Catch a Narragansett Bay weakfish this spring!
Looking back on the 2021 season, reports poured in from not only Rhode Island, but all-over New England of anglers experiencing their first ever weakfish bite. Although weakfish are not new to Rhode Island waters, they seem to be an elusive species for many. Over the past couple of years, Rhode Island anglers have been lucky enough to experience this bite in the late spring and early fall months.
Elusive Yet Predictable
Targeting weakfish is no easy task. Skill and knowledge of the species will play a huge role in determining whether you’ll hook up. Up until a few years ago, Rhode Island weakfish reports had been few are far between, but Rhody has a history of producing these fang faced fish, you just have to know where to look. Narragansett Bay is a popular area to target weakfish, with the Rhode Island state record caught back in 2007 weighing 16 pounds and measuring a whopping 36 inches. To have a shot of catching a weakfish of that size, you must become familiar with the species, their feeding patterns, and their ideal environment, or just get straight up lucky.
I called upon avid angler Todd Treonze to give some insights about his experience with Rhode Island weakfish, he told me “I like to target weakfish in two distinct areas, sandbars and bay-based channel drop offs, in either scenario the weakies love the moving water, particularly during the larger moon tides”. That explains the nickname, ‘tiderunners’. Todd also expressed the key to inshore weakfish is water temperature, “once the water hits 50 degrees the game stays on for a solid pattern-based bite for at least three to four weeks, and the key with weakfish is once you find them, they tend to come back to the same areas each year.” With that said, once you find a spot, keep it in your memory bank, these fish seem to be highly predictable once you learn their patterns. One thing to keep in mind when searching for new weakfish spots is to not always rely on your fishfinder to find the fish. Weakfish, especially the bigger ones, tend to hunker down and sit in holes, sometimes going unnoticed on your sonar, they’ve also been known to be boat shy. Other times, I’ve heard of weakfish marks being confused with a school of small stripers. It’s a lesson to not completely rely on your electronics, sometimes the best days come when we just go fishing.
Nuts & Bolts
Last season, I experienced the best bite in late May while fishing with Captain Joey from Woozy Fishing. After a slow striper bite, we headed shallower to target weakfish. Little did we know that we would catch one on almost every cast; it was a day to remember. Soft plastics worked the best, but you can catch them using epoxy jigs or metal jigs, small bucktails and even blood worms if you prefer using bait. I personally like using 5- to 6-inch paddletails coupled with a half- to 1-ounce jighead. Just enough to get my lure to the bottom, with a slow retrieve back the boat, occasionally twitching the lure every now and then.
They didn’t seem to be too picky with color, but you can never go wrong with pink while targeting these fish. Using the right gear is also important for landing weakfish. I asked avid kayak angler Tyler Richman what he prefers using while targeting this fish, he responded, “My ideal weakfish setup is a 7-foot or 7-1/2-foot medium action. You really want something with a soft bend to compensate for those soft mouths and mean head shakes.” Although weakfish can put up a pretty good fight, there name comes from there extremely soft mouths which can easily rip, making the gear you use another key to increasing your odds of landing one.
Making A Comeback?
Many New England anglers get very excited about catching weakfish and with good reason, many will go the entire season or many seasons in a row without catching one or even seeing one. Others will experience something magical, like kayak angler Tyler Richman when he told me “While tog fishing from the rocks last May, I saw four huge weakies, I’d say all of them were pushing 30 inches swimming in unison, fin to fin, almost like they were all one fish. They did a few twists and turns right at my feet before disappearing out of vision further down the rocky shoreline. Although I didn’t catch any of them, it was a unicorn encounter that I probably won’t forget.” Tyler had one of those right-place-right-time moments, we’ve all had them and these are some of the things that make fishing more than just going out at trying to catch a fish.
The new season is always uncertain, but with the right information, the right gear and just a little bit of luck can go a long way while targeting weakfish. After hearing Tyler’s story, it leaves me feeling hopeful that there are still trophy size weakfish lurking in Narragansett Bay. Let’s hope this weakfish trend continues into the 2022 season, I think Rhode Island is ready for a new state record.