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Gray Trout Fishing Tips, Weakfish, Summer Trout How To

A basic trout fishing tip HOW-TO for saltwater anglers fishing the USA Atlantic coastal regions. Learn about fishing for weakfish in the waters from Massachusetts to Florida. Learn basic trout fishing techniques and a few popular lures that are used to catch small medium and large gray trout (or grey trout). These tips ARE NOT for Speckled Trout or Sea Trout though many of the same tactics may be used.

Big gray trout caught in the Chesapeake Bay Very large speckle trout aka sea trout caught fishing in Louisiana

This is mainly a gray trout fishing tip, also known as weakfish and summer trout, for the Chesapeake Bay as the angler that submitted this tip fished the Bay but these same fish roam the waters around Long Island NY, New Jersey, and Delaware Bay that includes the Cape May area. Weakfish also are caught as far north as Massachusetts so this trout tip can be used in any of the local waters that weakfish inhabit.

How To Catch Gray Trout, Basic Trout Tips

How to catch trout and basic trout catching tips for anglers fishing for gray trout a.k.a. weakfish or summer trout in the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay near Cape May, and the surrounding mid-atlantic regions. Years ago big beautiful gray trout were one of the most plentiful fish in the Chesapeake Bay. I am talking about the big trout that usually weighed around 10 to 12 pounds. A 10 pound gray trout was common in the 1970's and early 1980's and super size trout up to 15 lbs were often seen. The styles of trout fishing ranged from jigging with a plain red lead head and white grub to using live spot to the hard working technique called wire-lining (trolling), which is how many of the super size trout were boated. Some of these techniques still work for gray trout but the fish are much much smaller, fewer, and farther in between.

Since that time of the 80's we have been blessed with spider wire which in most cases means you can toss the wire line which is good because wire lining along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was more like work to me! The red lead heads I spoke of have been traded in for new fang dangled jigs including jerk jigs (Gotcha plugs), fancy bucktails, and even rattle traps (yes), and using live bait will never go away I reckon.
(Red lead heads still work just fine if you choose to use them) Below you will find a few different rigs to catch weakfish.

Basic Weakfish Fishing Tip - Bottom Fishing Rigs for Trout

Bottom rigs Eagle Claw snelled hooks for bottom fishing. Common bottom rig for croaker fishing that works very well for catching small pan sized trout. Just MAKE SURE your squid strips dangle from the hook.

A basic trout fishing tip would include using simple bottom fishing rigs that would mainly be used to catch small trout. For pan-sized trout to around a couple pounds you can use a variety of bottom fishing rigs. You can make your own or use the ready made wire leader rigs that already have a place for 2 hooks and your sinker. (Pictured Left)

The plain two hook and a sinker wire bottom fishing rigs that one might use for spot and croaker fishing will work just fine when you find your self in a school of pan trout. (Follow the Head Boats) Be sure to use long skinny strips of squid that dangle off the hook. You will catch spot, kingfish (round head), and croaker but you will also catch your limit of small trout that are perfect for the pan fry.

When using a bottom rig like the one pictured you will use two hooks and a heavy enough sinker to make sure you HOLD bottom. Use the already snelled hooks like the Eagle Claw hooks pictured. Cut your squid into 1/2" wide X 2 1/2" strips. Hook them onto the hook from the end and they will dangle nicely for your trout. If you live in regions where shrimp is more popular or peeler crabs then you should use those baits that work best for your region.

Three Way Rigs for Trout

3-way swivel rigs Use this rig with a strip of squid to catch trout or flounder. Lengthen the lure leader to about 20 ft, use a 16 oz or more lead cannon ball, add a pork rind to your hook and wire line troll this rig along a bridge span for large trout or flounder.

For larger trout, 2 to 4 lbs or so you will want to use some type of small light weight bucktail, a hairy hook (see picture), or even a hairy skirt over your hook much like the "Old Salt fluke killer rig" for flounder. These flounder rigs or "fluke Killers" work well for trout, you can even put them on the top section of your bottom rig. Rig up with a three-way swivel and use about a 12" section of line for your sinker - shorter for flounder. Add your "Fluke(Trout) Killer" to your three-way swivel, if you make your own use about 24" leader. Bait up using a long slender piece of squid, at least 4" long and hook it one time on the end so it dangles and looks enticing. You may also use long strips of cut bait. Now go to your favorite trout holes and drift fish to get your trout limit or better yet catch and release all you want.

Chesapeake Bay fishing for gray trout lately has not been a winning proposition because they just are not very plentiful but should you find a spot that will yield some big boys you should try using live bait, preferrably live spot. It has been my experience that a live croaker will invite a striper in before a trout. When live bait fishing in the Chesapeake Bay for trout I have seen anglers hook the spot in the back, the tail, and the mouth. I prefer the mouth and for best results you do not want to hook thru both lips. Stick the point of the hook in the spots mouth and bring it up through the roof of his mouth and out of his head. Be careful not to come through his brain or you will not be "live bait fishing" for trout, you will kill your spot so stay towards the front of his head when you bring the hook thru. Lower your live bait down on a three-way rig similar to the rig pictured and be patient - if luck is on your side expect to catch trout up to citation size or bigger.

1 ounce lead heads used with twister tails and grubs Black twister tail White twister tail
Common lead heads with plastic twister tales. These rigs work very well for jigging straight up and down and also for casting up to the weeds or rocks.

Types of Lures and Baits

Trout fishing lures and baits include wide ranges and types of lures for many different styles of trout fishing. If using live bait is not for you and you aren't interested in or equipped for wire line trolling then casting or jigging artificial lures and baits may be the way to go for you. Casting lures up to pier pilings, bridges pilings, or other structures is a common practice for trout fishing. You can drift around an inlet bridge span or around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel if you are lucky enough to fish the Chesapeake Bay. With terrorism today most bridges have out-lawed actually tying up to the bridge pilings. (Mooring) But you may still anchor right next to the pole so its really a joke of a law. You can still get close enough to jig or cast around the pilings that hold big trout.

Gotcha Plugs sometimes called jerk jigs. Gotcha Plugs, sometimes called jerk jigs or jerk jiggers work well for trout and striper for that matter but are expensive and easy to hang up in the rocks or rough bottom.

Jigging and Casting

Bucktails or light-weight lead heads with a plastic grub or twister tail are the perfect trout lures for casting up to the bridge or pier pilings / pylons you may be fishing and heavier lead heads and Gotcha plugs work for getting down deep for jigging around rocky bottom or underwater obstructions.

Trolling with spoons and plugs has also proved to be an effective method. When weakfish are in shallow water such as rivers, creeks, or flats casting with steamer flies or plugs has also been proven effective.

If you choose to anchor up and trout fish then the most productive technique I have found to work is to cast your lures uptide and bounce them back towards the boat. When your lure gets even with or a little past the back of the boat its time to reel up and cast up tide again and like the previous time bounce your lure back to the boat. Do this enough times and you will hit a trout. When you are jigging while drifting you should try to maintain your line and lure as straight up and down as possible. You just lift it up off the bottom and let it drop back down, lift it off the bottom and let it drop back down until you hook up. Now Hold His Head Up!

FISHING OPINION Drifting for trout around rock piles or bridge pilings while jigging the bottom is a common technique. The less used what I think is the best trout fishing technique is trolling or "wire lining" for trout dragging a bucktail with a porkrind. This is much more like work but serious anglers don't mind "working for" the trophy fish and considering you also cover cover much more ground I believe you are subject to catch a much larger fish.
  • Casting for trout while anchored up is a common trout fishing technique.
  • Trolling, wire lining deep along bridge spans bouncing lead as close to pilings as possible.
  • Fishing with live baits which include pinhead croakers, spot, menhaden / bunker.
  • Jigging a lead head and plastic grub or twister tail while anchored or drifting.
  • For Pan trout use a bottom rig with #6 size hooks and long stripts of squid that dangle off the hook. (That's a number #6 size hook and NOT 6/0 or 6 ought, there is a difference - 6/0 hooks are way to large)
  • Night time trout fishing is probably the best time to catch trout - Jig or cast under the pier or bridge lights will get em everytime. Check your tides.
Picture of a weakfish also called gray trout.

Weakfish - Gray Trout Species Information

Common Name - Gray Trout - Weakfish
Scientific Name - (Cynoscion regalis)

Physical Description

The weakfish is a stream lined fish with a shape similar to speckle trout (seatrout) and is a member of the drum family (as are speckles). It has a dark olive to greenish-blue coloration on its back with its sides covered in shades of pale blue, purple, lavender, gold and copper. From the varied colors on the sides, the weakfish turns to a silvery white underneath. Like the spotted seatrout, the top of the weakfish is covered in black spots, which may form into a pattern of wavy diagonal lines. The lower jaw of the weakfish extends past the upper jaw, which has one or two visible canine teeth. Its mouth is yellow on the inside and sports a tongue with a black margin on the tip. The weakfish spot pattern distinguishes it from the spotted seatrout, because the weakfish’s spots do not appear on the tail or second dorsal fins.

Swim Range

Most abundantly located in waters of North Carolina to southern Maine during spring and summer months and as colder weather takes over weakfish will be more abundant from North Carolina to Florida. In the Northeast anglers would commonly refer to gray trout or weakfish as summer trout because that's the only time they were available on rod and reel.


Found in loose schools, primarily inshore, smaller weakfish prefer sandy or grassy bottoms along the surf and in bays, estuaries, inlets and lagoons while larger weakfish can be found around rip currents along rocks and bridge inlets and spans. In colder months, weakfish may move offshore to depths up to 300 feet. But overall, weakfish tend to move wherever their ideal temperature range and habitat meet.

Food Usage - Selection

Weakfish are omnivorous and feed on shrimp and other crustaceans, crabs, mollusks and small baitfish. Due to their diverse diet, weakfish can adapt to the available food conditions and will forage at different water levels, going deep if necessary.

Weakfish Sporting Quality

Although they are not overly big, catching a weakfish is considered to be challenging. They are not really surface fighters but make long runs and short unpredictable dashes. Weakfish have also been known to circle the boat but will usually head straight towards the angler and present the angler with a straight up and down fight. When fighting a weakfish it is very important to keep the line tight and slack free and ALWAYS use a net to land your fish. Gray trout have very soft mouths hence the name "Weakfish" and a hook will rip through his lip very easily.

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