Wild Chesapeake: Bluewater & Inshore Striped Beasts

Chesapeake outdoor guide Captain Chris Dollar brings up-to-date insight to the Bay Bulletin. Check in weekly to see what’s happening out there.

December fishing is off to an impressive start, especially in Virginia. Bigeye tuna, stripers, tautog, and golden tilefish were all in play this weekend. A warm-water eddy that splintered off the Gulf Stream had bluewater anglers steaming east to 500 fathoms, where five boats enjoyed fairly epic bites. Long Bay Pointe Bait & Tackle checked in an 82-pound beast caught by James Ryan, and Fisherman’s Wharf Marina checked in five bigeyes.

Inshore, Dr. Ken Neill and his crew found triggerfish and a five-man limit of sea bass while wreck-fishing off of Virginia Beach. Hunter Mathews checked in a 7-pound, 9-ounce speckled trout at Oceans East Bait and Tackle that he caught in Lynnhaven Inlet. Maryland party boats (Morning Star and Ocean Princess) also took advantage of the placid seas. Captain Monty Hawkins on the Morning Star reports that his anglers caught “an amazing variety” on Sunday, including sea bass, scup, hake, cunner, and pollock, as well as the “biggest triggerfish I’ve seen this year.” Gary Giordano of Pasadena, Maryland won the pool with a 22-inch sea bass.

In Bay waters, the numbers of trophy-sized, ocean-run rockfish has increased. Waters around the Plantation Light, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel’s High Rise, and Buoy 42 area all produced good fishing, with the latter loaded with rockfish from 20-plus inches to over 50 pounds. Jay Ascue, fishing with Captain. Ken Eshleman of Cape Charles Fishing Adventure during the Pigzilla Rockfish Tournament, landed a 52-pound, 10-ounce cow striper. Up the Bay in Maryland, anglers are finding rockfish from Chesapeake Beach to Solomons and Point No Point to the state line, though some days they have had  to log many miles to find the fish. I hear the better bite comes later in the day. Trolling large parachutes on umbrellas or in tandem or jigging soft plastics (such as Rapala Storm lures, Bass Kandy Delights, and Z-Man Swimbaits and the like) better than six inches long, in water depths from 45 to 70 feet, should get you tight to a fish. 

Jay Ascue, fishing with Capt. Ken Eshleman of Cape Charles Fishing Adventures, landed this 52 lb., 10 oz. striper during the month-long Pigzilla Rockfish tournament. Photo courtesy of Capt. Ken Eshleman, Cape Charles Fishing Adventures.

There are still some rockfish further north. Will Carr of Anchor Yacht Basin on the South River told me that Cort Gardner, fishing on Landescaper captained by Steve Gorogias, checked in a 45-pound rockfish. They caught it trolling between Tolley’s Point and Thomas Point Light. (Once you have your one trophy rockfish for the fall, I’d respectfully suggest releasing all other big stripers.)

On the deeper bars and structures above and below the Bay Bridges, you can still catch white perch and catfish on bait. Chain pickerel and black crappie are active in the creeks and reservoirs, and sweet water anglers are enjoying a nice brown trout bite on the Gunpowder and other area rivers. It’s been a streamer game, meaning the fish are hitting bigger flies that imitate baitfish, crayfish, and large aquatic insects.

The Northern Virginia chapter of Trout Unlimited meets Thursday at the Vienna Fire Station #2, 400 Center St. S, Vienna, VA 22180. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with Capt. Chris Newsome of Bay Fly Fishing, LLC, sharing his expertise on fishing the Tidewater region at 7:30 p.m. Go if you can; he’s the real deal.