of the drum family, which also includes
the spotted sea trout, croaker, and spot. These fish are all
noted for the drumming noises they make. Rapid contraction of
abdominal muscles against a resonating air bladder produces a
drumming which is audible to boaters. Whether or not a message
is conveyed is not known. It is known, however that the volume
of the drumming is turned up at spawning time. Only male
weakfish make this noise.
The average weakfish caught in our area varies from one to
three pounds with a few up to five or six pounds. Big “tide
runners” may weigh up to ten or 12 pounds. However, weakfish
of this size are scarce. Weakfish range from Massachusetts to
Florida but the greatest concentrations of weakfish are found
from Long Island to North Carolina. They move in schools,
often small but sometimes consisting of many thousands of
fish. Weakfish migrate up and down the coast as the water
temperature changes. They prefer water temperatures 60°F or
higher. In the summer weakfish live in shallow waters close to
the shore. During the summer, weakfish appear to travel in
single-sex schools. Spawning occurs from May to October. In
the autumn they move south and to offshore waters.
During the years shortly after World War II fleets of charter
boats and commercial seiners were unable to more than dent the
vast schools of “tide-runner” weakfish that invaded
eastern Long Island from late April to July. No fish has such
extreme highs and lows in its abundance. Weakfish virtually
disappeared in the early 50s and showed no sign of recovery
until 1972. The local catch in New York also varies from year
to year, and weakfish are likely to be most abundant in the
marketplace in the fall and, to a lesser extent, in late
The flesh of weakfish is white, sweet, lean and finely
textured. It makes a delicious meal when fried or broiled.
Because of the texture it’s also fragile and must be iced
immediately after capture to retain its natural elasticity and
flavor. One of the finest methods for cooking weakfish is to
cook the fish whole with seafood or other stuffing in the oven
or over hot coals on the grill. Weakfish fillets can also be
broiled or baked with a variety of sauces or vegetable
The best places to go
Weakfishing are bridges at night or drifting at night.
Tips For Drifting:
The best bite is at dusk and into the evening
In addition to a sandworm, put a fire tail rubber worm on your
Try to avoid heavy traffic areas since these fish spook easy.
Once you have located the fish keep drifts in a concentrated
area. These fish are usually in tight packs rather then spread
out over a large area.
The best way to locate fish is to look for a concentration of
birds. If you have a fish finder you will usually mark what
looks like clouds of bait fish.
When chumming with Grass Shrimp be sure not to be too generous
or skimpy with the shrimp. It's a good idea release 5-10
shrimp at 2 to 3 minute intervals to keep a consistent slick
and hold fish. Too much shrimp in the water and the fish will
hang back for the easy meal and not bother to move up into the
slick for your baits. Too little and your not going to hold or
A slight change in wind direction or tide can turn these fish
on or off.
When fishing from shore with bait it's best to use a float
rig. It keeps the bait off the bottom and away from crabs .
Tips For Fishing Bridges:
First find a nice quite spot look for street lights on the
bridge because weakfish sit under the lights just like
Using sand worms send the worm towards the bridge with no
Weight Once you've reached the bridge reel your line back but
be ready you might get a hit!. Repeat that step twice if no
hits put some lead on but start light and gradually put more
until eventually " Boom " you get a fish
Be careful when Bringing in a weakfish it gets it's name from having
a weak mouth. Sometimes hooks tear apart their mouths so always keep your drags
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