Wild Chesapeake: Gettin' to the Bottom of it

Captain Chris Dollar, expert angler and outdoorsman, brings his most up-to-date insight to the Bay Bulletin. Check in weekly to see where the fish are biting, and which gear is working right now.

Let’s give some love to bottom fish this week. They’ve saved many the day for this angling writer. Take whiting for instance, which give a spirited fight and please the palate. Fishermen are now catching them in the surf and in the Bay as far north as Tangier Sound.

Julie Bright of Salisbury landed this undersized summer flounder the other day drifting shiners over the shoals behind Ocean City. Maybe next drift Julie! (Photo Courtesy of Karl J. Bright) 

Spot, one of my perennial favorites, have shown up in decent numbers, and white perch can be caught in creeks around docks on spinners. To catch spot and white perch in the open Bay, soak bloodworms over live bottom. The Diamonds, Holland Point Bar, Wild Grounds, and Belvedere Shoals are worth a shot. What haven’t been as abundant in several years are croakers, and that’s worrisome.

Summer flounder are being landed in Virginia and in the coastal back bays by drifting shiners over the shoals. For bigger flounder, go with bucktails tipped with Gulp! or squid strips. 

From the Choptank to Rock Hall, most upper Bay anglers continue to chase rockfish. Most are chumming for them, but some jig or troll hoses and swim-baits. The action remains in pretty much same waters as last week, over the Hill, Love Point lumps, Podickory Point, and Hickory Thickets. We’ve started to see some breaking fish that’ll hit topwater lures and flies. Try the river mouths and Eastern Bay.

Offshore fishing gets better daily, I hear. Yellowfin and bluefin tunas, mahi (dolphins), some to gaffer size, and billfish are now in play. Kingfish will soon be on the inshore grounds.

Spanish mackerel, flounder, amberjacks, and even a few tripletails have been caught in Virginia waters. Tripletails mostly hang around weed-lines or floating debris, but you can catch them in open water sometimes. Sheepshead are holding on structure, and the spadefish are at the Chesapeake Light Tower and over almost all sunken wrecks.

Summer also means tournament time. Congrats to Captain Jorg Head of Fish Head Charters and his crew, who took home first-place in the Suntex Cobia Invitational Tournament, hosted by Gloucester Sportfishing and York River Yacht Haven. Their total was 92 pounds, with the biggest cobia measuring 60 inches and weighing 64.80 pounds, a true trophy.

A quick housekeeping note on the effort to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Act, the law of the land for managing our nation’s saltwater fisheries. Congress has postponed the vote on this contentious bill until after July 11. Surprise, surprise. 

—Captain Chris D. Dollar