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Weakfish Fishing Methods

By Kastking | 22 January 2018 | 0 Comments

Here’s a ‘how to’ article worth tucking away for catching weakfish …

Weakfish, (Cynoscion regalis)  named Squeteague by Native Americans, roams the East Coast from Nova Scotia to northern Florida. In some regions they are called sea trout, but are not part of the Salmonidae family. 

I’m too young to know what the glory days of weakfish looked like. In fact I can count on one hand the amount of fish I have seen over 30” in the last six years. However, in the last two falls I did get to experience “lock and load” fishing for weakfish in Jamaica Bay and New York Harbor. Although, these weaks were never at the tiderunner status I have heard so much about. But respectable fish up to 25” were more plentiful then I have ever seen. I did tangle with a few fish in New York Harbor up to 28” as well with my kayak last July. But this is the first season since 2008 that I have caught several weakfish in May, and all signs point to an exciting future for these fish once again.


Spring weakfish. Ecooda ERS Reel from Eposeidon

Spring weakfish. Ecooda ERS Reel from Eposeidon


What’s Their Deal?


Elusive is my favorite word to describe them. Just like stripers, they can shut down in an instant, but can provide hours of action when they are on the feed into the end of a tide. Generally in my experience in the New York Bight expect to find them they near the bottom of the water column. In low light conditions they can be slurping up shrimp and spearing near the surface, but don’t count on finding them near the top. They like to find home in the Jamaica Bay area all along the Floyd Bennett Field channel and back by Starett City dumps, both generally run a contour of 30-40 feet. If you are looking at your bottom machine, they look like some scratches along the bottom. Maybe you can mark them ten feet up as well. The Great South Bay is shallow, so targeting them there would be a completely different game. The main difference now versus years ago anglers have some new tools to make sure they can have a productive day on the water. I am talking about Gulp! more specifically.


The Original Weapon


If you want weakfish, nothing is more effective than a sandworm hung off a dropper loop with a 2/0 or 3/0 Gamakatsu Baitholder hook. Hang a 2 or 3 oz sinker off a sinker loop, and I run the dropper about 2 feet off the bottom. If you want to gun for weakfish exclusively this is a sure way to catch them for a first timer. It is as simple you can get. However, I view weakfish as more of a  catch and release sport and prefer a different method of targeting them this time of year. I find that there are opportunities for good sized fluke to make their way into my catch if I jig weakfish instead.


Weakfish caught on small metal lure. Pictured Ecooda ERS Reel, KastKing Braided Line

Weakfish caught on small metal lure. Pictured Ecooda ERS Reel, KastKing Braided Line. (photo credit – Tom Gahan)



Bucktails and Gulp!


The only reason I stumbled upon the weakfish in the spring, was because I was targeting fluke! I actually caught more weakfish on a trip in early May than fluke. Normally in the fall bucktails and Gulp! can be more nuisance because small sea bass will munch off the tails of the Gulp!baits. Before you know it you went through half a container of Gulp! and have only caught a bunch of micro fish. In the spring, there are no “mite” sized fish around and that works to your advantage.

I found myself using Spro bucktails around 1 oz in white along with Gulp! 4” swimming mullets in white are the ticket in Jamaica Bay.  Pink is a traditional color with more experienced anglers, and I am sure will work just as well or even better. I work the bucktails a little more aggressively than I would for fluke though. I set up my drift on my kayak the same way for fluke, but instead of dropping straight down I’d cast the bucktail up tide and work it rather aggressively back to the boat and into a vertical position. Usually as I bring it vertical along the bottom the fish would hit. I wouldn’t tap it along the bottom like I do with fluke, I’d do some more aggressive lifts along the way. Don’t be surprised though if a fluke attacks your offering as well.


If the Bluefish are Around


Spring bluefish are funny in how ridiculously thick they can be, and they seem like they are everywhere some days in the spring. If you find them interfering with your bucktailing, switch it up to small diamond jigs from 1 – 2 oz. I prefer gold colored ones and get them down deep and fast. Don’t work them mid water column because the bluefish will latch on one after the other. Squid the jig off the bottom like you would for striped bass or cod. A gentle lift and tap on the bottom is all you will need. The weakfish prefer that motion as opposed to a cast and retrieve. You should be able to avoid them as long as they aren’t hitting your jig on the way down. That means they may be too thick, and you may need to move to a different area. Having your bucktails mauled is expensive and unproductive way to fish if bluefish are running heavy on a particular tide.



Author Elias Vaisberg with a nice size weakfish. (photo credit – Elias Vaisberg)


In Search of Giants


One of my only weakfish over 30” was taken on live bunker. I am not sure if the fishery has any big ones ready to gobble live bunker again, but it was always one of the best ways to get slob in my memory. Just fish that live bunker along the bottom on either a 3 x 3 rig or with a slider and a 3oz sinker. I am very optimistic that perhaps fish of this size will be available again, and livelining for them would be possible. I can only hope that I connect with a fish again in my lifetime with this method.


Catch and Release


The limit for weakfish is currently one fish, (over 16”) and I encourage anglers to release them if they were not damaged in the fight. They are very delicate so be careful while handling them. If you find yourself trying out the bucktailing method, you will most likely have a few keeper fluke to take home for dinner. Weakfish to me make alright table fare, but not up to the par of fluke. I think that everyone should agree that the state of this fishery still needs to bounce back and being a conscious angler goes a long way. I still look back to 2 or 3 years ago where I only caught a ten fish or so, and that is enough to motivate me to be very careful in my handling and to release them as well. I am dreaming and hopeful that we will get to experience a wave of very large weakfish in the next few years.


By – Elias Vaisberg


  • Elias Vaisberg is a highly experience kayak fisherman in Brooklyn, NY. He logs countless hours targeting anything that swims in Jamaica Bay and New York Harbor. He fishes on a 2011 Hobie Outback and is sponsored by Eposeidon and Hobie.




Eposeidon (www.eposeidon.com ) is an e-commerce company (Eposeidon Outdoor Adventure, Inc.) that brings a fresh, innovative approach to anglers by offering quality fishing tackle products at the best prices and no cost, or low cost shipping. Eposeidon’s goal is to exceed expectations through outstanding customer service and superior product value to their customers. Eposeidon is continually expanding its product lines, which include KastKing™ fishing line, fishing reels, and fishing rods, MadBite fishing lures, Ecooda reels, and other fishing tackle products, to meet individual fishing equipment needs. Eposeidon is headquartered in Garden City, NY, USA and sells fishing tackle products globally. Eposeidon is the sole North American Distributor for Ecooda fishing reels.

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