The drum beat is on in Virginia! Massive red drum to more than 50 inches are now on the feed on Eastern Shore shoals and in inlets. Anglers have also enjoyed big-game action with black drum at a number of locations in the bay. Striped bass season is open and sea bass season opens May 19. Big rockfish to more than 44 inches have been reported in the past week. Sight fishing for cobia has been fast and furious in North Carolina and anglers in Virginia are anxiously anticipating their arrival in the lower bay.
(Photo: “Everyone caught reds” plus big black drum provided action one recent evening on the lower end of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, according to Captain Ken Neill on the Healthy Grin. “Sunset through sunrise. Seven reds to 48.5 inches. Broke off one and pulled off another. Red Eye caught four blacks at buoy 13 to 48 inches. Wineman had 10 reds.” Ken said the hot spots were Fisherman’s Island, 9-Foot Shoal, and Nautilus Shoal.)
Ken Neill reports in from tidal Virginia:
While they have been here for more than a month, this past week the drum bite really turned on. Red drum were caught in the surf of Fisherman’s and Smith islands, on Nautilus and 9-Foot shoals and in the buoy 10 area. Black drum were caught at buoys 16, 13, and 10. Striped bass trophy season is open. You are allowed to keep one “trophy” fish, 32 inches or longer. Large striped bass can be found at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT) and around the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore. Check the regulations. These trophy fish must be reported and the regulations will change again on May 16. Sea bass will re-open on May 19. This will get us back out on the ocean wrecks where the sea bass are waiting. Interest in offshore bottom fishing will also pick up as the big sea bass caught out there will no longer have to be released as by-kill while fishing for tilefish and grouper. The grouper and tilefish action has been good. The golden tile bite has been particularly good. Remember that you have to have a Tilefish/Grouper Permit and must report each tilefish and grouper that you catch. Flounder are being caught but the action has not been great. There have been some good catches inside the seaside inlets. This is the prime month for speckled trout fishing in the Mobjack Bay area and the rivers there have been producing some nice speckled trout. Offshore fishing has been pretty good out of the Outer Banks with yellowfin tuna, dolphin, wahoo, and a decent number of billfish being caught. There have been a few tuna caught out of Virginia but not many boats have been making the run. Small bluefish are biting 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. Like our drum fishery, cobia showed over a month ago at Hatteras but did not develop into much until now. The sight fishery from Cape Hatteras to Cape Lookout has really taken off. We should be seeing some fish in the bay in a couple of weeks.
From IGFA Virginia Beach Representative Julie Ball:
The best inshore action came from the eastern side of the bay where drum and flounder stepped up to the plate. The drum scene is still heating up, with an escalation in black drum activity within bay waters adding to the momentum. According to the folks at Chris’ Bait and Tackle, larger black drum are now beginning to show in their usual haunts along the bayside area of the Eastern Shore. Blacks pushing to over 46-inches are taking chowder and sea clams between buoys 13 and 16 along Latimer Shoal and near Nautilus Shoal. Black drum action should continue to improve over the next week or so, providing plenty of opportunities to enter Chris’ Individual Black Drum Tournament, which runs May 1st-31st.
Big red drum are still patrolling the breakers off of Smith and Fisherman’s Island, with the incoming tide providing the best results lately. Surf anglers are still faring very well on the reds from Smith and Myrtle islands, with good-sized striped bass to over 41inches also taking offerings. Red drum action is also picking up along the Nine-Foot Shoal area, especially in the evenings. Both peelers and blue crabs are working well, but bunker will also get the job done.
The bay’s spring trophy striped bass season is going well, but be sure to check the regulations closely and note that these fish must be reported. Anglers are experiencing excellent striper action all over the lower bay when they can get out. Top-water action is the most popular method to entice fish exceeding the current 32-inch minimum size requirement, especially along the pilings and islands of the CBBT and the HRBT at dawn. Boats are also reporting catches of rockfish while bottom fishing for drum near Fisherman’s Island, with a few exceeding 44 inches. Kendall Osborne of Virginia Beach earned a state release citation with an impressive 44 inch rockfish caught on the fly while working the CBBT.
Flounder action around the CBBT still has room for improvement, and the recent cold front and heavy rain is not likely to help. But anglers working the various lower bay and Eastern Shore inlets and shallow backwater areas are finding some keepers. Both Rudee Inlet and Lynnhaven River are providing some good fish, with a few flatfish up to 23-inches. Limits of decent flatties ranging from 3 to 5 pounds are also still coming from the seaside inlets out of Wachapreague and Oyster.
Bluefish are still the word along the Virginia Beach ocean front and inside Rudee Inlet where anglers are experiencing good catches of decent blues to 5 pounds. The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reports that anglers are also catching good numbers of speckled trout within Rudee Inlet lately, with any color grub doing the trick. The Elizabeth River is still producing some speck action, and a few fish are also hitting within the Eastern Shore seaside inlets and the back waters of Oyster.
Surf and pier anglers are pulling small spot, sea mullet and medium-sized croaker out of the surf line off Ocean View and Little Creek. Nice-sized sea mullet are also still active on the Eastern Shore seaside inlets and off Kiptopeke. The big croaker continue to come from the James and York rivers on squid and crab with decent hardheads in the 17-inch range filling coolers from near the Coleman Bridge, York River State Park, and the oyster beds near the James River Bridge.
Although most anglers are more interested in inshore species, the deep-dropping scene will attract more attention when sea bass become legal again on May 19. As the dogfish begin to move out, more boats will target tilefish, black-bellied rosefish and grouper along the canyon edges.
Offshore fishing will begin to improve this month as the action off Carolina moves northward. The fleets out of Oregon Inlet are finding yellowfin tuna, wahoo, and dolphin along with a few billfish in the mix.
Virginia Saltwater Reports by Charlie Taylor:
CHINCOTEAGUE - Improved flounder fishing. Best action is behind Wallops Island near buoy 4 and 5. Lots of skates and some small grey trout are also being caught. Queens Sound is another productive area, with drifted squid and minnow combinations producing the better catches. The surf at Assateague Island has finally begun to produce a few bluefish and sand sharks on cut bait.
WACHAPREAGUE - Good action for flounder at Green and Drawing channels and Bradford and Burton's bays. Large speckled trout are being caught at Parkers Island. The area around Paramour Island is producing some black and Red drum. Offshore, the artificial reefs and wrecks continue to produce excellent fishing for sea bass. Bluefish remain plentiful near buoy 10, approximately eight miles from the Inlet. A few large false albacore have begun to filter into the same area. Some channel bass have been caught closer to shore, trolling Pet spoons.
ONANCOCK - A few 3- to 9-pound grey trout are being caught in the deeper holes, but the best action has been from speckled trout. Anglers fishing the shallow grass flats around Parkers, Fox, Watts and Half Moon islands in the evenings, with peeler crab, are catching some large speckled trout and a surprising number of channel bass. The channel bass are running from 30 to 40 pounds. Black drum fishing has been excellent for anglers bottom fishing for croaker, but most are lost on the light tackle. Croaker to three pounds are taken in 17 to 23 feet of water, along with some grey trout. Taylor blues, blowfish and sea mullet round out the catches.
QUINBY - Good flounder fishing, with most of the fish averaging 2 to 3 pounds. The North Channel and the Coast Guard Station have been the best spots.
CAPE CHARLES - Excellent catches of black drum are being made near buoy 16, as well as at the Cabbage Patch, and a few are showing behind Fishermans Island. The best drum fishing has been during the evening tide in 40 to 70 feet of water. Increasing numbers of grey trout are showing just north of the Concrete Ships and around the High Rise of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Most anglers are having better success while jigging small spoons and bucktails. Continued action for channel bass near Fisherman Island. Croaker and flounder are biting well inside and north of the Cell, while fair numbers of flounder are found around Plantation Light.
LOWER CHESAPEAKE BAY AREA - Flounder fishing is very good at the Second Island, Small Boat Channel and Baltimore Channel. Black and red drum are being caught throughout the area, with Latimer Shoals and Inner Middle Grounds being the better areas. Limits of stripers are available all along the Bay Bridge Tunnel complex. Big bluefish moved in at Poquoson Flats. The Third and Fourth islands are giving up a few grey trout. Other good areas for trout are Bluefish Rock, Plum Tree Bar and Twin Stakes, while flounder anglers prefer areas off Fort Monroe and Factory Point. A huge school of large spadefish, to 8 pounds, has been hanging around the Tower Reef, with lots of release citations being issued for the fish. Inside the York River, at the Amoco Pier and off Cheatham Annex, bottom fishermen are catching good number of croaker, to 3pounds, and lots of nice trout. Flounder are starting to show off Tue Marsh Light. Speckled trout action is excellent in Mobjack Bay.
MIDDLE CHESAPEAKE BAY AREA - Chummers are taking limits of stripers along the channel edges from buoy 62 northward. Some of these boats are releasing over 50 stripers, in addition to their limits. A few taylor blues are showing in the chum slicks. Flounder fishing is good to excellent in the vicinity of the Cell, around buoy 42 and around the Wicomico light and jetty. Bottom fishermen are making good catches of big croaker and grey trout on the upriver side of the Route 3 Bridge on the Rappahannock River. Croaker and catfish are biting well around buoys 18 and 19 on the Rappahannock River. Large croaker are just about everywhere in the bay this week. "Drop a baited hook and hold on" are the instructions issued to anglers.
VIRGINIA BEACH - Offshore action is limited to chopper bluefish, yellowfin tuna and false albacore at the Fish Hook, Bluefish Alley, Boomerang and the Hot Dog. Otherwise, anglers are opting to fish for flounder, to 4 pounds, right at the jetties or head to the CBBT and fish for stripers. Headboats are taking sea bass over the ocean wrecks and the reefs.
JAMES RIVER - Croaker are the best bet here, with catfish and occasional school-sized stripers seen in the catches.
LYNNHAVEN - Best bet here is bluefish. The fish are running to 3 pounds and may be taken on Gotchas. Other catches consist of sea mullet, flounder, spot and croaker.
VIRGINIA BEACH - Bottom fishermen are catching spot and croaker, with pier sea mullet and trout mixed in. Taylor blues are showing an hour before flood tide. Spanish mackerel put in an appearance this week.
SANDBRIDGE - Excellent runs of spot, croaker and blowfish, with skates hitting at any time and Spanish mackerel and 1- to 5-pound bluefish frequent visitors.
Virginia Freshwater Fishing Reports:
POTOMAC RIVER, D.C. - Main river and shallow creek weed-beds are producing nice tidal river bass on worms, grubs and jig 'n pigs. Occasionally, largemouth will take a topwater bait worked slowly along the edge of weed-beds. Deep-diving crankbaits, plastic worms and spinnerbaits are working well for largemouth along drop-offs adjacent to sandy or gravel banks. Crappie are schooled along creek channels and around flooded brush. Sunfish are beginning to hit well on nightcrawlers, tiny grubs, beetle spins and fly rod poppers. Catfish are slamming cut herring baits and clam snouts. Herring and shad are still available in the channel and cove at Fletcher's Boathouse, when the swift current allows boating. White perch are still available, but in smaller sizes and numbers. Striped bass are being caught on bucktails, cut bait and crab baits throughout the city waters.
POTOMAC RIVER, BELOW WOODROW WILSON BRIDGE - Bass are still foraging in the milfoil and emerging hydrilla beds in the main river. Some of the better beds are in Mattawoman and Chickamuxen creeks and on the main river, below Mattawoman Creek on the Maryland shoreline. Mallows Bay is also producing well. Some bass have already spawned. Seek out shallow, sandy or gravel banks with good tidal movement, and fish Carolina-rigged lizards, slowly on the deep end of the drop. White and yellow perch are seeking food in the grass. Berkley Power Worms, Zoom lizards and rattling crankbaits are the preferred baits, although topwater baits are attracting strikes in the early morning. A few pickerel are available in the backs of the lower tidal creeks. Spinnerbaits and plastic baits fished in the lily pad edges are taking these fish. 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.
OCCOQUAN RIVER - A few bass are being taken from the northern shore of the river as well as in Belmont Bay. Rattling crankbaits, plastic worms, grubs and spinnerbaits are the better baits. Crappie are taking small minnows around boat docks and brushpiles. Catfish action is hot on clam snouts, cut bait and nightcrawlers. Stripers are present in the back of the river.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR - Bass action is good, with most of the fish coming from main lake points and drop-offs. Spinnerbaits, plastic worms and crankbaits are the better baits. Catfish anglers are catching some fish on cut bait and clam snouts. Crappie anglers are catching good numbers of fish using live minnows in 10-12 feet deep over the old river channel. Submerged brushpiles in 10 plus feet of water are also holding the fish.
BURKE LAKE - Bass action has improved, with plastic worms on drop-offs being the most consistent pattern. Crappie are taking small minnows and tiny jigs around submerged brush. Shellcrackers are biting well, with some fish over 1 pound being caught. Live crickets and red wigglers are the better baits. Catfish are taking clam snouts and nightcrawlers on the bottom. Muskie are not active.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER - Good numbers of smallmouth bass are being caught above the city on tiny crankbaits, live minnows, plastic grubs and jig 'n pigs. The tidal sections of the river are 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 shad or herring fished on the bottom in the outside bends of the main river channel. Although they are slacking off, hickory shad and herring are still available around the Route One Bridge on small shad darts and tiny gold hooks.
LAKE ANNA - Despite heavy fishing and boating pressure, this lake is still producing good catches of largemouth bass. Most of the better fish are being caught on plastic worms, topwater lures and crankbaits. Post-spawn bass are aggressively feeding. Striper action is good, with topwater action at sunset around Dike 3 and trolling and casting around Stubbs Bridge and Rose Valley during daylight hours. Catfish to 15 pounds are coming in, being caught on cut herring, stinkbaits, live minnows and nightcrawlers.
JAMES RIVER - Above Richmond, smallmouth bass are taking small topwater lures and plastic grubs. Many fish in the 1- to 3-pound class are being caught, with a few over the 4-pound mark. In the city, lots of stripers and catfish, along with a few walleye, white perch and hickory shad are being caught. In the tidal stretch, largemouth bass are taking crankbaits, spinnerbaits and plastic worms fished on shorelines, around submerged wood structure and creek mouths. Standing cypress trees are also holding good fish. Catfish are taking cut bait and large minnows on the bottom of the main river channel. Crappie are taking small minnows around submerged brush. Stripers are taking live minnows and eels around the Benjamin Harrison Bridge, Presque Isle and in the Appomattox River.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER - Bass action is good for anglers fishing lily pads, cypress trees and creek mouths on moving tides. Best success is on 4- inch Senkos and black/blue lizards. Catfish are biting well. Bream are hitting crickets, nightcrawlers and fly rod poppers. Longnose gar are taking live minnows and plastic worms in the lily pads. Stripers are all over the river, particularly around Walkers Dam. They may be taken on cut bait and any number of bass baits, from crankbaits to topwaters.
LAKE GASTON - Largemouth 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. Good fishing may also be had in the creeks off the main river channel above the Eaton's Ferry Bridge. Striper action is excellent and crappie are biting well. Sunfish are heading for the beds. Large blue catfish to 30 pounds are being taken from the lake. Cut bait is producing the better catches.
BUGGS ISLAND LAKE - Stripers are being caught trolling Redfins and bucktails 10 to 15 feet deep in the main channel from Clarksville to Bowie Point. Broken-back Redfins are producing well at night toward the dam and in Eastland Creek. There are also plenty of fish in the river. White bass are surfacing late in the evening, hitting small bucktails, Roostertails and small crankbaits. Bass are hitting good throughout the lake, with topwater baits and plastic worms producing best on points.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE - Bass fishing is fair, with most of the fish being taken on topwater baits and live shad. Stripers are cooperating nicely, with a few over 20 pounds being taken on live shad and floating minnow-type baits. Best area is the Keys, with a few also being caught at the dam. 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 the big fish, and Cordell Redfins are also working well. Crappie are taking live minnows.