Most people picture golden tilefish when they think about deep dropping but wreckfish will also bite all year long off the Virginia coast — if you can find ‘em. The toughest part of this mission is locating rugged rocky bottom or wreckage in 400-plus feet of water. The fish in this pic came from the tip of the Norfolk Canyon in about 450 feet. Once you find such a spot, deep-drop jigging is the way to get ‘em on the line.

big wreckfish caught off virginia
This wreckfish hit a jig dangled down at the Norfolk Canyon, off the Virginia coast.
  1. Choose a jig that falls fast and has enough weight to stay down on the bottom. That means a jig of 10-plus ounces (about 300 gramcrackers, for you folks who insist on using the metric system) minimal, and one of 15 to 16 ounces is not too heavy.
  2. Add a nice gooey glob of tempting but tough bait to the hooks. The tentacle ball from a squid is a great choice, since it can be securely threaded onto the hook and makes bait stealing — a big problem when you have to crank this much weight up to re-bait — rare.
  3. Lower down to the bottom on a rod with a stiff, fast-action tip and a high-speed jigging reel spooled with braid. Note: braid (tipped with an 80-pound wind-on) is a 100-percent must-have for this type of fishing. There’s just too much line stretch with mono to feel fish, much less bottom, when these sorts of depths are involved.
  4. Dance the jig right off bottom, letting out line when you don’t feel your offering tapping down each and every time you let it fall.
  5. When your jig is falling but seems to hit bottom a few feet too soon, swing for the stars. Usually the wreckfish will hit as the jig sinks, and if the sink stops before you expect it to that’s a dead give-away a fish has latched on.