Inshore: Yaking For Runners - The Fisherman

Inshore: Yaking For Runners

Kayak-Weakfish
The use of a kayak can help you up your weakfish game with its stealth-like movements.

Catch your next weakfish with the use of a kayak. 

May and early June are the peak months for spring weakfish and the kayak is the perfect platform to catch a “tiderunner.” In the past, old-timers would describe the inshore weakfish migration as “first in, first out.” This was an accurate description of the annual inshore to offshore migratory patterns of weakfish, where the weakfish were the first local saltwater species to move inshore and the first to migrate out in the mid-fall. It is believed that the first weakfish begin to move inshore in March. However, these weakfish are focused on spawning and feed very little. After the spawn, the weakfish put on the feedbags and gorge themselves to compensate for the lost calories. These weakfish are usually larger than the summer-run fish and the spring is often the best chance to catch a trophy over 30 inches—a potential Fisherman Magazine Coastal Kayak Clash contender. Using a kayak rigged with a GPS sonar unit is the best way to get on these fish before moving on.

Kayak anglers have the advantage over both surfcasters and boaters for this spring fishing pattern. For surfcasters, very few spots can be reached and the few that can require significant effort. In addition, the shallow water nature of the fishery makes boats somewhat impractical, as engine noise will scatter the schools of weakfish for extended periods since most of your fishing will be close to the boat. A kayak allows you to silently access most back bay locations, enabling you to work in schools for extended periods.

Spring weakfish are often found in back bay locations. These weakfish are congregated in shallower water than summer-run fish and are usually assembled in tight schools. That being said, you’re likely to find the best success   in waters around 15 feet deep. Weakfish will prefer water deeper than this if available in the summer months. Combined with some form of structure, these areas increase your odds of locating fish. You will not find weakfish as spread out as during the summer run but this often eliminates many locations such as inlets. Once you find them, spring-run weakfish will return to the exact locations from year to year. Marauding schools of bluefish will often push the weakfish out of an area for the short term but they can sometimes return even as soon as a tide change pushes bluefish out.

Tide makes a big difference with weakfish in the spring. The best bite in my experience occurs on the flood where the water is cleaner and the bluefish are spread out. For summer, the prime tide is the last of incoming and the first half of outgoing. Focus your attention from the bottom of the ebb to the top of the flood into slack tide for spring weaks.

Weakfish can be the ultimate finesse fish, making them a joy for the light tackle enthusiast. Firstly, rig one rod for vertical jigging and a second for casting. Your rod for vertical jigging should be approximately 6-feet, 6-inches for the kayak. My favorite rod for this is a St. Croix Triumph. Your casting rod should be longer and stiffer. For casting, I prefer the St. Croix Inshore Mojo. Having a solid connection between your fishing rod and the lure is important, so a light braided line is necessary. Using 15-pound braid is ideal but you can go to 10 pounds when fishing deeper water where bluefish aren’t present and you don’t have to worry about getting bitten off.

Put away your metal jigging spoons and teasers until the fall because many of these weakfish will be found in shallower water and plastics are the ticket to success. Firstly, start with a half-ounce jig head and rig it with plastic. I start with half and will either drop down to a quarter or move up to three-quarters depending on the tide. For horizontal jigging, use a smaller plastic around 4 inches. Small Hogy lures will work very well for this. For your casting rod, use a larger plastic that is at least 5 inches. My preferred plastic is the Lunker City Fin-S Fish, but Hogys and Bass Assassins also work well. But, having a fork-shaped tail often makes a difference. Color is more important and using pink is a stereotype that you will find to be true. Pink will almost always outproduce other colors. White or albino shad are second choices.

Investing in a quality fishfinder/GPS unit is invaluable for this type of fishing. Many holes and channels are often unmarked in nautical charts. Conversely, nautical charts can become inaccurate over time. Leveraging your sonar with your GPS will drastically increase your success in finding areas not accurately represented in charts. Further, utilizing waypoints is extremely valuable and you will find that the weakfish will appear on the same weigh points from season to season.

Using the tips and techniques mentioned above will help you with your quest of successfully targeting weakfish off the kayak and might land you the fish you need to win the Coastal Kayak Clash by the end of the competition.

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