Wild Chesapeake: Coastal and Upper Bay Fishing is Heating Up

Captain Chris D. Dollar writes the Wild Chesapeake column in Chesapeake Bay Magazine. The expert angler and outdoorsman now brings up-to-date insight and advice to the Bay Bulletin. Check in weekly to read where the fish are and what’s working.

Dogwoods are in bloom, shadbush are popping, and the sun is shining. I can confidently say that we’ve finally hit the sweet spot that makes a long, cold winter a fading memory. All we need now is the locust trees to blossom to jump-start the first major crab slough of the year. 

 Alex Brown of Virginia, fishing during the first week of Maryland’s trophy rockfish season, scored this 44-incher fishing with Capt. Jeff Popp aboard the Vista Lady out of Shady Side, MD. 

Alex Brown of Virginia, fishing during the first week of Maryland’s trophy rockfish season, scored this 44-incher fishing with Capt. Jeff Popp aboard the Vista Lady out of Shady Side, MD. 

The return of summer flounder to the back bays of Delmarva is another sure sign the season has turned. The first flatties I’ve heard about have come off their near shore, deep-water winter haunts to feed and bask in the warmer Coastal Bay shallows. They’ve also entered Virginia Beach’s Rudee Inlet. Drift live minnows on flounder rigs or toss small swimbaits or shrimp lookalikes where the depth changes markedly.

Some large black drum have been boated in the lower Bay and across the Peninsula. A few smaller fish were landed in the surf. Red drum fishing continues to improve from north of Sandbridge to the shoals around Fisherman’s Island. Anchor close to the breakers and cast a whole blue crab on a fish finder rig with an 8/0 circle hook and eight-ounce pyramid sinker into the whitewater. Meanwhile, smaller puppy drum are being caught inside Rudee Inlet.

Tautog fishing is excellent around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel islands and concrete ships off Kiptopeke. Ric Burnley in Virginia tells me your best bait for tog is blue crab or fiddler crab. “Fish a single dropper rig tied out of 50-pound fluorocarbon with a six- to eight-ounce sinker and 3/0 hook,” he suggests. Offshore, he hears that anglers running out of Oregon Inlet are on yellowfin tunas, while Hatteras boats are returning with blackfin tuna and wahoo.

 Maryland’s trophy season action is picking up as the water temperature rises. Fishy spots in recent days include the Gas Docks, CP Buoy, False Channel, Thomas Point south to the Radar Towers and the LP Buoy. The top of Tangier Sound is also producing keeper stripers. Alien head parachutes of red and white got more than a few mentions, as did double-rigged chartreuse parachute rigs (six ounce head) with a nine-inch shad teaser.

 Get out and enjoy our Bay!

Laura Boycourt