Return of Cape May’s Weakfish 2013

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Cape May, NJ – There’s been a local fishing mystery this year that no one has solved.  Andrew Ewing isn’t the only Cape May angler surprised by this year’s abundance of weakfish.

After almost disappearing from our waters in the last few years,  a decent run of good sized weakies have surprised and delighted  anglers up and down the southern Jersey shore this  season.   The early fish were good-sized, with many going more than 25 inches long.

Weakfish used to be THE fish of spring.  Weakfish anglers would line the jetties at Cape May Point.  It was a given that almost any angler could catch a few from the beach or from a charter boat.

Then, one spring, they were gone.

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This year, they came back in a big way.  Within two hours during one spring fishing trip,  Capt. Ray Szulczewski of the charter boat Tiderunner in Cape May and Peter Cole, also from Cape May, landed about 20 fish ranging in size from 20 to 24 inches.

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They released all the fish back into the water. Today  many anglers are practicing catch and release -  fish are returned to the water alive, so that  the population continues to grow.

Capt. Ken Kelly of the Irish Fly charter boat also did well with weakies this spring.  During one late May trip, Capt. Ken put his fares onto 34 weakfish, some of which weighed nearly five pounds.

Since the big spring run, weakies have been fewer and smaller in numbers, although they are still around.

As anglers prepare for Cape May’s fall fishing season, the big question is whether the big weakies will be back.

Because of the fish’s scarcity over the past few years, the New Jersey fisheries authorities have set a limit of one 13 inch or larger weakfish per angler per day.  Those regulations may have helped the weakfish population grow healthier.

Whether that’s enough to turn around the decline of these yellow-finned beauties for good,  anglers will find out  this fall.

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About Paul Kerlinger

Paul Kerlinger, Ph.D. is a scientist, author and nationally known expert on bird migration. He's done extensive studies on hawks, Snowy Owls and neotropical song birds. Kerlinger is the former director of the Cape May Bird Observatory, His books include How Birds Migrate and Flight Strategies of Migrating Hawks. He's an ardent fly fisherman and organic vegetable gardener.