Weakfish (Cynoscion regalis), also known as gray trout, occur from Nova Scotia to Florida and are most abundant from North Carolina through Long Island. Adult weakfish are often found near the periphery of eelgrass beds, where they primarily feed on shrimp, larger zooplankton, crabs, other crustaceans and small fish. In the estuary, adult weakfish occur in schools and frequent shallow sandy bottom areas with salinities above 10 percent. Estuaries provide feeding areas and spawning grounds for adult weakfish and are as important as nursery areas are for juveniles.
Larger fish (2 years and older) appear in the most southerly point of Pamlico Sound in April and May with age-1 fish becoming abundant in the summer. In the fall, adult weakfish begin an offshore and southerly migration to the continental shelf from the Chesapeake Bay to Cape Lookout, North Carolina where they over winter. North of Cape Hatteras, spring warming of coastal waters prompts adults to migrate from their offshore wintering grounds back to near-shore sounds, bays and estuaries.
Weakfish spawn near the Hatteras Inlet and adjacent near-shore waters shortly after the inshore migration.
Most spawning occurs from April until June, with some fish spawning through August.
Larvae are found throughout the canals off of the Pamlico Sound.
The young fish grow rapidly in the canals through October.
When they reach about 12 cm TL, the weakfish begin to move into more saline waters.
Weakfish begin to mature after their first year and 100 percent reach maturity by their second year.
Size at maturity differs between weakfish found north of Delaware Bay and those found in North Carolina.
Northern females mature at 10 inches and males at 9 inches, while further south, both sexes mature at 7 inches.
Weakfish can reach 30 inches and live as long as 9 years.