Wild Chesapeake: Rain Won't Stop Hardy Anglers

Expert angler and outdoorsman Captain Chris Dollar brings up-to-date insight to the Bay Bulletin. Check in weekly to see what’s happening out there right now.

Tradition dictates you cannot offer a fishing forecast without commenting on the weather, and frankly, the weather stinks lately. Record-setting rainfalls and high winds will no doubt impact this upcoming week’s angling, especially in the upper Bay. Remember Agnes? I do, kinda. We had to postpone a Shark Week trip with the Ocean City light-tackle shark guru, Captain Mark Sampson, due to the wind.

Freshwater anglers are getting in on the fun, too, by tossing lures like rubber frogs and lipless crank baits. Either early or late in the day on ponds have been the best times to catch largemouth bass, which is where and when Zach Goss of Chestertown scored this bucketmouth on his fly rod earlier this week. (Photo courtesy of Zach Goss.) 

Still, fishing folks have dodged thunderboomers to catch cobia, flounder, snakeheads and catfish. Let’s start in Virginia: Scores of boats and hundreds of fishermen took part in the Monarch Cobia Classic hosted by The Marina at Marina Shores this weekend. The winning team was Just One More with a total-fish weight of 61.30 pounds, followed by Uni-Fish II with 54.80 pounds and Hit N Run with 52.70 pounds. Sight-casters and chummers were catching, with decent numbers over 50 pounds.

Want flounder? Live-line spot or drift strip baits on bucktails along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT), near-shore wrecks and artificial reefs. Speckled trout and puppy drum are hitting paddle-tail lures at Rudee and Lynnhaven inlets. Roaming schools of bull red drum remain plentiful on the shoals at the Bay’s mouth. 

Sheepshead are at the CBBT pilings and will hit frisky, small crabs. Spadefish are plentiful at the Chesapeake Light tower and The Cell off of Cape Charles. Spanish mackerel are hitting gold spoons trolled off the Virginia Beach oceanfront off Sandbridge. Anglers working coastal wrecks can catch lots of triggerfish on bait. Tarpon are in the Eastern Shore shallows, but that’s a special skill. Finally, more croakers are being caught from the lower Bay piers, along with pompano and sea mullet. Soak bloodworms or squid. 

In Maryland’s Bay, unrelenting rain will keep bluefish and Spanish mackerel from pushing past the Choptank in any appreciable numbers anytime soon. From Point Lookout to Swan Point, live lining spot for rock has replaced chumming, though not completely. Get out very early or late for light tackle fun in the shallows for stripers and the occasional speck. Topwater (Smack-its), swim shads (Tsunamis) and crankbaits (X-Rap) can also work well. Eastern Bay, the lower Chester, Choptank, Tangier Sound and Pocomoke Sound all offer stripers, mostly undersized.

The bottom fish roster of spot, croaker, white perch and blue cats are being accounted for in the lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers. They want real bait—peeler crabs, bloodworms and cut-fish in that order. Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds are much improved for croaker, spot and white perch. The fishing has been very good. There have been reports of small bluefish and a few flounder along hard-shoal channel edges.

White perch are hitting bloodworms on small hooks and, around docks and structure, they’ll hit spinnerbaits such as Woodu’s Pro Lures, Rooster Tail’s or Bert’s Perch Pounders. In the fresher water, largemouth bass are hitting topwater baits like the Whopper Plopper early in the morning. The snakehead grounds, including the Potomac and Blackwater rivers, are heating up. Frog patterns work well. Otherwise and elsewhere, Chesapeake panfish will eagerly take nightcrawlers, small small spinnerbaits and jigs. 

Tuna fishing has dropped off a bit offshore, but more white marlin with some blue marlin and sailfish are showing up. Mahi-mahi (common dolphinfish), like always, are a trip saver, as can deep-dropping on golden and blueline tilefish, along with sea bass.

Now, if it will only stop raining and blowing.