Weakfish (Sea Trout)

Weakfish ( Cynoscion regalis) , also known as gray trout, occur from Nova Scotia to Florida and are most abundant from North Carolina through Long Island. Adult weakfish are often found near the periphery of eelgrass beds , where they primarily feed on shrimp , larger zooplankton , crabs , other crustaceans and small fish . In the estuary, adult weakfish occur in schools and frequent shallow sandy bottom areas with salinities above 10 percent. Estuaries provide feeding areas and spawning grounds for adult weakfish and are as important as nursery areas are for juveniles.

Larger fish (2 years and older) appear in the lower Chesapeake Bay in April and May with age-1 fish becoming abundant in the summer. In the fall, adult weakfish begin an offshore and southerly migration to the continental shelf from the Chesapeake Bay to Cape Lookout, North Carolina where they overwinter. North of Cape Hatteras, spring warming of coastal waters prompts adults to migrate from their offshore wintering grounds back to near-shore sounds, bays and estuaries.

Life Cycle

Weakfish spawn near the Chesapeake Bay mouth and adjacent near-shore waters shortly after the inshore migration.
Most spawning occurs from April until June, with some fish spawning through August.
Larvae are found throughout the lower Bay in late summer, and young-of-the-year (about 4 centimeters TL) appear in low-salinity river habitats in August.
The young fish grow rapidly in the rivers through October.
When they reach about 12 cm TL, the weakfish begin to move into more saline waters.
Weakfish begin to mature after their first year and 100 percent reach maturity by their second year.
Size at maturity differs between weakfish found north of Delaware Bay and those found in North Carolina. Northern females mature at 10 inches and males at 9 inches, while further south, both sexes mature at 7 inches. Weakfish can reach 30 inches and live as long as 9 years.
The Fishery

The commercial weakfish fishery in the lower Bay is significant, but has been in decline since the 1940s. Today the population is at a very low level due to severe overfishing, compared to a decade ago, and the fishery is in danger of collapse. Historical landings have fluctuated widely, but since 1980 commercial and recreational weakfish landings have steadily declined from about 80 million pounds to just over 7 million pounds in 1993. Much of the decline in the weakfish fishery appears attributable to overfishing and degradation in the estuarine environment. Landings by pound nets, gill nets and haul seines constitute the majority of the commercial fishery.

Weakfish are a major recreational species in the Bay. In 1985 the estimated catch exceeded 460,000 kg. Anglers slowly troll bucktail in the spring and bottom-fish using hooks baited with soft crab or jig-baited bucktail in the summer and autumn. Typical weakfish catches weigh between .5-3.5 kg. The Bay size record (also the world record) is a fish weighing 8.5 kg that was taken at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in 1983. About 80 percent of the recreational catch comes from private boats, roughly 15 percent from head, party and charter boats, and 5 percent from shore-based fishermen.

To book your trip aboard Light Tackle Charters call Captain Walt at (410) 845-3231 or email him from this site! Remember, your date is not "booked" until a deposit has been recieved.

Light Tackle Charters
543 Wellington Road
Crisfield, Maryland 21817

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You may bring your own fly, spinning, casting or trolling outfits. I recommend different outfits of different size & weights dependent upon the time of year and the species we'll be stalking. Just talk with me (via phone or e-mail) prior to the trip and I'll be happy to make recommendations...