Saltwater Fishing - Helping you catch that fish of a lifetime


by Geoffrey English

Weakfish: a.k.a. Gray Trout
Weakfish, also known as a Gray Trout, are indigenous to eastern North America.  They lurk in the depths of the choppy coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean.   These fish range from the edge of Florida north to Massachusetts.  There are records, however, of them migrating as far as Nova Scotia.  In the winter, weakfish are usually found along the eastern coast of North America between North Carolina to Florida, while in the summer they stay along the shoreline between Delaware and New York. They move seasonally based on the temperature of the water and the availability of food.

Gray Trout are schooling fish known for living on sandy shorelines during the summer. They retreat as a group to the depths of the ocean in the winter to keep warm. They spawn after their migration in the spring, with the most activity occurring April through June. As the females grow, they are able to produce more eggs, and will spawn multiple times a season.  The majority of the population becomes sexually mature after the first year and are able to start spawning soon after.

The Gray Trout is known for its slender body. Despite what most people think, the term “Weakfish” is not the result of the fish’s inability to fight; in fact, they’re actually decent fighters. The only weakness about them is the membrane of their mouth, which is easily torn when they are hooked. This can sometimes be a safety mechanism as weakfish are able to escape from an angler’s grasp with little damage afterwards. They are known scientifically as Cynoscion Regalis and are green/gray in color.  They have silver bellies and black spots on top. Many grow as long as 29 inches and can weigh up to 12 pounds. These fish have a maximum life span of a little over 10 years. 

Weakfish can be caught on lures, jigs and bait, but beware of the soft membrane of the mouth.
Techniques for catching Weakfish include trolling, jigging, surf fishing, and chumming.  They are best caught in an anchored boat, though they can be caught from the shoreline, piers, and even bridges. They are sporadic once hooked and have been known to give some angler quite a run for their money. They often pull with quick changes in direction, which helps when evading predators.  This makes them more of a game fish than anything else as they don’t keep well, and don’t taste very good. 

They are targeted seasonally according to their location, but are declining in numbers. They have been matched with an increasing population of predators and a decreasing population of prey.  In recent years, the death toll for Weakfish in nature alone has skyrocketed. Over-fishing hasn’t become a problem, but this fish may be dying off on its own. The only thing that would help is if their predator and prey populations come in to balance again. 

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