Wild Chesapeake: Shorter Days, Good Fishing All Around

Chris Oliviera of Salisbury, Md. didn’t let the 2018 cobia season close without reeling in a big one. He was aboard the charterboat KingFish II , skippered by Capt. Harry Nield. (Photo courtesy of KingFish II Charters)

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.

Ok, wipe away the tears and get a grip on yourself. Yes, summer is officially over, but take heart that very soon we’ll relish in the charms of another Chesapeake autumn. But let’s not be too hasty; take time to enjoy the transition from languid days to crisp mornings, which, for many Chesapeake anglers including this writer, is the best time of the year to be on the water or afield. 

Let’s begin up the Bay, where fishermen should continue to do well trolling medium-sized tandem two- to eight-ounce bucktails and parachutes, Tsunami swim-baits, hoses or spoons. Rockfish are ranging in size from the mid 20- to mid 30-inches. There are fish holding between West River #1 and Buoy 85A, which is where Capt. Matt on U.S. Blues out of the South River suggests trolling small spoons on down planers, mainly for keeper rockfish, but perhaps the last of the Spanish mackerel. There are also bottom fish aplenty for boat and shore anglers to enjoy. Bloodworms are the tickets, and of course, soft or peeler crabs or cut bait such as alewives. The supply of both at area tackle shops has been limited. 

Mild weather means plenty of spot are still around for anglers who live-line for stripers. Fish the usual spots such as Podickory Point, the Bay Bridges and Thomas Point. Or, find the birds working over bait and jig soft plastics or metals such as Z-man, Bust-Em, Bass Kandy Delight, Li’l Bunker or Glass Minnow lures respectively. Don’t be surprised if bluefish nip off your rubber shads. I recently stumbled across some undersized rockfish in Eastern Bay at the mouth of Crab Alley, but no blues. The gamefish pushed the bait against a ledge that went from 27 to 15 feet. Same goes for the lower Chester, but not so much action in the Choptank, though. 

Capt. Harry Nield of Kingfish II led his anglers to nine cobia, of which they kept the three-fish boat limit between 43- and 47-inches. In the mix were a few macks, bluefish and a couple rockfish. He and others report trolling spoons, either in line sinkers or down-planers, did the trick, and also might fool a big red drum. Work the Maryland/Virginia line in areas like the SW Middle Grounds, Point Lookout and Smith Point. 

Off of Maryland’s part of the coast, the sea bass grounds are heating up nicely, and skippers say the fish are definitely there, but hard to get to when the weather is uncooperative. These spots could also yield doormat flounder. Offshore, the white marlin and wahoo bite has been on fire at times, but for how much longer? Tuna and mahi might stay around longer. 

Anglers fishing the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier are catching sheepshead, spot, small gray trout and small black drum. The Cobia and the red drum bites continue to be good with many citation fish being recorded. Don’t overlook puppy drum and speckled trout in the shallows of Rudee inlet as well as Lynnhaven. Trollers are still catching king mackerel with ballyhoo and spoons with some nice Spanish mackerel mixed in just a few miles outside of Rudee inlet.

It’s surf and pier fishing time from Delaware to the Outer Banks. Along northern beaches its croakers, kingfish, blues and similar fish as you head south, but add more flounder, pompano, red drum and occasional cobia. Usually cut bait like mullet or spot or shrimp and sand fleas work pretty well.

—Capt. Chris Dollar