Department of Plans and Statistics, Fisheries Management Division
This week, the drum have returned! Both red and black drum catches were reported this week from several locations, and many of our Saltwater Review partners expect the upcoming weekend to yield great fishing. Flounder are still on in many areas, most notably on the seaside Eastern Shore. Small croakers are just beginning to arrive and larger fish will appear as the waters warm. At the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, black sea bass and tautog have been steady this week. However, please remember that the tautog fishery is closed May 1 through June 24. Also note that the Virginia striped bass trophy season begins TODAY (May 1) and extends through May 15 in the coastal area and June 15 in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Anglers may keep one fish of 32 inches or greater during the trophy season, provided they turn in a catch report (available through the Virginia Saltwater Journal - https://www.vasaltwaterjournal.com/). Have a great week of fishing!
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According to Donna at Captain Bob's Marina, fishing is awesome this week. Over six dozen keeper flounder were landed over the weekend. The majority were caught in Queen's Sound near the bridge in 10 to 20 feet of water. Some flounder were landed from Cockle Creek as well, and the average keeper to throwback ratio has been 1 in 8. The best catches were found on the incoming tide. Smelt has been the best bait, along with minnows and gulp silversides. Assateague Channel has also produced some nice fish, along with the area adjacent to the light house. From the local pier, a 17-inch speckled trout was caught. Surf fishing is doing really well with black drum. Offshore, anglers were catching limits of black sea bass at Black Fish Banks. The area around the Belle Marine Wreck has been really productive, and there were rumors of four cod caught there!
Flounder as usual was reported at the Wachapreague Marina, where keeper catches averaged 1 in 12 last week. Northeast winds kept fishing down for much of the week; however, two black drum were caught in the surf on Cedar Island. Staff expects this weekend will be good for drum fishing. A few sea bass and tautog have been caught offshore (remember, the tautog season closes May 1). According to staff at Captain Zed's, flounder fishing was as expected with many fish just under the 19-inch minimum size limit. A few black drum were landed as well.
Staff at Chris' Bait and Tackle reported large red drum released in the surf. Black drum were found at Buoy 13, using fresh sea clams for bait. A few more tautog were landed at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, but keep in mind that fishery closes today (May 1). Flounder up to 22 and 23 inches were found near Oyster. A few croaker are also beginning to show. This weekend, staff expects to see more black drum in the bay.
A few tautog were caught at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel this weekend, according to staff at Cobb's Marina. No citations were reported.
Staff at Sunset Boating Center reported slow flounder fishing for much of the week. A few tautog were caught near Fisherman's Island.
While no citations were reported at the York River Fishing Center, croaker, grey trout, and speckled trout were caught off of the Gloucester Point Pier. Very few speckled trout have been found in Mobjack Bay yet, and anglers are catching mostly undersized flounder with a few keepers.
Ken Neill, reporting secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, contributed the following:
May is here, and it is time for drum. Both big black and red drum are being caught. The best spot for reds has been the surf of the Eastern Shore, especially the inlet between Fisherman's and Smith Islands. The black drum have been caught inside the seaside inlets. The bite on the bayside of the Eastern Shore is due to turn on now. Puppy drum (juvenile red drum) are being caught inside Rudee and Lynnhaven Inlets. Tautog action went out with a bang. Numerous large tautog were caught during the last week of April. You can still fish for them, but you must now practice catch and release. Flounder are being caught everywhere, but there are no hot areas. The good news is that the spiny dogfish have thinned out making fishing easier. Striped bass are now back in season. Through May 15, you are allowed to keep one striped bass, 32 inches or larger. Any kept fish must be reported. Croaker are biting up in the rivers with larger fish becoming more common. Offshore, the first dolphin have been caught, with some citation-sized fish being brought back to the docks. These fish came from the Triple 0's area. Bottom fishing has improved in the deep as the spiny dogfish move towards the north. To our south, there have been some good dolphin catches out of Hatteras Inlet. Yellowfin tuna catches have been scattered out of both Hatteras and Oregon Inlets. Some big wahoo and a few sailfish are also being caught.
Dr. Julie Ball, IGFA International Representative for Virginia Beach, contributed the following:
The inshore saltwater spring fishery is now in full gear. The final star of the show made its debut this week, the notorious red drum. Chris's Bait and Tackle reports over a dozen bulls already released by surf anglers from the suds of Smith's Island. This fishery is nowhere near what it will become, but with the recent northeasterly wind and the upcoming full moon, a boost in the action is promising. 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.
The red drum's close cousin, the black drum, is also pushing its way into the usual haunts. These two species are usually caught in the same areas. A few blacks are coming from near buoy 13 and the seaside inlets along the Eastern Shore, while smaller fish are still coming from the surf. More large fish will begin taking bait soon, with the beginning of May always the best time for these gentle giants.
With the recent wind and muddy water, flounder pounders are struggling to find fish, with protected areas offering the best opportunity. Long Bay Pointe Bait and Tackle reports that some keepers up to 23 inches are coming from within Lynnhaven Inlet. The Oyster area and Ship Shoal Inlet on the Eastern Shore are providing limits of keepers, while drifters at Buoy 36A were also hooking a few flatties before the recent cold front. According to the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, surf anglers and boaters trolling off the beach are pulling in good numbers of taylor bluefish.
The bayside shallows and lower bay inlets are producing speckled trout; the best color this week is a smoke or green twister tail grub. Folks fishing the inshore waters in Oyster as well as the Eastern Shore seaside inlets are also finding fish on peeler crabs, live bait, and Mirrolures. Puppy drum, with some reportedly over 30 inches, are available within Lynnhaven, Rudee, and Little Creek Inlets. Chartreuse Gulp Swimming Minnows and live gudgeons are the top baits this week for the pups.
Croaker are still hitting along the Virginia Beach ocean front, Ocean View, the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, and the lower bay rivers and creeks. Some of these hardheads are pushing to over a pound. The folks at the Ocean View Fishing Pier report that a mix of small founder and sea mullet were rounding out catches of nice croaker, but the bite slowed with the passing front. Anglers are having the best luck with bloodworms and squid.
Tautog action was still going strong, but the skids on the tog fishery went into effect this week. As of May 1st, tautog season is closed until June 24th. James Reid of Virginia Beach snuck in a nice 9-pound, 7-ounce citation tog from the 4th island before the closure.
Some nice sea bass are coming from both inshore and offshore locations, with squid, cut bait, and jigs, such as the Braid Slammer jig, working well. The RUDEE MARINER boated some keeper seabass, along with a surprise 24-pound monkfish while fishing near the Chesapeake Light Tower this week. Grouper, wreckfish, and big blueline tilefish are coming from deep waters off Virginia. The RUDEE ANGLER out of Rudee Inlet loaded up on big tiles to over 19 pounds, black sea bass, and snowy grouper this past week during a deep dropping trip.
Striped bass are being caught in good numbers north of the Virginia border. With the trophy season starting this weekend in Virginia, we can expect the same as well.
Roger, of Jetts' Hardware reports, that the hotspots include the area around the mouth of the Potomac River and Buoy 66.
According to Dan, of Smith Point Marina, striped bass have been caught in the area. There have also been good catches of croaker in the shallow water of the rivers and creeks.
Croaker catches have been increasing in size lately according to Lewis, of Garrets Marina. He also reports some catfish being caught as well.
Capt. Jim Thompson had the following report on his website:
The weather has finally made its decision to warm up. The water temperature is about 58 degrees. That is still too cold for fish to really turn on, but a few croaker are being caught in the upper parts of the Rappahannock and York rivers. The amounts are small but the water needs to be in the high 60s or 70s for them to really start biting. The good thing is that they are coming in good numbers. Popular bait includes bloodworms, fish bites, and squid. The bloodworms are better in the rivers and the squid are better for bay fishing.
Nice bluefin tuna and numerous blueline tilefish were caught offshore this weekend, according to staff at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center. Headboats in the area found black sea bass and tautog using clam and peeler crabs as bait. In the Chesapeake Bay, anglers were doing well with flounder. In Rudee Inlet, taylor bluefish, speckled trout, and puppy drum were landed this week.
Staff at the Ocean View Pier has seen a variety in the catches this week with medium-sized croaker being caught on squid and shrimp and a few keeper flounder latching onto minnows.
According to staff at the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier, small spot have been caught on blood worms this week. A few puffers and bluefish were also landed.
Offshore fishing out of Oregon Inlet has seen respectable catches of tilefish, grouper, mako sharks, dolphin, and yellowfin tuna. People fishing closer to shore have seen black sea bass and bluefish. Spot, sea mullet, skates, and dogfish were found at the area piers. The surf fishing along the northern beaches produced some speckled trout, spot, and croaker before the wind picked up. Fishing in the sound has been negligible for the past week.
South of Oregon Inlet, bluefish up to 5 pounds were found in the surf around Ramp 55 with both metal and bait. Sea mullet were reported on the north beach, with some as large as 2 ½ pounds.
Offshore fishing out of Hatteras Inlet has been productive with favorable winds. Dolphin and blackfin tuna were two of the more notable species, with yellowfin tuna, wahoo, and king mackerel showing up as well. Inshore, a few large red drum could be found.
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