University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

WDDE: Where did all the weakfish go?

Weakfish officially became Delaware’s state fish in 1981. At the time, this species of fish was so plentiful in Delaware’s coastal waters that locals established a World Championship Weakfish Tournament, which was coordinated every year by the Greater Milford Chamber of Commerce. As years passed, the size of weakfish catches plunged. Fisheries managers struggled to bring back their numbers and local fishermen grew increasingly upset.

Charles Auman is a commercial waterman and the owner of That’s Right, Fresh Seafood in Slaughter Beach. He’s referring to the late 70s and early 80s when the weakfish population exploded along the Atlantic Coast.

“When I was about 12 and 13, about 40 years ago, weakfishing was one of the biggest industries, or draws for recreational and commercial fishermen in the Delaware Bay,” said Auman.

The weakfish, also called sea trout, is a shiny, silver fish known for its soft, dark meat. John Clark, the state’s fisheries administrator, remembers how crowded Bowers Beach used to get in the summertime with fishermen.