by John Skinner
11 years - that's how long it had been since the New York Islanders had won a playoff game on home ice, until this week. 11 years was also the amount of time passed since I landed a shore-caught weakfish, until this week. Are the weakfish coming back? Judging by the reports coming from the Hampton Lady partyboat fishing the Peconics, and word of semi-dependable shore-based weakfish bites in South Fork waters, there sure is an improvement. Weakfish are notoriously cyclic - going from times when they seem extinct to being almost plentiful a few years later. I watched it happen going from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. Yes, there have been localized runs on Long Island's western South Shore and in New Jersey almost every year, but the traditional spring eastern Long Island weakfish runs have been nearly non-existent.
So how can you catch weakfish? Generally with low and slow presentations. I've had three this spring, all on bucktail and porkrind combos fished just off the bottom while mainly targeting bass. The traditional lures include jigheads tipped with red Jellyworms. Among my favorite weakfish lures are 4- and 5-inch Storm swimshads in white. Bass Assasins, Fin-S Fish, and many of the fine soft plastic lures on the market today work well for weaks.
These can be a strange fish - stacked up on a fishfinder for hours and not touching a thing, only to have the whole school go on a feeding binge where you need only to get a reasonable presentation in the near-bottom strike zone. Although they're usually near the bottom, my largest weaks in the 13-pound range fell to surface swimming plugs fished in 5 to 8 feet of water, but now we're talking about the early 1980's - or the last time the Islanders won a Stanley Cup. Maybe both the Islanders and the weakfish are on their way back. It never hurts to dream.