A few red drum have been hooked, battled and boated along the Eastern Shore. Look for that bite to get better with each passing day. The Third Island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel has been a good spot for flounder, which have also been caught in the Back River, at buoy 36A, the Back River Reef, and off Grandview. Speckled trout action has also been reported.
Anglers on the Rappahannock and James rivers have slugged it out with massive, heavyweight blue cats of 30 to 50 pounds! Excellent striper fishing has been reported in Lake Gaston.
(Photo: FishBoy OV8 and his friend Brandon put together a real nice catch of flounder near Bluefish Rock. “We trolled six hours and had a limit of fish up to 20 inches. White and pink worked best, tipped with bull minnows.”)
From IGFA Virginia Beach Representative Julie Ball:
Anglers are still dodging some breezy conditions. And now with some rain in the forecast, things can change up a bit after this weekend. But in general, when anglers can get out the results are good.
After ushering out the short-lived tog season with a boat on every structure last weekend, now anglers are turning their attention to the next big attraction, drum. Red drum action along the Eastern Shore is still emerging. Kayakers are still leading the way with big red drum catches in their typical early-season haunts along the surf lines of the Eastern Shore barrier islands. Recreational boats are beginning to experience more consistent action within the inlet off Fisherman’s Island with fish averaging to well over 46 inches mostly caught during an outgoing tide along the breakers. Several boats released over a dozen fish each. Smallish black drum to around 25 pounds are becoming more active in these same areas, and Chris’ Bait & Tackle is already stocking sea clams in anticipation of a possible showing of schools of larger blacks in the bay this weekend. But the best run will likely happen closer to May, just in time for Chris’ Bait and Tackle’s Black Drum Tournament on May 1, which is an individual tourney running for the entire month of May.
Although the spring fishery is on the upswing, flounder action has been spotty in the bay. The best bay flounder action is still at Back River, the bend at the Third Island of the CBBT, and along the Baltimore Channel in water about 45 feet deep. Scattered flatfish to 20 inches are also hitting baits for drifters within Lynnhaven Inlet. On the Eastern Shore, anglers were hooking limits of nice keepers from the seaside inlets of Oyster and Wachapreague before the latest front. And as long as the westerly winds lay low, action should pick up before the heavier rains forecast for Sunday set in. The best enticement is fresh stripped bait paired with a gudgeon on an outgoing tide.
The lower bay rivers are still holding the larger croaker, while the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and Ocean View are hosting good numbers of medium-sized hardheads, along with schoolie stripers and small trout. The folks at the Ocean View Fishing Pier report a good run of jumbo croaker to 16 inches at night on bloodworms. Large roundhead are also in the mix, along with scattered small flounder.
Snapper and tailor bluefish are all over the oceanfront, with fish to 16 inches also showing up inside Lynnhaven River this week. The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reports that tailor blues are keeping surfcasters happy while they throw from the jetties within Rudee Inlet, and scattered speckled trout and small flounder are also available within the inlet. Speckled trout action in the Elizabeth River is still slowing up, but fish are still available for anglers putting in their time, along with nice puppy drum.
When boats can get out, deep dropping species such as tilefish and grouper are still available in water over 30 fathoms near the canyon. As the dogfish begin to move out this month, more boats will venture out to try their luck.
Ken Neill reports in from tidal Virginia:
Drum are being caught on the seaside of the Eastern Shore. Well, at least some drum have been caught. So far, there have been about 20 large red drum caught and about 20 smallish black drum. That is out of everybody who has been fishing. One boat will catch four reds one trip and be skunked on their next five trips. Not a great bite yet. As we get closer to May, the bite should really pick up. Now that the tautog season is closed and the sea bass season remains closed, most will now target drum and flounder. Flounder are being caught in all of the normal spots with some boats managing some nice limits of keepers. There have been some good catches in the seaside inlets of the Eastern Shore. Back River has been producing some nice flounder. Buoy 36A, the curve at the Third Island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT), Back River Reef, and off Grandview have also been flounder-producing areas. Croaker and spot are in the bay and some are being caught. Again, not a hot bite but fishing will improve almost daily. Speckled trout are being caught in the Elizabeth River and in Rudee and Lynnhaven inlets. They are also some specks biting in areas like Back River, Poquoson Flats, York River, and in the Mobjack Bay rivers. Small bluefish are biting inside Rudee Inlet and at the HRBT. Offshore bottom fishing has been producing some good catches of blueline tilefish. Boats fishing out of the Outer Banks are catching yellowfin tuna, wahoo, and dolphin.
Reports from Captain Ed Stonich:
Tog - We ran a few trips and caught some nice fish but the season is now closed.
Croaker and Spot – It won’t be long before bottom fish are caught on hook and line. For those with young anglers we can include some time bottom fishing which is sure to keep the kids cranking!!
Flounder - The flounder bite is starting to heat up in and around some of the artificial reefs and structure in the lower bay, especially in shallower water which warms more quickly.
Rockfish - There has been some catch-and-release action around the bridge tunnels in the James River but until the season comes in next month not many people are targeting them
Drum - Due to the mild winter and early spring the big red drum are already here! Not many people are targeting them yet as they are in the shallows off the southern tip of the Eastern Shore. Those that are catching them are fishing the "breakers" of Fisherman's Island. There have also been some small to medium-sized black drum mixed in. For those of you who don't know, smaller black drum are delicious to eat! After the great success we had last year sight fishing the huge schools of reds, we can't wait to get back on 'em! The Smokin' Gun recorded over 60 citation reds last year for our customers!
We will start focusing on drum fishing in about another two weeks, but if anyone is interested in a skinny water trip to the shoals of the Eastern Shore I have access to a smaller boat that would be ideal.
Virginia Freshwater Fishing Reports:
POTOMAC RIVER, BELOW WOODROW WILSON BRIDGE - Most of the bass have not moved into the backs of creeks. Best action is found in the main river grass-beds and sand or gravel flats on the main river. Carolina-rigged plastic worms and lizards, in green and blue colors are taking good fish. Crankbaits are taking a lot of good fish, when fished on the down-tide side of points with good tidal flows. Bass are also looking to spawn in the backs of the creeks, where Rapalas, twitched around the spawning flats, will take some fish. Some fish are also taking spinnerbaits, rattling crankbaits and occasionally, topwater baits. Crappie are schooled up and taking small minnows and tiny jigs. White and yellow perch may be found on the bottom in the deeper holes in some of the creeks. Fish these holes with small plastic grubs, nightcrawlers and live minnows. Catfish are suckers for cut bait, particularly mud shad. Fish the flats adjacent to the river channel for the trophies.
OCCOQUAN RIVER - Herring, shad, a few crappie and good numbers of bass are being caught, even though the river is still a little high and stained. Herring and shad are found in the rocks in the back of the river, while crappie and bass are found near the boat docks and structure around the Route One Bridge. Catfish action is great throughout the river, with the larger fish coming from around the islands at the mouth of the river. Striper action is iffy, on large Rapalas, Rebel Minnows or Cordell Redfins. Some fish are taking Rat-L-Traps or Sassy Shads.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR - Water conditions were excellent before the rains, with bass beginning to spawn. Those bass that are not yet building nests are taking spinnerbaits in the back of main lake coves and on main lake points. Most of these bass are 4 to 8 pounds. Crappie fishing is excellent, with plenty of large fish. Catfish are turning on, taking cut bait in the old river channel.
BURKE LAKE - Bass are building nests all around the lake. Best baits are small plastics and minnow imitators, such as small Rapalas or Thundersticks. Crappie and bass action is generally good, with bass hitting crankbaits and plastic worms around brushpiles and points. Crappie are taking small jigs and live minnows on drop-offs and over brushpiles.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER - Big blue catfish to more than 30 pounds are taking cut shad and herring baits fished on the bottom in the outside bends of the river. Bass fishing has slowed, as the bass are beginning to nest. Herring, white perch and hickory and American shad are being caught around the Route One Bridge. The river is loaded with stripers. Above the city, smallmouth bass, primarily 2 to 5 pounders, are taking Tiny Torpedos.
LAKE ANNA - Bass are in various stages of spawning on the lake. Plastic lizards and topwater twitchbaits are the most effective lures, although some fish are being taken on crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Best patterns appear to be crankbaits on main lake points as far up the North Anna as possible. In addition, fish spinnerbaits around boat docks in 6 to 8 feet of water, tossing the bait up on the shore and bringing it past the pilings to the deeper water. Most of the fish will be taken from 2 to 3 feet of water. Striper fishing is best early and late in the day, with Zara Spooks, Cordell Redfins and pearl-colored Sassy Shads fished on the shallow flats adjacent to main channel points. Good catches of the linesided fish are coming from the Dillard's Bridge and Harris Pond areas of the lake. Crappie fishing remains excellent, with the tasty fish being caught on live minnows and tiny jigs around beaver huts, bridge pilings and suspended over creek channels.
JAMES RIVER - Smallmouth bass in the river above the city are taking live minnows, plastic grubs and worms and small topwater lures. The best pattern for largemouth bass in the tidal stretch is flippin' the standing cypress trees with small plastic worms, grubs and jig and pigs. Catfish action is good on cut herring and shad fished on the bottom on the outside bends of the river channel. The cats are running to 50 pounds, with even a few heavier fish hooked.
LAKE GASTON - Fishing is excellent, with striper fishermen catching fish on live shad, and also bucktails cast up on the bank in the upper end of the lake, near Kerr Dam. Catfish action is good for anglers fishing live shad on or near the bottom. Largemouth action is good, with topwater lures accounting for a few good fish in the back ends of coves. Bass are preparing to spawn in the back end of the warmer creeks and in main lake coves, but the water temperature is still a little chilly for spawning. Fish crankbaits and plastic worms between boat docks in the coves and creeks near the main lake for the pre-spawn bass.
BUGGS ISLAND LAKE - Downlake, bass are looking to nest in the back of creeks and coves. They are also on secondary points, where Carolina-rigged lizards will take some good fish. With the water level at 300 and water temperature still in the low 60s, the brush is just barely flooded and bass are holding near the buckbrush, around spawning sites. Above the Clarksville Bridge, bass are staging for the spawn, holding on drops in 8 to 12 feet of water where they are taking any kind of plastic bait, as long as it is not watermelon or green pumpkin. Almost every angler on the lake is throwing these color plastics and the fish have become used to them. Try a red, blue or pumpkinseed bait instead and see if you don't pick up fish behind them. Use the lightest sinker possible, as these fish are looking for a slow falling bait. Fish the backs of coves and pockets, particularly those with brush adjacent to a creek channel. With the brush being flooded, the fish will be holding tight to the brush, adjacent to the creek channel. Do not pass up "nothing" type banks. Just because they don't have cover on them does not mean there are no fish available. Topwaters, such as gold or teal-colored Rattling Rogues, will entice some bass, particularly early and late in the day. When the sun is up, toss blue flake Power Lizards into the middle of coves. Crappie are on brushpiles in eight feet of water and are taking live minnows. Stripers are up in the Dan and Staunton rivers on their annual spawning run. There has been excellent white bass fishing in the upper reaches of the lake.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE - Bass are beginning to go on the beds. Some are being caught in the backs of coves and on shallow banks on chameleon-colored plastic worms. The better bass fishing is in the Blackwater River arm of the lake. Stripers are biting well, with a 20-pound fish being taken on live shad. Crappie fishing is also excellent.