Going back to sometime in the early 2000s, I landed my first weakfish when they invaded the South County, Rhode Island shore in the late summer. My initial experience with this beautiful fish came one night in August as I fished the dropping tide at Quonny Breachway. We had a pretty good bite going for a few days thanks to waves of peanut bunker that were flushing out of the pond every evening, and in the middle of a steady catch of stripers and blues one of my rock mates landed a weakfish. I had never seen one in person before this and was taken by its beauty. For several weeks after that first encounter, weakfish became a rather regular catch of those all around me while I couldn’t get through all the “pesky” striped bass and bluefish! I saw them landed on live eels, jigs, all manner of plastic swimmers and pretty much everything else being thrown their way so long as it didn’t come from me.
I arrived at the jetty about an hour before dark and found that I had the wall all to myself. I parked my truck above the high tide mark on the beach, ate my dinner, geared up and started casting just before sunset. My bag was packed with weakfish lures and I cycled through it all without as much as a sniff.
Long after full dark, and lit by the full moon over head, I began seeing fish breaking in the corner where the beach met the rocks. I was throwing a 3-ounce bucktail inside the channel and kept that rod in hand as I crept over the rocks to the water’s edge. Peering into the surf, I could see fish slashing through some small bait. I flipped the large bucktail out away from the rocks and retrieved it without a touch. I repeated the process several times, adjusting my cast angle each time, but I still couldn’t buy a bite. Getting frustrated, I swung the jig around hard for the next cast and the 30-pound mono quickly over-ran on my Squidder and the jig slapped down hard some 10 feet off the rod tip. As I began to attend to the bird’s nest I felt my rod bounce so I instinctively yanked back. I hooked the culprit but without being able to let any line off the spool thanks to the backlash, I quickly horsed the fish up on the rocks. I looked down to see a solid 11-pound weakfish. I ran the fish up to my truck, tossed it in the cooler, returned to the jetty, cleared the backlash and flipped the jig out into the surf. After several casts without a hit I decided to try what had worked before and I slammed the jig into the water with about 10 feet of line hanging off the rod tip and I was quickly hooked into another weakfish the same size as the earlier one. I landed it, tossed it in my cooler and went back to fishing. I didn’t land any more weakfish that night but I had gotten the monkey off my back, albeit in a rather unconventional way.
Not for a lack of trying, but it would be another 15 or so years before I next slid a weakfish onto the beach. Stay tuned for that story in an upcoming Editor’s Log, but in the meantime I urge you to go back and read the May New England issue of The Fisherman and check out Chris Wahl’s article on targeting weakfish in Southern New England. While they are not quite as common as some other species in our waters, they are a viable target and some very large (Dream Boat worthy!) specimens are landed locally every year.