from the surf
Many a savvy surf angler
knows that in the late spring and early summer months in the Northeast, it’s
a sure-fire bet they can hit the suds and tussle with tide-runner weakfish.
The weakfish population has taken a dramatic turnaround in recent years and
it’s more fun than ever to get in on the action.
provide the surf angler with a true challenge and, eventually, excellent table
fare. But in order to see it through from A to Z, one must first catch them.
Weakfish are notoriously feisty fighters with paper-like mouths that will rip
and tear during the course of a hard-fought battle from the suds (hence the
Horse them, lose them
The first rule when bringing weakies in from the surf is to play them out as
gingerly as possible, with a loose drag and plenty of patience. You don’t
want to horse them in or your hooks will rip out of their mouths in the
churning surf. Believe me. I’ve seen many a spike-toothed monster come off
in the wash when anglers were dragging them up the beach from the undertow. It
just isn’t worth the misery to horse them in. Take your time, play them
smart, and mind their mouths.
In the surf, weaks feed on all types of bait and it’s best to try and
“match the hatch” when they’re cruising through the surf-line. Mainly in
the summer and fall months, weaks will feed on a variety of baitfish,
including peanut bunker, spearing, rainfish, mullet and baby bluefish. They
also will hit a well-placed shedder crab, sand worm, or bloodworm from the
If there are plenty of bait fish in the surf-line, you can use a bunch of
different lures to gain the weakfish’s attention. For smaller fish such as
spearing and rainfish, throw out an AVA A-17 jig or a ¼-ounce Hopkin’s
spoon. If peanut bunker are around, throw out a lure with a fatter profile to
it, like a Rat-L-Trap or Kastmaster spoon, where the thicker profile better
mimics the baitfish. Time-tested lures also include any Bomber, Yo-Zuri, or
Stillwater plugs in the 4-inch variety.
When tossing plugs or spoons, look for cuts and sloughs in the sand bars, and
always try to hit the surf two hours before the high tide and the two hours
after the high. This has always been a prime time for surf weakies. Don’t
forget to fish at dusk and afterwards, into the night, because weakfish are
nocturnal creatures that will strike even then. At night, try to throw
darker-colored plugs, such as the black Mambo Minnow, which always seems to
take its fair share of tide-runners.
Get yourself a piece of 36-inch monofilament; tie a barrel swivel on one end
and a size 2/0 or 3/0 gold bait holder-type hook on the other end for a
floating-type rig. Use a slide above the barrel swivel and affix a 2- to
3-ounce bank sinker to the clip, so what you essentially have is a floating
fish finder rig. You can thread a sandworm or bloodworm to this rig for bait.
Surf fishing is one thing, but weakfishing from the surf is an art all its
own. Keep your eyes open during bluefish and bass blitzes when birds are
working the waters all around, there are bound to be some weakies mixed in
with all the ruckus. Just be prepared and you’ll go home with some
spike-toothed battlers for the frying pan. -- Story by Nick Magnum