Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, now available are cobia (fish to 52 pounds have been caught), Spanish mackerel, croaker and spot, while offshore, anglers have battled big sharks, yellowfin tuna and gaffer dolphin. Excellent striped bass action has been reported in the lower Chesapeake. Rockfish have provided explosive topwater action around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Big bluefish have also been hooked. Big black and red drum are still on the prowl! Fisherman’s Island has been a top spot for red drum. Black drum have been reported at Latimer Shoal and other lower Chesapeake Bay locations. Sheepshead have been caught. While the flounder bite has not hit full stride yet, it is improving. Have a happy, fish-filled holiday weekend!
(Photo: New Tidal Fish poster Finnicky said while there were storms to the south, they ran out of “Lynnhaven Inlet around 4 o’clock with Rodzilla and had lines in the water by 5. Winds picked up while anchored, but had no rain and a nice sunset with a relatively smooth ride back home. Managed to pick up two black drum at 35 and 38 inches when the tide was running.”)
From IGFA Virginia Beach Representative Julie Ball:
With fronts, storms, and wind keeping many boats at the dock over the past few weeks, a great weather forecast paired up with cooperative fish could make this Memorial Day weekend a great lead-in for the summer fishing season. Most fishing recently has been dampened by less-than-desirable weather conditions, and the drum scene is no exception. The few boats making it to the Eastern Shore shoals to target red drum are finding fewer takers lately, but this should change once the weather stabilizes. Best success is still coming from anglers presenting peelers and crabs along the breakers inside the inlet off Fisherman’s Island.
Black drum action is less than favorable lately. A handful of fish to 40 pounds are responding along the Latimer Shoal area off the Eastern Shore. The best bite is still near buoy 13 and 16, but the Nautilus shoal area off Fisherman’s Island is also providing some scattered action. Sea clams and chowder clams are working best on the bottom in about 20 to 30 feet of water. Boats are also finding some red drum mixed in with the blacks. Sheepshead are still providing some low-key action as reports filter in of incidental hook-ups by drum anglers, which is common for this time of year.
Flounder are still frustrating anglers, with muddy conditions keeping the water less than optimal. Chris at Chris’ Bait and Tackle reports that although slow lately, the flatfish bite was picking back up over the past few days in protected waters such as Wachapreague and Oyster, and within both Rudee and Lynnhaven inlets. Folks are also finding some decent action off the concrete ships off of Kiptopeke, along with nice sea mullet. Spadefish are also making their way into the area, as a few fish were caught in local nets this week.
Striped bass are making up for the flounder shortage. According to the folks at Ocean’s East 2, the rockfish action in the lower bay is hot right now. Big schools of nice fish roaming the surface near the Third and Fourth islands of the Bay Bridge Tunnel at dawn and dusk are providing excellent topwater opportunities with fish up to 44 inches. Some big fish are also responding for chunkers near the Third Island, while topwater action along the spines at the First and Second islands of the CBBT and along the HRBT at night is producing fish to 36 inches. Bluefish to over 30 inches are also everywhere in lower bay waters, which often makes catching anything else a challenge.
Reports of scattered catches of cobia around the lower bay have anglers hopeful for a good season. Most fish are small, but a few over 50 pounds are also in the mix this week. Folks are catching cobia while drum fishing on the shoals off the Eastern Shore, and while chumming on the western side of the Bay off Hampton and Grand View, where some of the larger fish are routinely caught this time of year.
Croaker are active within the tributary rivers, with the York River the best location. Squid and shrimp get the nod this week. Bait-sized hardheads are also still available off Little Creek Inlet and along the CBBT and the HRBT. Some decent spot action kept pier anglers content at the Seagull Fishing Pier at the CBBT this week.
The Fishing Center reports that a few keeper-sized speckled trout, scattered grey trout, and snapper bluefish are still biting within Rudee Inlet. Anglers are also still releasing a few 24-inch specks in the Elizabeth River lately, and Mobjack Bay is still giving up some nice keeper fish this week.
The deep dropping scene is good if you want to make the run out to 50 fathoms or more, and with sea bass now available, expect more interest. Boats making a go during weather breaks are rewarded with scattered blueline tilefish and a few golden tilefish. Grouper, wreckfish, and blackbelly rosefish also await deeper offerings along the Canyon edges.
The offshore trolling scene should heat up off Virginia soon, especially with the good weather forecast. When boats make the run this weekend, expect yellowfin tuna and dolphin, with mako sharks also a possibility. Hopefully, this trend will translate into a good offshore season this year.
Ken Neill reports in from tidal Virginia:
Windy conditions kept angling activity down this past week. Boats that found windows to get out in did well. There is some very good striped bass action at both the CBBT and the HRBT. Some nice bluefish are also being caught by anglers targeting rockfish. Red drum fishing remains good. Black drum are being caught but it has been a slow bite. There have been a few sheepshead and cobia caught by anglers targeting drum. Some spadefish showed up in some pound nets this week. There should be some hook-and-line catches by the weekend. Croaker are biting up in the rivers. Big speckled trout continue to be caught in the Mobjack Bay area. Flounder catches were down but should pick up as the predicted calm weather allows the water to clear up. The days that boats have managed to get offshore have resulted in good catches of yellowfin tuna and dolphin out of the Outer Banks. Temperature images show good-looking water over the Washington Canyon. Sea bass season is open so the ocean wrecks will see some visitors this week.
Virginia Saltwater Reports by Charlie Taylor:
CHINCOTEAGUE - Improved catches of flounder with the warmer weather. Black Narrows, Queens Sound and around the Assateague Island Bridge are the better areas. A few small grey trout are being caught around the shorelines. In the surf, taylor blues and a few choppers are being caught on cut bait. Sea bass are beginning to show inside on the bridges and other structure. Outside the inlet, taylor bluefish remain plentiful and wreck fishing for sea bass and tautog is holding strong. Offshore, sharking is very productive, with lots of blue sharks and a few large makos being caught this past week.
WACHAPREAGUE - The "Hills" are loaded with 7- to 12-pound bluefish, Atlantic bonito and false albacore. The first of the yellowfin tuna were caught this past week in Norfolk Canyon. Wreck fishing for sea bass is good, with some tautog mixed in. Inside the inlet, flounder fishing is fair, with the better catches being made in front of the Old Coast Guard Station. A few sea mullet and grey trout are mixed in the catches.
ONANCOCK - Speckled trout, red drum and medium bluefish are being caught by anglers bottom fishing with peeler and soft crab. Best action has been in shallow water around the Pocomoke Sound islands. Speckled trout are running to 5 pounds, red drum 20 to 35 pounds and blues 6 to 10 pounds. Pan trout are beginning to hit off Gilford. On the western side of Tangier Island, some taylor blues and a few speckled trout are hitting around the Target Ships. Croaker are plentiful throughout Pocomoke and Tangier sounds, with spot, grey trout, sea mullet, blowfish and porgy mixed in the catches.
QUINBY - Flounder fishing has been fair to good. Bottom fishermen are catching a few spot, sea bass and trout. Several schools of drum have been spotted on shallow bars in the Quinby area, but anglers have not reported any catches.
CAPE CHARLES - The first cobia of the season were caught at the C-10 mussel beds this past week. Black drum action is still strong. Sporadic catches of pan trout are being made at C-10 and just off the Cement Ships. Good catches of tautog are being made at Plantation Light, the C-10 mussel beds and from several local wrecks. Red drum and cobia have moved in the Latimer Shoals area. Bottom fishing is excellent for croaker, small spot, pan trout, sea
mullet and taylor blues. Spadefish are reported from Plantation Light, Cherrystone Reef and over the Cell.
LOWER CHESAPEAKE BAY AREA - Croaker and flounder are being caught at the Small Boat Channel, and flounder just off Harrison's Pier. Tautog are in fair supply around the rocks, with some flounder being caught around the First Island and on either side of the Lesner Bridge. Sporadic catches of Spanish mackerel are being made in the area, with the more consistent action being just off Grandview Beach. Cobia have blitzed the area, with fish to 52 pounds being registered this past week. Red drum action is good around the Fourth Island. Flounder action is reported to be good just off the mouth of the Back River and around Fort Wool. Bottom fishing for spot, croaker, grey trout, sea mullet, blowtoads and flounder is good at Buoy Y-9 and just inshore of Twin Stakes, in 18 feet of water. Good catches of flounder are available off Plum Tree Island and on Poquoson Flats. Croaker and spot are thick just off the Bell Buoy. Inside the York River, decent sized croaker, flounder and small spot are being caught. Fair to good flounder action is to be had at the Gloucester Point Pier and surrounding shoreline. Speckled trout action has slowed inside Mobjack Bay, but Spanish mackerel are beginning to show. Amberjack action has been fantastic at the Southern Tower. Chopper bluefish are also thick in the area.
VIRGINIA BEACH - Offshore, decent catches of 30- to 50-pound yellowfin tuna and gaffer dolphin, and a few wahoo and 100-pound mako sharks, are made by the charter fleet. Best action has been just south of the Cigar. The area also produced the season's first blue marlin last week. The SE Lumps and Bluefish Alley are holding hordes of bluefish in the 8- to 18-pound class, with water temperatures in the low to mid 60's. Head boats are still catching good numbers of sea bass and tautog on the inshore wrecks. Trollers are seeing more Spanish mackerel in their catches, and several schools of cobia have been spotted. Surf anglers are taking a mixture of sea mullet, blowtoads and small spot. Inside Rudee Inlet, fireball rigs, baited with cut mullet, are finding an occasional chopper bluefish.
JAMES RIVER - Croaker provide consistent action, with catches including stripers, spot and flounder. Crabbing is improving daily.
LYNNHAVEN - A mixture of stripers, spot, croaker, flounder, surf perch, sea mullet and a few taylor blues.
VIRGINIA BEACH - Plenty of spot, sea mullet, croaker, flounder, taylor blues and a few trout. Stripers are occasional visitors and Spanish mackerel action is improving.
SANDBRIDGE - A wide variety of fish are being caught, including spot, taylor blues, sea mullet, blowtoads, surf perch, flounder, grey trout, speckled trout, stripers, cobia, a few Spanish mackerel and a load of skates.
Potomac River reports from Captain Ken Penrod:
TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER: Bass fishing was “off-the-chart as far as I’m concerned. This was a good “tide” week and winds were not so punishing. As a matter of fact, some wind across some grass beds was a big-time plus if you used it correctly. Interestingly enough, there was no single major pattern because I was on four solid plans.
WASHINGTON D.C.: It was crowded, very crowded; one of the two FLW events was restricted to waters above the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. That water stained-up some due to upper Potomac rises. Washington Channel received the most attention and for good reason. Some impressive stringers came from that sector. In the Woodrow Wilson Bridge vicinity, some of the best fishing was “off-limits” to tournament anglers so if you could find a place to launch you had Smoot bay all to yourself. Nearby Penrod Cove had “bunches” of bass in the area I call the Incubator. The south point of Smoot Bay, Hog Island, Charlie’s Cove and Piscataway coves were rich with bass. Best baits include Case Magic Stiks, Penrod Special spinnerbaits and Rapala DT-06 crankbaits.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: We just kicked-butt and took names, so to speak, and that means that we caught a lot. Most of the tournament boats were in southern Potomac sectors but we didn’t see a single boat up close. We caught some bass in the 6-mile per hour zone but we caught big-time numbers of fish between the state park and the river on Case Magic Stiks on milfoil beds. Nearby Chickamuxen Creek and coves to the south were fruitful, but it’s really a shame about the traffic in Belmont Bay.
Virginia Freshwater Fishing Reports:
POTOMAC RIVER - D.C. - Small stripers and large catfish are the fare at Fletcher's Boathouse, where cut gizzard shad chunks are taking the fish. Downstream, bass are hugging the rip-rap above Columbia Island, main river bridge pilings, and rocky points. Catfish are available to anglers fishing flats adjacent to the channel, on chicken livers, cut bait and clam snouts. Grass beds above the Wilson Bridge are producing bass on Slug-Go’s, buzzbaits, Pop-R’s, jig 'n pigs and plastic worms. The Spoils is still producing quality bass on plastic tubes and creature baits. Lots of bass are being taken from the War College Wall in Washington Channel on Rat-L-Traps, plastic creature baits, spinnerbaits and topwater baits.
POTOMAC RIVER - BELOW WOODROW WILSON BRIDGE - Outgoing tides are producing bass for persistent anglers fishing baits very slowly in the shallow, main river grass-beds. Incoming tides find the milfoil beds producing well on buzzbaits and Johnson Silver Minnows tipped with twin-tail grubs. Buzzbaits and Zoom Horny Toads in the lily pads, early and late in the day, are producing some good fish. Flipping jigs and worms, tight to cover, is also responsible for lots of fish, while fishing shallow flats adjacent to drop-offs can result in good catches. Patience is the answer, as the creeks are just chock full of herring and shad fry. Everywhere you look, there are huge schools of baitfish rippling the surface. This is the clue to downsize bait offerings and slow the presentation. Catfish anglers are filling boats with the tasty bottom feeders throughout the river system. Cut gizzard shad and clam snouts are the better choices for bait.
OCCOQUAN RIVER - Herring, shad, a few crappie and an occasional bass are being caught here. The herring and shad, although almost gone, 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. Belmont Bay grass-beds are producing good catches of bass on plastics, flipped throughout the grass.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR - Bass fishing is good, with mostly 1- to 3-pound male fish caught. , Mid-lake is producing best, with topwater baits taking fish from the points early and late in the day, while jig 'n pigs and plastic worms are the choice when the sun is high. Spinnerbait fishermen are doing well uplake on downed wood. Excellent crappie action, with some of the fish being caught shallow, and others in the river channel. These tasty fish are biting well on small minnows and tiny jigs. Sunfish are spawning and some large fish are being caught on nightcrawlers and fly rod poppers.
BURKE LAKE - 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. The deeper brushpiles are producing the larger fish. Crickets are taking lots of shellcrackers. Catfish action is good on clam snouts, with most being taken near the grass-beds. Some lucky anglers are still catching nice walleye.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER - Big blue catfish are still taking cut shad baits fished on the bottom in the outside bends of the river. Creek channels are also holding lots of biting catfish. Downriver creeks are very muddy and fishing is very slow for bass and perch. Catfish, white perch and stripers are being caught around the Route 1 Bridge. Above the city, 2- to 3-pound smallmouth bass pounds, are taking Tiny Torpedos.
MATTAPONI/PAMUNKEY RIVERS - Excellent catfish and bream action, with a few bass and an occasional pickerel also caught. Catfishermen are using cut bait and clam snouts, while bream anglers are touting nightcrawlers. Rat-L-Traps and plastic worms are taking bass and pickerel. Good numbers of stripers are also being caught and released.
LAKE ANNA - Bass fishing is excellent on secondary points. Plastic lizards and topwater baits are the most effective baits, although some fish are being taken on crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Anglers targeting docks are doing well by skipping Senkos and tubes back under the dock to the shadiest portion of the water. Striper fishing is best early and late in the day, with Zara Spooks, Cordell Redfins and chartreuse-colored Sassy Shads fished on the shallow 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 - Smallmouth bass are taking live minnows, plastic grubs, plastic worms and small topwater lures in the river above the city. Big blue catfish and stripers are being caught at the "Z" dam in Richmond. The best pattern for bass on the tidal stretch is flippin' standing cypress trees with small plastic worms, grubs, jig n' pigs, and flippin' Slug-Go’s in the outside edge of lily pads. The wing dams between Hopewell and Richmond are producing well on crankbaits and plastics on the downtide side and the ends of the dams. The wing dams on the Appomattox are also producing well on crankbaits, plastics and slow-rolled, large spinnerbaits. Catfish action is good on cut eel and gizzard shad, fished on the bottom, in the outside bends of the river channel.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER - The river is in good shape. Lots of 1- to 3-pound bass are being taken on plastic worms and topwater lures in the upriver pad fields. Larger fish are also available around wood cover on channel edges. A good bait is a Zoom, red shad, U-tail worm, with a 1/16 –ounce sinker. The key is patience. Fish very slowly, as the river is loaded with baitfish. 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 crickets and nightcrawlers. Catfish action is excellent on medium minnows, turtle livers, clam snouts and cut bait.
CHICKAHOMINY LAKE - Bass will be oriented to grass beds or cypress trees. Best baits for fishing this cover are Senkos and small plastics. Zoom Super Flukes, Tiny Torpedos and small Buzzbaits fished in the grass beds are taking good stringers of bass and pickerel, as well as an occasional bowfin. Zoom Horny Toads and floating worms are also taking fish from the grass-beds and pad fields. Bream are taking fly rod poppers, crickets and grass shrimp. Catfish action is excellent on nightcrawlers, minnows and cut herring.
LAKE GASTON - Fishing is good, with striper fishermen catching fish on live shad and 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 picking up, with topwater lures accounting for a few good fish in the grass and plastic baits taking them off points and around boat docks. Bream are spawning in the shallows.
BUGGS ISLAND LAKE - Bass fishing is excellent, with Carolina-rigged lizards taking lots of fish on the points. Topwaters, such as Devils Horse, will also entice some bass, particularly late in the day. Crappie are on brushpiles in 8 feet of water and are taking live minnows. Stripers are being caught on live bait, from Buoy 7 to Clarksville. Night anglers are taking stripers on Redfins in mackerel and fluorescent red finishes, from Buoy 4 to the mouth of Nutbush Creek. White bass are being caught at the mouth of Bluestone Creek.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE - Lots of bass are being caught on smoke grubs and 6-inch plastic worms, in the backs of coves and on shallow banks. Better bass fishing is in the Blackwater River arm of the lake. Striper and white bass fishing is excellent, with fish all over the lake. Best results are coming on bucktails, Cordell Redfins and live shad, fished on main lake points.