Wild Chesapeake: Outdoors Forecast

Chesapeake Bay Magazine’s Wild Chesapeake columnist Capt. Chris Dollar brings weekly outdoor updates to the Bay Bulletin.

Let’s get right to it, Party People. Much has changed in Chesapeake fishing situations since last week. The black drum watch is on in Maryland waters. Try Sharps Island flats with soft crab. A friend stumbled across a school of impressive bull reds in skinny water in Tangier Sound. Tried as he might he couldn’t get them to eat a fly. Speckled trout and puppy drum are in Lynnhaven and lower Eastern Shore creeks, and spot and croakers are being caught around Norfolk and north to the York River. Sheepshead have taken up station on structure around the Bridge Tunnel piles. Spadefish are hanging around buoys and the light tower. North Carolina anglers are catching cobia, so look for these gamesters soon in Virginia waters. Note: The Virginia season doesn’t open until June 1. Virginia’s spring striper season opened May 16 with a daily creel of two fish between 20 and 28 inches. One may be longer than 36 inches; but you need a (free) permit to keep it.

Memorial Day weekend is traditionally when black drum show up in Maryland waters. Capt. Randy Dean of Bay Hunter hoists an impressive fish caught by one of his clients a few years back. Photo: Capt. Chris D. Dollar/CD Outdoors

Maryland’s new circle hook rules took effect May 16. If you chum or use live bait, regardless of the species, you must use circle hooks. Anglers and captains I spoke with had, well, let’s just say, a less-than-enthusiastic opinion thus far. Give it time, folks. Upper Bay trollers are doing well on rockfish to 28 inches using rubber skirted “bugs” and tandem Tsunamis. The LP Buoy, 83A and CP buoy also garnered a mention. Eastern Bay fishermen caught some big rockfish in the shallows. Try casting Tony Accetta #17 or #19 spoons and paddle-tailed DOA or Got-Cha plastics.

Flounder catches are improving on the drop-offs of Assateague, Chincoteague, and Wachapreague. It is hard to beat a flounder-pounder rig tipped with a bull minnow or a squid strip. If you’re in the neighborhood, Rudee and Lynnhaven inlets are worth a try. We’ve heard of the year’s first bluefish entering the Bay proper just north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Hammered spoons like the Hopkins might bring a strike.

Delmarva surf casters are enjoying a mix of large bluefish and occasional keeper rockfish (28-inch minimum). If you’re looking for dinner, try fresh cut-bait like mullet or menhaden on a cork float to keep it above the scoundrels like rays and dogfish. 

The action off of Ocean City, MD has yet to simmer, but southern waters are producing. Fishing in the Hatteras Village Offshore Open, the Sea Toy crew weighed in a 690.40-pound blue marlin. Many more billfish were released.

Some friendly advice: 2018 has brought stormy weather, which not only hampered fishing but caused severe shoaling in numerous channels and changes to the sandbars. What was automatic local knowledge last season might be a grounding or prop-killer this year. Use caution and prudence, mariners. 

-Capt. Chris D. Dollar