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Jamaica Bay/NY Bight Weakfish
By Rich Johnson

The last couple of seasons, have seen the quiet resurgence of weakfishing in the Jamaica Bay and NY Bight areas. Readers may have picked up on it in the fishing reports from my radio show, “The Fishing Line” and unless you’ve been living in a cave, the word weakfish has spread around the entire Island as well. The Cynoscion regalis, or squeteague as it’s sometimes called, has been making a quiet comeback of late and the action should be red hot this year too.

HOT SPOTS. The Floyd Bennett Field area is very good for incoming action and the world famous Silver Hole of Jamaica Bay is better on the outgoing tides. However, nothing is set in stone and it pays to go against the rules once in a while. The southeastern tip of Floyd Bennett Field, just a couple of hundred yards from the Marine Parkway Bridge is a dynamite area just 100 yards uptide from the first of two, eastern facing ramps.

Farther down the beach to the north, closer to the second of the eastern ramps around the #5 can (green), the water is much deeper, close to 40 feet! The #13 buoy (green) that heads the way on the turn north into Mill Basin, Brooklyn is also another spot you have to try. The Raritan East Channel in Raritan Bay and the Sandy Hook Channel in Sandy Hook are both excellent areas for weakfish too! Here look for them to be stacked up on the channel edges from 15 to 35-foot of water. Worms or diamond jigs will catch tiderunner weaks here.

TACKLE.  Since weakfish here tend to stack up in the deeper holes of the bay, 40 to 50 feet and more, the tackle choice needs to be a touch stouter in nature. Most anglers to the east are used to light tackle outfits and bucktailing shallow water for weakfish in the State Channel.  In some areas we fished with as little as four ounces of lead and other areas where the current moves, as much as six or seven ounces are needed. This can be particularly true around the new or full moon periods. For the most part though, weakfish here want meat, a.k.a. large sandworms, so light tackle anglers may want to keep the limber stuff and their bucktails at home.

I use seven-foot Seeker or Fenwick rods. They could translate to heavy-duty freshwater musky rods as well, with line recommendations of 15 to 40-pound test. In saltwater terms, I would rate it as medium action along the lines of a deep-water fluke outfit. These rods allow me the sensitivity to feel even the slightest weakfish nibble and enough backbone to handle roaming bluefish and bass. However, these rods have a lighter tips than a deep water sinker bouncing rod used for sea bass & blackfish. As for reels and line, I choose the Abu-Garcia Ambassaduers like the 5600 and 6500 ultra cast series spooled with 12 to 15-pound test Berkley Big Game line.

RIGGING. If you have been weakfishing for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the 3X3 rig. A three way swivel with three feet to the sinker and three feet of leader to the hook. In this neck of the woods, the 3X3 is thrown out the window completely. In the Jamaica Bay and Floyd Bennett area they use a completely different rig.  This is custom tied by the thousands at Capt. Hooks B&T in Howard Beach and is also available at Smitty’s Fishing Station in Broad Channel.

The total length of the entire rig is only 25 inches from barrel swivel to sinker snap. The leadered hook is only 15 inches above the sinker and the hook is only seven to eight inches from the leader rig. This rig offers less chance of a pick up and swimming three feet before you feel the fish. With this shortened leader to the hook, no matter which direction the fish turns, you feel the bite instantly, giving you more hook setting chances, thus increasing your catch rate.

We change the rig slightly when fish feed higher in the water column. The only change is the placement of the leadered hook up in the water column, taking advantage of feeding fish. The baited hook is now three to four feet up the rig and off the bottom. The key here is the same seven to eight inches of leeway a fish has to swim after taking the bait. With both of these rigs, I find no missed strikes or pickup’s and the only time you may lose a fish, is because the fish only had the tail end of the very large sandworms we were using.

CONCLUSION.   Weakfishing in this area will last through September and if the weather and water temperatures hold, into early October. When weakfishing with this amount of action, don’t sell yourself short. Make sure you bring at least a flat of sandworms. You’ll save money buying them this way and won’t have to make an unnecessary trips back to the bait shop.

If you have some left over, make sure you change the paper in the bottom of the flat and store them in the refrigerator at home. Remember, there is a six fish bag limit with a 16-inch minimum size in NY waters. When action is this good, don’t settle for 16 inchers, sort through them and you’ll find those 4 to 7 pounders! See you on the water!

Copyright May 6, 1995-2020 The Fishing Line

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