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AKA: gray trout, trout

Description: Weakfish are dark olive-green on top and silvery below, burnished on the back and sides with purple, lavender, green, blue, golden or copper. The sides are flecked with dark blotches that form wavy lines running down and forward, but not into the fins. The fins are yellow, and there are two large canine-like teeth in the upper jaw. The spot pattern distinguishes weakfish from the spotted seatrout because the spots do not appear on the tail or second dorsal fins.

Size: Weakfish grow to 36 inches, but most catches range between 12 inches and 16 inches. 

Sometimes confused with: spotted seatrout

Habitat: Weakfish are found in coastal waters from Nova Scotia to northeast Florida but are more abundant between New York and North Carolina. They migrate seasonally, moving south and offshore in autumn and winter, and north and inshore during spring and summer.

Eating habits: They are an omnivorous fish that adapt to available food conditions. Smaller fish usually eat shrimp, crabs and small clams on the bottom, and larger fish eat butterfish, herrings and other fish.

Life cycle: The fish mature at age 1 or 2 and spawn during the spring and summer in nearshore and estuarine waters. Juveniles move from waters of high salinity to waters of lower salinity throughout the summer. They leave the estuaries by winter. Weakfish live as long as 17 years.

Fishing tips: Anglers catch weakfish with natural or artificial baits by a variety of techniques including bottom fishing and jigging. They commonly use sting silvers and spec rigs. The weakfish have soft mouths. Anglers should keep the line tight, yet not pull too hard because the hook could rip through the lip.

N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament

Award for harvest of fish, 5 pounds or larger.
Award for live release of fish, 24 inches or longer.

See the list of weigh stations

Apply for a release citation online


Persons engaged in recreational fishing in North Carolina coastal waters are required to possess a Coastal Recreational Fishing License in accordance with G.S. 113-174.2.

Current Proclamations

Recreational Size and Bag Limits

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