Nice striped bass to 32 inches have been smacking topwater baits fished among the rocks at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel islands and at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. Trollers have also scored with striped bass. There will be renewed interest in wreck fishing when sea bass season reopens on May 19. While red drum, including real brutes to 50 pounds, have been caught in the Eastern Shore shallows, the drum bite is expected to blast off this weekend during the exceptional big full moon we will experience. Flounder have been hooked along the Eastern Shore and in a number of bay locations, and that action is expected to improve soon. Some nice gray trout have been reported, and tailor blues have been biting in lots of spots.
Red drum to nearly 50 pounds have been hooked, battled, boated and released near Smith Island, Fisherman’s Island, the High Rise of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT), and other locations. Black drum have been reported in Pocomoke Sound, while gray trout have been caught in many lower bay and Eastern Shore locations. Chesapeake Bay anglers have hooked striped bass to 42 inches at buoy 72, but interest in rockfish is not real high right now, as many anglers are focused on red and black drum, and flounder. Freshwater anglers on Virginia’s lakes and rivers have hooked up with largemouth bass to 7 pounds, strong numbers of quality stripers, crappie to as big as 3 pounds, walleye, yellow perch and catfish.
(Photo: A big, thick, magnificent red drum for dedicated TF poster Rodzilla! After several hours of fishing in three feet of water on the Fisherman’s Island Shoals and picking up nothing but thick sea lettuce, he made a move to four feet of water near the High Rise of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. “Within 10 minutes I thought I saw the tip bounce out of the corner of my eye. Pick it up and she is there!” After a quick photo session the beautiful fish was released.
Ken Neill reports in from tidal Virginia:
A great place to view this weekend’s “Super Moon” will be out around the shoals and Fisherman’s Island while fishing for big red and black drum. Saturday night’s full moon coincides with the closest the moon will be to the earth all year. It is also coinciding with the red and black drum bite. There should be a lot of big drum caught this week. The striped bass season is open again. Right now, you are allowed to keep one “trophy” fish, 32 inches or longer. Large striped bass can be found at the CBBT and around the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore. These trophy fish must be reported and the regulations will change again on May 16. Another regulation that is due to change in the near future is sea bass. With both sea bass and tautog closed at the same time, wreck fishing has been shut down. Sea bass will re-open on May 19. This will get us back out on the ocean wrecks where sea bass are waiting. Interest in offshore bottom fishing will also pick up then as the big sea bass caught out there will no longer have to be released as by-kill while fishing for tilefish and grouper. Flounder are being caught but the action has not been great for most. There have been some good catches inside the seaside inlets. Overall, flounder fishing should pick up this month. This is the prime month for speckled trout fishing in the Mobjack Bay area. Speckled trout are also available from Back River to the York River. Offshore fishing has been pretty good out of the Outer Banks with yellowfin tuna, dolphin, wahoo, and a decent number of billfish all being caught. There have been some bluefin tuna and big bluefish caught to the north of us. It is time to start looking for these fish on the sea mounts off of Virginia. Small bluefish are biting well inside the inlets and up in the lower bay. Spadefish, sheepshead and cobia are all fish we will start to hear about over the next few weeks.
The big red drum bite on the Eastern Shore is picking up with catches becoming more frequent. Some big black drum have also arrived. Smaller blacks have been here but now fish pushing 80 pounds are also in the area. The first big blacks have been caught in the seaside inlets. The “Cabbage Patch” bite will be starting any day now. When the wind has allowed, there have been some nice flounder catches. That has not been consistent. Flounder are being caught in all of the normal flounder spots with shallower areas (warmer water) being the best bet most days. 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 3rd Island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Back River Reef, Hampton Bar and off of 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 fish are being caught up in the rivers. Speckled trout are being caught in the Elizabeth River and in Rudee and Lynnhaven inlets. They are also some specks biting inside Back River, up on the Poquoson Flats, York River, and in the Mobjack Bay rivers. Small bluefish are biting inside Rudee Inlet and at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT). Offshore bottom fishing has been producing some good catches of tilefish and other critters of the deep. Boats fishing out of the Outer Banks are catching yellowfin tuna, wahoo, and dolphin. Even the occasional blue marlin is joining the action.
From IGFA Virginia Beach Representative Julie Ball:
With stiff breezes continuing this week, the spring Mid-Atlantic fishing scene is a little off since anglers are finding it difficult to reach the fishing grounds. When boats can get out, many are taking advantage of the spring trophy striped bass season which kicked in this week. Stripers are providing a good alternative for those looking for some variety. Anglers working topwater lures along the rocks at the islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT) are content with hits from fish exceeding the 32-inch minimum size requirement. Storm Lures cast around the pilings of the CBBT and the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT) are also working well. Anglers can keep one fish per person over 32 inches right now.
The biggest interest is still in the developing drum scene, and with the super-full moon at hand, a boost in the action seems eminent. Red drum are still providing some action among the shoals and breakers near Smith and Fisherman’s islands. The best action is still happening in the surf lines, where kayakers and surf anglers are taking advantage of this trend. Peeler crabs, blue crabs, and bunker fished on the Eastern Shore shoals and in the surf of the barrier islands will put you in the zone. These fish are fierce fighters, and can weigh in upwards of 50 pounds. Big stripers are also taking these same baits within the surf, with some rockfish pushing to around 40 pounds.
Larger black drum are becoming more active in the Eastern Shore seaside inlets and should begin moving onto the Latimer Shoal and the Cabbage Patch areas in larger numbers soon. This action will heat up over the next few weeks and the larger fish will become more common.
The flounder scene is still inconsistent within bay waters and around the CBBT, but some folks are finding luck around the First and Second islands. The best numbers of keeper fish are coming from the Eastern Shore seaside inlets, and back waters of Oyster where most fish are ranging to around 20 inches. The folks at Chris’ Bait and Tackle also report that flatfish anglers are also catching a surprisingly high number of nice sea mullet in these same areas. Both Rudee Inlet and Lynnhaven River are providing some good fish, with a few flatfish up to 5-pounds.
Speckled trout are also showing some activity within the Eastern Shore seaside inlets and the back waters of Oyster, with some topping 4 pounds lately. Folks working the Elizabeth River are also still finding a few keeper specks, along with healthy puppy drum. Speckled trout are faring well inside Rudee Inlet where anglers are experiencing good catches of healthy keeper-sized specks averaging 21 inches. According to The Fishing Center, anglers are also finding bluefish to 4 pounds within the Inlet and along the ocean front, along with a few grey trout and croaker.
Croaker are scattered around the lower bay, but the best hauls are still coming from the James and York rivers where squid and crab are doing the trick. Decent fish in the 17- to 18-inch range are biting from near the Coleman Bridge, York River State Park, and the James River Bridge. Anglers fishing from the Ocean View Fishing Pier are still filling coolers with nice croaker and big sea mullet ranging to over a half-pound. Bloodworms are the key for everything right now, with the nighttime bite the best.
Blueline tilefish to 18 pounds, wreckfish, and other deep-water species are still available in deeper water over 300 feet when the weather allows boats to reach them. The upcoming opening of sea bass season on May 19 has many anglers excited about making the run.
Despite dominant breezy conditions that have kept anglers close to shore again this week, the saltwater spring procession is well on its way. Once anglers can get outside of the inlets, the fish will be ready and willing.
The first species on most anglers’ list is still red drum. Some days are better than others, but a few good days with some boats releasing more than a dozen big reds is evidence that the bite is on the rise. As we transition closer to the full moon, the bite will continue to improve along the breakers and turbulent shallow water along the barrier islands on the Eastern Shore. Most are targeting these fish off Smith and Fisherman islands, but the catches are spread out, with fish biting close to the beaches in three feet of water, to well outside the inlets in up to 10 feet of water. Red drum are a local favorite due to their fierce strike and challenging fight, with some fish to 60 pounds.
Black drum hook-ups are also on the rise. Although most of the fish are on the smaller side, some larger blacks are starting to show more activity. The largest fish are still coming from up the shore near Quinby and Machipongo, but scattered catches are coming from the Fisherman’s Island surf. Drum anglers have a good chance of catching both red and black drum in the same areas, especially if both clams and crabs are offered. May is usually a good month for blacks, and Chris’ Bait and Tackle’s individual Black Drum Tournament runs for the entire month of May.
The flounder bite is still hit and miss this week, but scattered keepers are rewarding those who put in their time, especially in the Eastern Shore seaside inlets at Oyster, Magothy Bay, and Back River Reef. Around the lower bay, folks are finding the best luck drifting with cut bait and gudgeons around the 1st and 2nd islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, the ODU Reef, and off the concrete ships. Scattered keepers are available in Rudee Inlet, and decent flatties averaging 22 inches are coming from Lynnhaven River. A few bigger fish up to 5 pounds are also in the mix within the inlet, where fish to around 5 pounds are responding near the Great Neck Road Bridge and the Lesner bridges lately.
Croaker continue to bite in various areas in the bay, especially near Willoughby, Ocean View, and off the Little Creek jetties. The folks at the Ocean View Fishing Pier report good catches of croaker mostly in the evenings and at night, with anglers filling up buckets with fish up to around 14 inches. The biggest hardheads are still coming from the lower bay rivers. Big roundhead, blowtoads, and scattered flounder catches are adding some variety from the pier, where anglers are enticing most strikes with bloodworms.
The folks at Ocean’s East 2 report that speckled trout are still around, but anglers are mostly turning to other activities. A few specks are still coming from the lower bay inlets and the Elizabeth River, along with some nice puppy drum to 30 inches. Snapper and tailor bluefish are all over the lower bay, especially within the inlets and around the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT) this week. Anglers are also finding some decent gray trout and schoolie stripers mixed in with the blues at the HRBT on Gotcha plugs in the light lines. A few medium-sized sheepshead are also becoming active on some lower bay structures. The coastal and bay trophy striped bass seasons will also open May 1, with a minimum size of 32 inches or larger and one fish per angler, yet most will be more interested in drum and flounder.
A few boats reported good catches of blueline tilefish to 12 pounds, nice black-bellied rosefish, and a few wreckfish on a recent deep-dropping trip to the Canyon. Although dogfish are still around, they are beginning to thin out.
Virginia Freshwater Fishing Reports:
POTOMAC RIVER, D.C. - Fletcher's reports that shad, catfish, bass and stripers are eagerly taking baits above Key Bridge when water levels allow. In the city, largemouth bass are taking jig 'n pigs, plastic worms and grubs, rattling crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Lower tides are producing best. Try submerged wood, points, and drop-offs. Catfish are providing good action for shore anglers at Columbia Island and Haines Point. White perch anglers are loading up, using nightcrawlers and bloodworms. Crappie and sunfish round out the catches, taking small plastic grubs and small crankbaits. Bass are hitting plastic worms, grubs and jig 'n pigs worked in and around the hydrilla beds from Blue Plains to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Drop-offs are also producing bass on deep-diving crankbaits, Rat-L-Traps, chatterbaits and plastic baits. Channel catfish are hitting cut herring baits throughout the river, especially when fished on flats adjacent to deep water. Herring, white perch, catfish and stripers are thick around Fletcher's Boat House, although high water will probably keep anglers off the water. Crappie are being found around submerged brushpiles in quiet waters throughout the region. Washington Channel, the Spoils, and Belle Haven Cove are producing good numbers.
POTOMAC RIVER, BELOW WOODROW WILSON BRIDGE - Bass are spawning in the milfoil beds on the main river, south of Chickamuxen Creek. Arkindale Flat, Blue Banks, Wade's Bay and Aquia Creek are some of the better places for these beds. White and yellow perch are also seeking food in the grass. Small plastic baits and rattling crankbaits are the preferred baits, although small topwater baits are attracting strikes in the early morning. Catfish are taking cut herring and clam snouts. Fish flats adjacent to main river channels. Use stout tackle when fishing the channel itself, as trophy-size fish are resident here. Creeks are showing bass in the lily pad fields, and tightly holding to wood cover. With all the fronts that have moved through in the past week or so, the fish are a little skittish. Fish bottom baits very slowly or fish reaction baits. The water is heavily stained, so pick colors that stand out such as chartreuse, orange or black. Small baits are the ticket when cast or flipped on light line. Bass are actively feeding in the milfoil and hydrilla beds along both shorelines, from Broad Creek to Nanjemoy Creek. On low, outgoing tides, fish very shallow water with small, tight-wobbling or lipless crankbaits. On incoming tides, shift to the extreme outside edge of the grass-beds and fish with jig 'n pigs, Carolina-rigged plastic lizards or plastic worms. Use as slow of a retrieve as possible, or let the bait sit totally still. The bass will do the rest. Bass anglers are also being shocked by stripers roaming the edges of the grass-beds which have ambushed lures intended for bass. Rattling crankbaits are taking fish in swift-moving tides, on points and steep-dropping banks. Topwater baits are taking some fish early and late in the day. Bass are beginning to move into the lily pads in the creeks where spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and plastic worms are taking their toll. Sunfish are spawning in the shallows, where they find Beetlespins, small spinners and fly rod poppers to be irresistible. Yellow perch are thick on sand and gravel banks, and points. Small crankbaits and grubs produce well. Catfish are taking cut bait aggressively. Small, live white perch are also taking trophy catfish.
OCCOQUAN RIVER - Catfish are taking cut herring and clam snouts throughout the river. Crappie are consistent in the early evenings along the shoreline and around boat docks. Best bait is live shiners. Bass are turning on, with most fish taken on small plastic worms in shallow water or around wood cover. Bass are spawning in 4 to 6 feet of water on any available cover. Four=inch Yamamoto Senkos in green pumpkin, fished weightless, will take most of the fish. Remember to fish them s-l-o-w-l-y. Crappie fishing is good with small jigs and live minnows being the more successful baits. Catfish are taking clam snouts and cut herring throughout the river, at all times of day and night. Bass action is fair. Some fish are being taken from the back end of the river, among the rocks. Plenty of stripers are present in the river. Rattling crankbaits and cut herring are the preferred baits.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR - Largemouth bass are taking plastic worms in very shallow water. Fish the main lake points, casting onto the shore and retrieving back toward the deeper water. Crappie are schooled up and biting well. Catfish are taking clam snouts and cut bait throughout the lake. Fish the main creek channels on outside bends. est action on bass has been on plastic worms and crankbaits fished along the rock walls, on main lake points and in the coves. Catfish are taking clam snouts, cut bait and chicken livers. Crappie action is holding up well. Some citation fish are being caught.
BURKE LAKE - Bass are biting well. Lots of nice fish being taken on plastic worms, crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Most of the fish are in the shallows, with the best depth being less than three feet. Crappie fishermen are being rewarded with nice stringers. Some large bluegill are being taken from the spawning beds. Muskie are becoming active. Crappie are thick and biting well. Shellcrackers are taking nightcrawlers and crickets. Bass are hitting plastic worms, buzzbaits and spinnerbaits in shallow water near vegetation. Catfish are biting well on cut bait.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER - The tidal section of the river is producing good stringers of largemouth bass, striped bass and giant blue catfish. Bass and stripers are taking shad-imitating baits along shoreline structure, while catfish are taking cut gizzard shad or herring fished on the bottom in the outside bends of the main river channel. Crappie action is spotty, while sunfish are available on nightcrawlers and Beetlespins. Hickory shad, herring and white perch are being taken in numbers. Above the city, smallmouth bass are taking plastic grubs, spider jigs and topwater lures fished in the holes in the river channel. Herring and white perch are still in the river. Flyrodders are taking lots of hickory and American shad at the Route 1 bridge. Catfish are taking cut herring, fished on the bottom, in the outside bends of the main river channel. Bass are taking shad-colored crankbaits along the southern bank of the river, and plastic worms and grubs fished in the blowdowns. Plenty of stripers are hooked while fishing for bass. Above the city, smallmouth bass fishing is excellent on Tiny Torpedos and plastic grubs.
LAKE ANNA - Largemouth bass action is good for anglers fishing shallow points on the main lake or in the creeks. Topwater baits, early and late in the day, are producing good stringers. After the sun comes up, switch to plastic worms and grubs, jig 'n pigs or crankbaits. Concentrate in the shallow water uplake, but work the baits deeper as the sun goes higher. Bigger fish are coming from the willow grass beds uplake in both arms of the lake. A few walleye are being taken from shallow points on overcast days. Striper action is good, with most of the fish being taken on Sassy Shads, Hopkins spoons and live shad. Crappie are biting well. Best areas are around the bridge pilings and beaver lodges. Downlake, bass are on a post-spawn pattern where the water is clear, but up lake, males have moved back in the coves, while the loaded sows are still on points adjacent to the coves. Carolina-rigged plastic lizards are the most effective baits, although some fish are being taken on crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Fish the Carolina rigs in stump fields that drop into 8 to12 feet of water. Cast to the shallows and retrieve down the drop-off very slowly. Striper fishing is best early and late in the day, with Sassy Shads and Bass Assassins fished on the flats adjacent to main channel points. 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 - Above the city, some smallmouth bass are taking plastics, topwater lures and live baits. In the lower tidal sections, largemouth bass are orienting to creek mouths, coves and standing cypress. Shallow water and moving tides are the key to taking these fish. Blue catfish are biting well in the deeper channels well below the city. White perch are still available below the Dutch Gap Power Plant. Lots of nice largemouth are being caught in the tidal sections of the river, particularly in the lower creeks. Blue catfish are cooperating nicely on cut herring or shad in the river channels just below the city. Above the city, smallmouth bass are taking tiny crankbaits, buzzbaits and plastic worms and grubs. Catfish are thick and aggressive. Bluegills are spawning and viciously attacking almost anything thrown their way. Walleye are biting well around the Route 95 Bridge area, near the city. Most of the fish, 3 to 8 pounders, are taking crankbaits.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER - Fishing is picking up, but there is lots of boat traffic on the river. Lots of gar are being taken on live minnows around the dam. Largemouth bass, orienting to the lily pads, may be taken on buzzbaits, spinnerbaits and plastic worms. Catfish and bream round out the action. Lots of 3- to 4-pound bass are being taken on small crankbaits, plastic worms and grubs, and topwater lures. Big gar are being caught by anglers using large minnows in and on the edges of the lily pads. Lots of big bream are caught on nightcrawlers, while herring and shad are taken on small gold hooks and spoons at Walker's Dam. Catfish are taking cut bait throughout the river.
LAKE GASTON - Topwater baits are coming into their own on this lake, where largemouth bass may be taken almost at will early and late in the day. Bass are active in shallow water on main lake points. Fish plastic grubs on most points in 4 to 8 feet of water and spinnerbaits on windy points. Those bass that have left the beds are orienting to boat docks, where plastic worms are taking their toll. Good fishing may also be had in the creeks off the main river channel above the Eaton's Ferry Bridge. Striper action is good around the I-85 and Route 1 bridges. Crappie are biting well. Bream are schooling, with crickets doing the job. Fishing has been slow this past week, but striper fishermen are catching fish on live shad and bucktails cast up on the bank in the upper end of the lake, near the Kerr Dam. Catfish action is good for anglers fishing live shad on or near the bottom. Largemouth action is slow, but topwater lures and plastic worms are accounting for a few good fish in the back ends of main lake coves. Bass are trying to spawn amid the ups and downs of water temperatures.
BUGGS ISLAND LAKE - The most consistent pattern for bass is Zoom Centipedes in pumpkinseed or watermelon seed, light sinkers, light line, fished on rocky bluffs. Some bass are in the backs of coves. Most are suspended a couple of feet down in 10 feet of water. They are orienting to the willow bushes and downed wood. Buzzbaits and Zara Spooks are taking good fish in the early mornings, while plastic worms and jig 'n pigs flipped into the willows, or spinnerbaits in the buckbrush, are taking good fish during the day. Crappie may be found on bridge pilings and catfish are biting everything in sight. Cut shad or chicken livers in shallow water are the ticket for the cats. Striper fishing at the base of Kerr Dam is excellent. Fish to 18 pounds are not unusual. The key is determining when the gates are open. When only one gate is open, fishing is excellent. When more than one is open, fishing shuts down. he lake is stained at the upper end and clear at the lower end. Water level late last week was 301 and falling. Downlake, bass are holding in the buckbrush on points and in brushpiles. Best patterns seem to be topwater baits on points and along rock bluffs early in the morning, moving back into 8 to 12 feet of water after the sun comes up, with jig 'n pigs, Carolina-rigged lizards and small Yamamoto Senkos. Uplake from Clarksville, bass are holding on creek channel drop-offs and cruising the flooded gum trees. Better choices of baits include plastic worms and lizards and Yamamoto Senkos, fished nearly weightless. When fronts make their way through the area, the fish may hold as deep as 30 feet. Jerkbaits are also taking some bass, especially when fished very slowly right up next to the brush. Crappie are very aggressive and have been taking bass baits throughout the lake. Lots of dandy 2- to 3-pound crappie are being caught. Catfish are taking cut bait and most normal catfish baits.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE - Baitfish are moving onto the banks at night. This makes 9:30 to 11 p.m. the best time for striper fishing. Live shad are the best bait for big fish, but Cordell Redfins and 1/3-ounce Hopkins Shorty with bucktail are also working well. Largemouth bass are being taken on plastic worms and lizards in the Roanoke River arm of the lake, as they continue their spawn. Concentrate on boat docks, as far back under them as possible. Plenty of large crappie are also available. Excellent striper fishing around Cedar Key. Some of the fish weigh up to 30 pounds. Hopkins spoons, 1/3 ounce, are taking some stripers. Lots of 12-pound stripers are hitting Cordell Red Fins and Rebel Spoonbill plugs at night at the lower end of the lake. Bass anglers are catching good numbers of bass to 7 pounds. Bass are hitting spinnerbaits and plastic worms on rocky points and boat docks. Fish the drop-offs and ledges adjacent to boat docks, as bigger fish are about 20 feet deep.
SHENANDOAH RIVER - Bass fishing has improved with smallmouth bass taking live minnows, nightcrawlers and small, slowly-fished artificial baits. Largemouth bass are also taking plastic worms, grubs, jig 'n pigs, spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Catfish are becoming very active with cut bait, minnows and nightcrawlers taking the majority. Sunfish are popping on top and taking Beetlespins and other small lures.
That's all the action for this weeks Virginia fishing reports. Get out there and catch some fish!
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