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Fish Facts  »  Gray Trout


Gray trout, also called weakfish, are distinguished from other species in its genus by several meristic characteristics: the anal fin on gray trout have 11 or 12 soft rays, 11 to 13 gill rakers, and the lateral line scales number from 76 to 86. In adult gray trout the coloration of the dorsal scales are dark green fading into a silver underside. The coloration of the sides can range from spots of purple, green, blue, and gold that are generally found on the top half of the fish. The fins are yellowish in color. The basic shape of the gray trout's head is elongated, and it comes to a sharp point. The mouth is large and oblique, with the lower jaw protruding past the upper jaw. The dorsal fin of the gray trout is spiny, but the spines are flexible and usually the third or fourth spine is the longest. The anal fin is comparably smaller to other fish in the same family as the gray trout, with its base ending slightly in advance of the dorsal fin.


Gray trout are found along the Atlantic coast. They migrate seasonally in the relatively shallow coastal water of sandy mud bottoms, and then to the brackish water of river estuaries for reproduction and feeding in the summer, finally returning offshore in the fall (Virginia Tech, 1996). During the spawning season, the most important habitat for the weakfish is the brackish waters of the Chesapeake Bay (Lowerre-Barbiere, 1995).


During different life stages, the food selected by gray trout varies. In the larval and juvenile stages, gray trout primarily eat copepods, a type of crustacean. Young gray trout also feed on mysid shrimp and anchovies. As adults, gray trout are the top carnivore in the eelgrass habitat of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. An adult gray trout eats a variety of species, including annelids, mollusks, crustaceans, and other fish (Virginia Tech, 1996). One specific species eaten by gray trout are drums, which are heavy-bodied clams that are abundant in bays and estuaries.


From late spring through autumn, small boaters, surf and jetty fishermen, and pier and bridge anglers have a blast catching gray trout. Light to medium action spinning gear is all that is needed for gray trout. If you happen to run into a very large fish, just let them run. Don’t horse them in. Chumming is popular for catching gray trout. Tiny grass shrimp are the best chum. Throw a half dozen or so out at a time. Successful fishermen will throw a few shrimp out in the current and let their line drift out with the chum. After 90 to 100 feet, bring your line in and start over. If you are fishing with shrimp and you can keep your bait in the chum line, you have some nice, steady action. Some anglers get a hit every cast with this method. Artificial lures will also work. Any lure that imitates shrimp, crabs or squid will work for gray trout. Jigs, swimming plugs and darters are the most popular lures for catching gray trout. You can cast or troll these lures. Gray trout are good for eating, but their meat is a little soft. The meat should be eaten right away because it keep its flavor when frozen


Some gray trout grow as large as 15 pounds, but most fish that are caught average 2 to 4 pounds


This species of fish is indigenous to the Alantic coast of the United States, and ranges from Cape Cod to the shores of Florida (Shepherd, 1997). Seasonal migration leads the gray trout in a northern movement along the coast during the spring and then a migration to the warmer waters of the south in the fall. They are most abundant from the coasts of North Carolina to New York (Lowerre-Barbieri, 1996).


University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Animal Diversity Web

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