Wild Chesapeake: Virginia Fishing Good, Maryland Crabbing Bad

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.

Virginia fishing continues to be good, if not great, with sea mullet south of the Kiptopeke Ramp, legal- to doormat-sized flounder around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel islands, and sheepshead on the wrecks. Croakers remain hard to come by. The seaside around the old port of Oyster may be your best bet. The great cobia bite continues with more larger fish this week than last. 

On a recent Saturday, Jane Millman went offshore with Dale Dirk on his sportfisher Heatwave , catching this fine dolphinfish (mahi). Photo courtesy of Kevin Thomas.

Virginia’s popular Saltwater Fishing Tournament & Gamefish Tagging Program has recorded its first tarpon release of the season. Chris’ Bait & Tackle in Cape Charles shared a photo of a tarpon caught by Rob Headley. It’s unclear if it’s the same fish. Also, the first dolphinfish and king mackerel of the year were registered at 32 pounds, 8 ounces caught by Gary Lee Rudman, Jr. of Virginia Beach, and a 26-pound king by Ellis Edwards of Raleigh NC, respectively. Chris Johnson is the new flounder leader with a 9-pound, 3-ounce flattie. 

Tropical Storm Chris has stalled off the coast and put the clamps on the offshore action. When the seas are calm, it’s mostly billfish and dolphinfish (mahi-mahi). Inshore headboats continue to enjoy a pretty good bite on sea bass, blues and flounder. Captain Monty Hawkins reports that a young angler boated a 14-pound mahi-mahi on a recent trip on the Morning Star. You just never know what you might catch. On July 3, fourteen-year-old angler Lucas Duke may have set a potential new male junior IGFA world record for dolphinfish at 72 pounds, 14 ounces fishing out of Hatteras.

While Mack & Blues is a pretty good bar-band name, we’ve only seen a smattering of them so far in Maryland waters. Salinity levels are way down for July due freshwater runoff from spring rains. I had a busted trip to the lower Choptank in search of these speedsters. Your best bet is Middle Grounds and Point Lookout for the Spanish mackerel and bluefish. The good news is sea nettles are just about non-existent. Give it time.

Rock and perch are the main targets for upper Bay anglers, either chumming or using light tackle. One of Captain Karl Bierberich’s anglers on Miss Grace scored a 79-pound black drum on a jig last week. One of my regulars told me there has been a pretty good drum bite in the Chester as well. He’s soaking peeler crabs at dusk.

I’ve no clue why sport crabbing in the Free State remains slow. I’ve yet to talk with anyone who can share a glowing report. A loyal reader says that Magothy crabbing is the worst in 25 years. Perhaps things will pick up after last week’s full moon-induced shed. Razor clams top the list as the best bait. One buddy got two-thirds of a basket on the lower Severn in four hours, and another, trot-lining the Choptank, netted nearly two baskets of number ones, but it took him six hours.

-Captain Chris D. Dollar