Fishing rebounded (a little) following the severe cold snap, which occurred two weeks ago. Unfortunately, with the more seasonable temperatures came winds that made getting out on the water a risky task. A lot of outdoor enthusiasts turned their attention to deer hunting in lieu of taking a beating in rough water in pursuit of a single small-medium sized rockfish keeper. Land-based anglers who drove to Assateague Island were able to cash in on a run of puppy drum and stripers that were just under the 28-inch minimum size limit for the coastal waters. Speckled trout seemed to have left local waters, but anglers fishing inside Lynnhaven and Rudee Inlets in Virginia Beach are still boating some of the late season fish.
Upper Shore – Captain Matt Abell, at the Seahawk Sports Center, reported that fishing for crappie and yellow perch in the Pocomoke River has been “very good.” The freshwater species have been hitting small live minnows and 2-inch curly tailed grubs. Rockfishing was described as very good early in the week, with one charter trip producing an estimated 200 fish, two-thirds of which exceeded 20 inches and 20 of those fish measuring 25 inches and larger. Abell said that the fish have been deep, concentrated over structures such as rockpiles. Anglers were also finding schools of fish on the fishfinder along channel edges and drop-offs, then jigging over them. Because the majority of the fish are feeding in deep water, very little bird play has been observed. Abell has been fishing between the Kedges Strait and Tangier Reef areas. Alan Ring has been concentrating his rock fishing efforts between Tangier Sound and the Manokin River, as this area often serves as a staging area for fish departing the shallows for deeper waters. Abell said that some of his customers have caught a few keeper rockfish out of Ocean City and he has heard rumors of some keepers out of Chincoteague.
Chincoteague – Jimmy Vasiliou, of Captain Steve’s Bait & Tackle, reported that last weekend’s surf fishing tournament attracted a field of 70 anglers. The group beached a few puppy drum, striped bass to 26.5 inches, hake, and a number of dogfish. Vasiliou said that rockfish are still available around the bridge pilings, with some of the best fishing occurring at night under those sections of bridge with lights. The largest rockfish that he had heard about measured 32 inches. When anglers have been able to get on the offshore wrecks, they have returned with catches of black sea bass, bluefish, and a few tautog.
Mid-Shore – Anglers fishing out of Onancock and Chesconessex gave mixed reviews on the striper action from this week. One report said that the anglers ventured all the way to the west side of Tangier Island where they were able to boat some fish in excess of 30 inches. Two other parties reported that they braved the rough waters to fish the Watts Island rocks and the Tangier Ships and had very limited success but did manage to catch several fish near the Schooner Bay boat ramp upon returning to port.
Lower Shore – Chris Snook, of Chris’s Bait & Tackle, reported that on the days anglers could get out, they are finding rockfish around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Anglers casting for speckled trout have been catching mostly small rockfish near the pound nets south of Kiptopeke State Park.
Jeb Brady, at Bailey’s Tackle Shop in Cape Charles, stated that the weather had not been in the angler’s favor over the last week. He said that anglers did manage to find striper action with fish up to 30 inches when they were able to get out. Most of the fish have been under the minimum size limit but there have been a few keepers in the mix. Anglers fishing in the creeks and off the pier were finding undersized stripers.
Barring some major news involving the local fishing activities, this will be the last scheduled “Fishing From the Shore” column of the season. The rockfishing season has been disappointing so far, no doubt due to the light fishing pressure as a result of the one-fish bag limit as well as the run of windy weather. It remains to be seen if the run of late season large fish develops in the lower Chesapeake Bay and the impact of not being able to keep a trophy fish plays out. Only time will tell, so until next spring, good luck and tight lines(hopefully), good luck and tight lines.
Bill Hall was the first Eastern Shore resident to achieve Virginia Salt Water Master Angler Status. He has been named Virginia Saltwater Angler of the Year and Virginia Saltwater Release Angler of the Year and is a Virginia Press Association award-winning sports columnist.