Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, February 2023

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, February 24 Update:

Winter fishing opportunities are limited along the coast and many anglers are waiting for the return of spring to get their lines wet. We didn’t hear of anyone targeting ocean rockfish but there should still be some schools out there. Our reports this week came from the wrecks and reefs. Captain Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star reported mixed results this week while targeting tautog. His most recent trip produced slow pickings at mostly undersized fish with a few keepers that were voluntarily thrown back. A trip earlier in the week produced a better quality of tog but the fishing was still slower than it has been. He did mention that they are getting plenty of nice seabass as bycatch.

angler with tautog
Tautog fishing has its ups and downs, but when it's up it's UP! Photo courtesy of Capt. Monty Hawkins.

Down in Virginia, the special black sea bass season has provided great fishing opportunities all month with many boats reporting limit catches when the weather cooperates. Big black seabass and tautog have been consistently coming over the gunwales for those heading to the nearshore wrecks and reefs. Why Knot Charters checked in after a trip this past week to report a great day of fishing full of quality sized seabass. One angler on the boat even caught a citation sized five and a quarter pound seabass. They did mention that pesky dogfish sharks wouldn’t leave them alone but that didn’t stop them from filling their coolers.

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, February 17 Update:

The Virginia February sea bass season chugs right along, with Captain Drew on the Big Worm reporting limit catches and citation-size fish plus lots of bluefish in the mix. The biggest problem is the weather, but when the winds are down the fishing is hot. Virginia Beach Sport Fishing reports that the tautog fishing out of Virginia Beach is also great when the weather cooperates and the nearshore wrecks are producing many quality sized fish. Blue crab and blue crab flavored Fishbites are working excellent right now. In one of those unusual events that keeps fishing interesting, and angler dropping baits on the Morning Star caught a February sheepshead this week, along with his tog.

sheepshead in february
Here's a cool winter catch - a sheepshead out of OC, in the middle of the winter! Photo courtesy of Capt. Monty Hawkins.

Fishing Charter Reel Fish’n Va. checked in this week with a spectacular day of offshore fishing. They targeted multiple wrecks, catching fish at most, and returned to the dock with 59 sea bass and six tautogs. Many of the sea bass were “jumbos” and two of the togs reached double digits. Various sizes of Tautogs can be caught anywhere from 10 to 36 miles offshore. Some of the better locations to target them are the Tiger, Santore, Tower Reef, and the Salty Sea which can be found on public maps and charts. If you are mor focused on sea bass, the Triangles are a great place to start. There are around 10 wrecks and reefs all within a few miles of each other that usually hold fish. The special sea bass season is open until the end of the month in Virginia waters and tautog season will remain open until May 15.

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, February 10 Update:

This month has been giving us some unseasonably warm days which have been welcomed by anglers hitting coastal waters. Many boats have been taking advantage of magnificent fishing for the special Virginia February black sea bass season that is open until the end of the month. Captain Drew on the Big Worm is reporting limit catches on one trip after the next. He also noted an invasion of sea robins over the weekend, with them coming over the rails “three at a time.” A few bluefish and sharks have also been in the mix. Many other Virginia Beach charter boats have been booking trips for the sea bass season and are reporting consistent limit catches as well.

huge ocean tautog
That's one beefy tautog! Catches have been up and down at times, but sometimes, very up. Photo courtesy of Capt. Monty Hawkins.

The nearshore wreck and reef sites have been providing some excellent tautog fishing up and down the coast when the weather cooperates, but stiff winds have made for some tough outings this week. Capt. Monty reported some very difficult conditions and tough fishing early this week. As if often the case with tautog, however, the fish changed their minds in the blink of an eye and when the current began running so hard that 20 ounces of weight was needed to keep a bait in place, the fish began biting big-time. Double digit togs have been common over the past month, and we expect big fish to keep coming over the gunwales. The tautog season will be open until May 15th with a limit of four fish per day. Several of the Maryland Atlantic Ocean finfish seasons and regulations have been posted to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website which includes the 2023 striped bass regulations (VMRC is still displaying '22 regs on their website).

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, February 3 Update:

Fishing along the coast has been limited to tautog and some anglers searching for the schools of rockfish within the three mile zone in Maryland waters, while Virginia’s winter black sea bass season has opened back up for the month. Up north we didn’t hear of any rockfish reports this week but the tog bite is still decent. The tog were still coming over the rails of the Morning Star fishing out of Ocean City inlet prior to the latest cold snap, though Captain Monty noted that moving around to find feeding fish has been necessary and some spots failed to produce even though he “knows some live there.” On the other hand, one location he hit last weekend had a fabulous bite. Some accidental bass are also being reeled up and released. Big tog are also being caught in Virginia waters at the wrecks. Wreck Dog Sport Fishing out of Virginia Beach says the tog fishing is as good as it gets right now. A recent trip produced six double digit fish up to 13 pounds and several eight to nine pound fish were caught too. A few recreational anglers found success at the triangle wrecks with their largest tog coming in at 10 pounds. Strips of Fishbites E-Z Crab has been getting the job done and it stands up well to the pesky mouths of the tautog.

tautog caught off maryland
Tautog is still the name of the game up north, but sea bass are now a valid target in Virginia waters.

The special recreational black seabass season is now open in Virginia waters and Captain Drew on the Big Worm reports enjoying solid action and limit catches. On one of the first trips for the season they had some whoppers in the box including a 6.2-pounder. If you plan on participating, make sure to read more about the special permitting and reporting requirements. Those details can be found on the Virginia Marine Resources Commission website. This weekend will be cold but next week’s forecast looks more mild and may provide some good days to head out to the wrecks. The special season will close on February 28.