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Thread: Great Article On Weakfish - They Actually Predicted The Recent World Record

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    Thumbs up Great Article On Weakfish - They Actually Predicted The Recent World Record

    The Wonderful World of Weakfish
    by Frank Ruczynski


    Dave's Weakfish This was the only weakfish landed during a mid-May trip to the Northern portion of New Jersey last season. Hoards of bluefish made getting a lure to any nearby weakfish almost impossible.

    World-class weakfish are heading towards our coastal waters right now! Over the next few weeks, our back bays, tidal rivers, and inlets will offer anglers a chance to tangle with trophy tiderunners approaching record-sized proportions. The current all-tackle record of 19 pounds 2 ounces is shared by two anglers; Dennis Rooney with a fish caught from Jones Beach on Long Island in 1984, and William Thomas with a fish caught in Delaware Bay in 1989. More than a few seasoned weakfish veterans believe that this record could fall within the next two years. Could we see a 20-pound weakfish?

    Life as a Weakfish

    Weakfish start life in shallow backwater estuaries. These nursery waters tender a perfect environment for young weakfish, as they offer protection and an abundance of food. Young-of-the-year weakfish will remain in these waters until they reach sexual maturity. It is believed that 90% of weakfish reach sexual maturity by age 1, and 100% are able to reproduce by the age of 2.

    During the summer months, juvenile weakfish grow rapidly and take up residence in the deeper portions of our back bays and sounds. The first signs of autumn bring cooler water and trigger a migration towards our inlets. As each day grows shorter, weakfish move southward and offshore to their wintering grounds. Many believe that weakfish spend their winters along the continental shelf from Chesapeake Bay to North Carolina. After a long cold winter, the first signs of warming initiates their migration back to our coastal waters, where a new generation of weakfish will begin.

    Soon after their spring migration, weakfish are ready to spawn. Spawning can occur as early as March or as late as May, depending on a variety of conditions. It is believed that water temperature and moon stage influence spawning more so than any other factor. Spawning females move into quiet sounds where mature males will fertilize their eggs. The act of spawning usually lasts a few days, as female weakfish release their eggs over a period of time, rather than all on one occasion. Once the eggs hatch the life cycle starts all over again.

    Window of Opportunity

    Big weakfish can be caught throughout the warm-water months. In New Jersey waters, mid-April through June is the optimal time to target the largest of the species. During a mild winter, rod-bending action will start as early as mid- April and last well into May. If we experience below average temperatures, the best action may not occur until the first week of May and continue through the end of June. As we head into July, smaller weakfish will filter into our waters and your chances at a trophy weakfish will diminish greatly.

    After years of experience, I've found the largest weakfish of the season are usually the first to visit our waters. A quick look through my logbook shows that my largest weakfish of the season are always taken during a time period of two weeks, April 26th through May 10th.

    During the early part of the run, concentrating fishing efforts around late afternoon or evening outgoing tides often yields great dividends, as the warmest water temperatures will often trigger weakfish to feed. As the season continues on, look for the best action to occur during low-light conditions.

    It is my belief that the amount of daylight, or lack thereof, triggers the migration of weakfish. While weakfish may be present in our waters now, water temperatures dictate when these fish will become active. Tiderunner weakfish have been taken in water temperatures as low as 54, but I've found 58 degrees to be the magic number. Once our waters hit 58 to 60 degrees, the weakfish bite becomes much more predictable.

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    Finding Trophy Tiderunners

    Locating early season weakfish can be a difficult task. Tiderunner weakfish numbers seem to have dwindled over the last few seasons, as many anglers are reporting their old "honey holes" are void of weakfish. Just a couple of years ago, anyone could hit a nearby piece of structure and load up on 5- to 10-pound weakfish. Today it's not so easy.

    There are many areas to look for tiderunner weakfish. Some of my favorites include; a deep narrow channel surrounded by flats, creek mouths, shell beds, underwater points, rock piles, piers, and bridge pilings. All of these areas have one thing in common; they hold tremendous numbers of baitfish. Grass shrimp, spearing, and small crabs will attract the largest of weakfish.

    These locales will hold weakfish at one time or another. As anglers it's our job to figure out each location's secret. The right place at the right time means everything! I've found that most productive areas will have a window of time in which weakfish will feed. In some places, it may be a fifteen-minute bite, while at other areas the bite may last an entire tide stage. For example, an inlet bridge may only yield a few weakfish during the hour around slack tide, while a certain creek mouth will surrender fish after fish over an entire 6-hour outgoing tide. This information can only be obtained by spending time at each location. Much can be learned, even on the nights when no fish are caught. Information gained while fishing these locations will prove invaluable as these experiences can be used for days, weeks, or even years ahead.

    The season's first weakfish will likely come from an area of expansive flats, where water temperatures are often 5- to 10 degrees warmer than surrounding areas. As the season progresses, rising water temperatures and spawned out weakfish mean one thing, fast and furious action! Once the water warms to 65 degrees, concentrate angling efforts around the deeper backwater channels and inlets. New Jersey's Intra-Coastal-Waterways are a great place to look for aggressive weakfish. Once recreational water activities kick into high gear, I suggest fishing for weakfish at night from sod banks or around lighted structure.

    Catching Monster Weakfish

    There are a variety of techniques used successfully to catch tiderunner weakfish. The most popular include; swimming soft plastic baits, jigging bucktails, tossing shallow diving plugs, floating bloodworms, chumming grass shrimp, shedder crab fished on a top and bottom rig, and a multitude of other live or fresh baits fished near bottom. While all of these techniques will yield weakfish, certain tactics will outperform others at a specific location.


    Tiderunner- This weakfish was taken during the early morning hours on Memorial Day of 2005. Getting out on the water before everyone else always pays off!

    Jigging bucktails and swimming soft plastics are my preferred method when trying to grab the attention of tiderunner weakfish. A variety of sizes, shapes, and colors make fishing with bucktails and soft plastic baits quite versatile. The amount of lead used will vary from one location to another, depending on current and water depth, but fishing this way is basically the same in most locales. More times than not, a slow jerky retrieve, bouncing the lure near the bottom will surrender a fair share of weakfish. Bubblegum-colored Zoom Super Flukes and white bucktails with a long purple/firetail worm attached will account for many large weakfish this season.

    Shallow-diving plugs perform well on tidal flats and around creek mouths. Bright-colored plugs work best during daylight, while dark-colored plugs work great at night. Over the last few seasons, a 5- or 6-inch black and purple Bomber has been my go-to lure. A slow, steady retrieve usually works best. Sometimes a quick sporadic retrieve will get results. Over the years, I've found the first and last two hours of a tide stage are the most productive times to use plugs.

    Chumming grass shrimp around shallow-water flats can make for some great action. Nothing compares to live grass shrimp, but frozen will catch a few fish too. Once fish are in the chum line, ravenous weakfish will quickly devour a small hook with a perfectly drifted shrimp or two. Fly-fishing anglers offering a shrimp pattern have found that the old bait and switch technique can be deadly on spring weakfish. One can never go wrong with grass shrimp. I've found that every desirable fish that swims in our backwaters will readily strike them. Remember to bring plenty of shrimp!

    Shedder crab hooked on a top and bottom rig can be one of the most productive methods used to catch big weakfish. When I think of shedder crabs, I think of the Delaware Bay and huge weakfish. The scent of shedder crab drives weakfish crazy. Shedder crabs are used in our backwaters and inlets with similar results. Shedder crab oil can be used in a variety of ways. The crab oil can be used to marinate squid strips or sprayed onto soft plastic baits for an added advantage. I've witnessed more than a few trips where the guys "dipping in the juice" out-performed others ten to one!

    Believe it or not, anglers using a bobber will take some of the season's largest weakfish! Many years ago, after a long night fishing, a couple of my fishing pals and I stopped into a Cape May bait shop to ask if there had been any daytime action. The lady behind the counter told us bloodworms were catching a ton of fish at the rock piles. We decided to take a chance and bought four dozen bloodworms. As we were walking out, the lady asked if we had any bobbers. I was pretty sure she was joking, however, she went on to explain that we should be floating the bloodworms just a few feet from the rock piles. Unsure, but not wanting to miss out, we each anteed up for a bunch of floats. On our way to the infamous Point jetties, each of us joked about catching tiderunner weakfish on floats. In our minds, bobbers were made for freshwater lakes and sunfish.

    Soon after arriving at a rock pile, one of my pals rigged up exactly as explained by the lady at the tackle shop. As we were standing there looking and laughing at that little red bobber it disappeared! My buddy set the hook and after a well-spirited battle, he landed a beautiful weakfish. Needless to say the rest of us rigged up floats and bloodworms within seconds and it turned out to be a very memorable day, as we all caught plenty of fish in the 5- to 8-pound range. While learning about the floats was great, the bigger lesson learned that day was to never dismiss a new technique.

    Future Expectations

    Most anglers would agree that last season's spring tiderunners were difficult to figure out. Not long ago, a 10-pound weakfish turned heads, but the 12- to 16-pound tiderunners stole the spotlight last season.

    It seems as though there are fewer tiderunner weakfish overall as each season passes, however the size of these fish has increased steadily. Those strong 1990's year classes are finally reaching their maximum size. The 5- to 8-pound weakfish of the late 1990's turned into 10- to 12-pound weakfish from 2000 to 2003, and over the last two seasons we've seen more than a few 12- to 16-pound tiderunners.

    If a record weakfish is to be taken, I think it will be this year or next. In my opinion, a 20-pound weakfish is a very real possibility! Much time will need to be invested, but I believe many dedicated weakfish anglers will take their largest weakfish ever, over the next two seasons.

    Many consider weakfish populations to run in cycles. Their numbers can vary from boom to bust in a relatively short time span. Commercial and recreational anglers have noticed a reduction in the amount of weakfish landed over the last few years; consequently I think it's safe to say we are experiencing a downward trend. Over fishing does not seem to be the problem, even though there is some talk about a one fish bag limit next season. Some believe that the large numbers of striped bass are keeping the weakfish numbers down, while others believe too many spawning weakfish are removed before breeding. I believe the low numbers of weakfish are just a natural occurrence, as suggested by those that believe in the natural cycles of weakfish.

    Regardless of why there seem to be certain year classes missing, I am concerned about the future of our tiderunner weakfish. Over the last three seasons, many have noticed a shortage of 4- to 8-pound weakfish. The general consensus is that once those strong year classes expire, large weakfish will be talked about in past tense only.

    On the bright side, many anglers reported non-stop action with sub-legal sized weakfish during the late-summer early-autumn months. With weakfish being such prolific breeders, it may not take long for them to come back in force again. We as anglers can help speed this process by taking only enough fish for the table and by releasing the fish carefully, giving them the best chance at survival.

    Let's all hope to see an increase in the number of weakfish during the 2006 season.


    Wading Weakfish - A bubblegum Zoom fished around midnight was responsible for this tiderunner weakfish. There were quite a few quality fish landed on that beautiful May night.

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    "Many consider weakfish populations to run in cycles. Their numbers can vary from boom to bust in a relatively short time span. Commercial and recreational anglers have noticed a reduction in the amount of weakfish landed over the last few years; consequently I think it's safe to say we are experiencing a downward trend. Over fishing does not seem to be the problem, even though there is some talk about a one fish bag limit next season. Some believe that the large numbers of striped bass are keeping the weakfish numbers down, while others believe too many spawning weakfish are removed before breeding. I believe the low numbers of weakfish are just a natural occurrence, as suggested by those that believe in the natural cycles of weakfish.

    Regardless of why there seem to be certain year classes missing, I am concerned about the future of our tiderunner weakfish. Over the last three seasons, many have noticed a shortage of 4- to 8-pound weakfish. The general consensus is that once those strong year classes expire, large weakfish will be talked about in past tense only."


    Wow great pics, thanks for posting! I can't imagine a 20lb weakfish, biggest I have ever seen was when my cousin got one around 9lbs. Up here in Conn, we don't seem to have good cycles. They are here one year, gone the next, so maybe what that guy was saying makes sense.

    We could all learn to be a little more conservative with our catches, especially the big breeding fish.

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    Nice post, Amboy, very informative. Lots of people think it's a mystery. There are many ways to catch, but the best advice is you will be making a lot of casts to hook up. Be patient.

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    Good articles. I have seen a decline in the bigger ones, good to see people talking about the future. They are highly cyclical anyway, sometimes maybe it's not our fault, but you never know.

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    Biggest one I saw this year went 15lbs. Good article, thankx for posting.

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    Default NJ weakfish are they really cyclical?

    Anyone have an opinion here?

    http://www.app.com/article/20090928/...tions+reviewed
    TOMS RIVER — After a brief, dismal 2009 season for weakfish, recreational anglers may be limited to catching one or two weakfish on their 2010 trips - or not fishing for the species at all.



    Working to expedite the rulemaking for 2010, interstate regulators held a telephone conference today to finalize proposed weakfish regulations. A public hearing to discuss those options will be held at 8 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Toms River municipal building, 33 Washington St.

    The proposed recreational rules include limiting fishermen to keeping one or two fish per day - compared to a daily limit of up to six fish now allowed in New Jersey. Another option is a weakfish moratorium - a virtual shutdown of the fishery that's a traditional spring opener and late-summer mainstay for anglers.

    Those options are a possibility now because of the "unfortunately grim picture of the (weakfish) stock right now," said Robert E. Beal, director of the Interstate Fisheries Management Program with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the interstate group that coordinates weakfish conservation measures.

    In 2008, total reported weakfish landings "at 1.1 million pounds were the lowest on record," Beal said. But in this case, it's not from overfishing, Beal and commissioners said.

    The weakfish population should be good, with healthy numbers of young fish reported in recent years, Beal said. But they do not make it to adulthood, meaning it's most like that juvenile weakfish are being eaten by more abundant species such as dogfish or striped bass, ASMFC officials say.

    "I don't want to give people false hope, if we put a moratorium on and nothing happens - and nothing could happen," cautioned Thomas P. Fote of Toms River, who represents New Jersey on the commission.

    Members of the ASMFC's weakfish management board agreed to drop one proposal for shorter weakfish seasons as an option. That would not necessarily save more weakfish, Fote pointed out: "There were no weakfish in New Jersey this spring at all. Then in late summer we had a big slug of fish."

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    Quote Originally Posted by cowherder View Post
    Anyone have an opinion here?

    http://www.app.com/article/20090928/...tions+reviewed
    In 2008, total reported weakfish landings "at 1.1 million pounds were the lowest on record," Beal said. But in this case, it's not from overfishing, Beal and commissioners said.

    The weakfish population should be good, with healthy numbers of young fish reported in recent years, Beal said. But they do not make it to adulthood, meaning it's most like that juvenile weakfish are being eaten by more abundant species such as dogfish or striped bass, ASMFC officials say.

    "I don't want to give people false hope, if we put a moratorium on and nothing happens - and nothing could happen," cautioned Thomas P. Fote of Toms River, who represents New Jersey on the commission.
    I don't know if I buy this whole assesment. Do weakfish swim slower than bunker, mullet, and spearing? Do they swim slower than porgies, blackfish, and seabass?
    Dogfish are nuisance predators, I would like to see the dogfish stocks cut in half. My gut feeling, though, tells me the pound nets and gillnets have more to do with the weakfish decline than the dogfish or bass eatingn them. Just my .02

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    The gillnetters last fall 1 in particular sold spike weakfish for $.02 pound for pet food. the same guy netted big breeders for 2-3 week straight this past springwhen reported it was told to me its all legal

    Pay attention to what history has taught us or be prepared to relive it again

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    Quote Originally Posted by cowherder View Post
    Anyone have an opinion here?

    http://www.app.com/article/20090928/...tions+reviewed

    Working to expedite the rulemaking for 2010, interstate regulators held a telephone conference today to finalize proposed weakfish regulations. A public hearing to discuss those options will be held at 8 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Toms River municipal building, 33 Washington St.
    This is a reminder that the public meeting on weakfish regulations will be held tomorrow in Toms River 8:00 PM

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    I can't even imagine one that big!

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    Quote Originally Posted by albiealert;4294Regardless of why there seem to be certain year classes missing, [B
    I am concerned about the future of our tiderunner weakfish. Over the last three seasons, many have noticed a shortage of 4- to 8-pound weakfish. The general consensus is that once those strong year classes expire, large weakfish will be talked about in past tense only."[/B]


    Wow great pics, thanks for posting! I can't imagine a 20lb weakfish, biggest I have ever seen was when my cousin got one around 9lbs. Up here in Conn, we don't seem to have good cycles. They are here one year, gone the next, so maybe what that guy was saying makes sense.

    We could all learn to be a little more conservative with our catches, especially the big breeding fish.
    The last 2 years saw a nice comeback of the smaller ones up to 10lbs. I don't think we will see the big tide runners tho for a long time. They prob ended up in gillnetter nets. Shame because they used to come in every year

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    Quote Originally Posted by albiealert;4294Regardless of why there seem to be certain year classes missing, [B
    I am concerned about the future of our tiderunner weakfish. Over the last three seasons, many have noticed a shortage of 4- to 8-pound weakfish. The general consensus is that once those strong year classes expire, large weakfish will be talked about in past tense only."[/B]


    Wow great pics, thanks for posting! I can't imagine a 20lb weakfish, biggest I have ever seen was when my cousin got one around 9lbs. Up here in Conn, we don't seem to have good cycles. They are here one year, gone the next, so maybe what that guy was saying makes sense.

    We could all learn to be a little more conservative with our catches, especially the big breeding fish.
    The last 2 years saw a nice comeback of the smaller ones up to 10lbs. I don't think we will see the big tide runners tho for a long time. They prob ended up in gillnetter nets. Shame because they used to come in every year

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    I agree. I fish for them in South Jersey and they seem to be coming back here. There are a lot of smaller ones about 1/2 mile off the beach in the late summer. Then in the Spring it takes them a while to fill in again. Something that puzzles me is if there are so many in the summe and early fall why don't they come back by the thousands in the spring? It seems we have to start all over again and half of them die or disappear.

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    I agree. I fish for them in South Jersey and they seem to be coming back here. There are a lot of smaller ones about 1/2 mile off the beach in the late summer. Then in the Spring it takes them a while to fill in again. Something that puzzles me is if there are so many in the summe and early fall why don't they come back by the thousands in the spring? It seems we have to start all over again and half of them die or disappear.

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    Default The amazing Weakfish come back!

    Theres a good article on weakfish in this month's on the water.


    www.onthewater.com


    What is unbelievably refreshing is how resilient the weakfish have proved to be.

    Considering in 2009 Dr. Jamie Geiger of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, suggested that the weakfish stock may have fallen to such lows that managers might wish to consider invoking the provisions of the Endangered Species Act as one of the management tools. The listing seemed like a sure bet. As any fish stock experiencing decades of unlimited commercial and recreational harvest would surely end up that way. A timely weakfish recovery was not expected by the ASMFC under any circumstances.

    The good news is they were wrong. With only three years of historic weakfish regulations (limited harvest) they are showing up in numbers not seen in decades along the entire east coast.
    The return of the weakfish in this month?s (May )issue of On The Water magazine covers it well.

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    Default The amazing Weakfish come back!

    Theres a good article on weakfish in this month's on the water.


    www.onthewater.com


    What is unbelievably refreshing is how resilient the weakfish have proved to be.

    Considering in 2009 Dr. Jamie Geiger of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, suggested that the weakfish stock may have fallen to such lows that managers might wish to consider invoking the provisions of the Endangered Species Act as one of the management tools. The listing seemed like a sure bet. As any fish stock experiencing decades of unlimited commercial and recreational harvest would surely end up that way. A timely weakfish recovery was not expected by the ASMFC under any circumstances.

    The good news is they were wrong. With only three years of historic weakfish regulations (limited harvest) they are showing up in numbers not seen in decades along the entire east coast.
    The return of the weakfish in this month?s (May )issue of On The Water magazine covers it well.

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    I have always heard they were cyclical. Last year I got a good number of them in Great South bay in September on gulp. More than I have caught in years. They were mostly small like 12-16". This year it seems the bigger ones are around a lot more. A pic of one they caught out of Captree the other day. Beautiful big fish.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The pressure on them is cyclical. When the numbers thin out and their harder to catch less folks fish for them and it seems like less are caught. When you hear of more showing up more will fish and it seems like more are around. Like a party boat with a lot of lines in the water will outcatch a CC with 2 guys on board. More lines in the water equals more fish. my opinion.

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    Only downfall i see to all these bluefish that have invaded the area is that there is probably gonna be a lack of weakies around(not like they have been any huge nimbers the past years)but i still manage to tangle with a few come May..Love those pretty fish!! Hope to be back out Wednesday with better results

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