Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, January 2022

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, January 28 Update:

Capt. Monty on the Morning Star says the weather finally allowed for some togging this week, and his anglers were enjoying bites when the current was running but the fish ceased feeding when the water stopped moving. A few in the parties made limit-size catches while some others struggled to get a bent rod, and many of the tog including the 22.5-inch female pictured here were tagged and then went right back over the side. (Thanks Kwon, for the release!) Another day they got into a finer grade of fish, including four over 26-inches and one 30-inch beast of a tog (which was also tagged and released — thanks, Bruce!)

big tautog
There are some tog out there - including this fine fish. Photo courtesy of Capt. Monty Hawkins

It's official - Virginia's special February season for sea bass is off for 2022. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted 6-1-1 to close the season last Tuesday. Considering how great this fishery was and how many sea bass are out there many folks are wondering why the heck this happened. These fishing reports aren't really the proper venue for a huge discussion about fisheries management, but if you get bored while sitting inside thanks to the weather this weekend, Google "mrip black sea bass." The results will keep you busy for hours. The bottom line: the fish-counters say too many black sea bass were harvested last year coast-wide, and much as Virginia regulators didn’t want to shut this season down they didn’t see any other option. According to the rep we spoke with this week they do hope to bring it back in 2023 if possible but no promises can be made.

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, January 20 Update:

While a mix of wind and frigid weather has made fishing difficult recently, to say the least, we did hear from Capt. Greg on the iFishMD that during a weather window late last week he enjoyed some excellent jigging and topwater action on rockfish in the 30- to 40-inch class within the three-mile limit, after launching out of OC. He mentioned that the fish were spread over a fairly large area, rolling on bunker. We do need to note that there have been some rather extreme weather events since then so those fish could be just about anywhere by now, but if you have the urge to bend a rod on a big striper, there’s certainly a chance they’re still within shooting distance.

oceanic rockfish
Between the weather events Capt. Greg snuck out - and scored.

We also heard from one reader who targeted tautog in the past week running out of Virginia Beach (though none from OC nor Delaware). The bite was decent, though, with several fish up to eight pounds hitting crab baits fished on a wreck.

Virginia's February sea bass season?? We still haven't seen an official press release, but we've seen a draft of possible regs eliminating the season (which is supposed to be voted on next week). MRIP is saying too many fish were caught and at this point everyone's singing the same tune: it's probably going to be a no-go for 2022. We hope the vote goes differently, but...

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, January 14 Update:

In the “bad news” department, thanks to the weather and a severe lack of angling effort, this week’s fishing report will be just as lame as you were afraid it might be. In the “worse news” department, there’s scuttlebutt that Virginia’s February special sea bass season won’t be happening this year. There’s been no official announcement from the regulators that we can find as of yet, but it’s alleged that overages in the recreational harvest are forcing the season’s elimination. As soon as they issue an official press release or make a public announcement, we’ll be sure to pass on the news.

tug towing a barge
This 120-foot barge is on its way to becoming the Mid-Atlantic's newest fishing reef. Photo courtesy of Capt. Monty Hawkins

In the “good news” department, even as the current fishing options dwindle to our one regional winter mainstay of hunting tog on the wrecks and reefs, those wrecks and reefs continue to expand thanks to reef building efforts. On Thursday the OC Reef Foundation sunk a 120-foot barge to initiate construction of Big Dad’s Reef at the Jackspot.

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, January 7 Update:

Welcome to 2022 anglers! As the new year dawns we have plenty of fishing opportunities despite the chill in the air, and for coastal anglers the first bite of note comes in the form of oceanic winter stripers. Lots of them, and big ones, too. We received multiple reader reports over the holiday and into the first week of the year of 40-inch-plus oceanic stripers, including many on the shoals off Ocean City within the three-mile limit. But all reports were pre-storm and since the unsettled weather we heard from a reader who couldn't locate the fish.

winter ocean striper
Boomer got into 'em!

Boats hitting the wrecks, meanwhile, are shifting gears with sea bass now closed and mostly targeting tog. Capt. Monty on the Morning Star reports that blues from two to five pounds are also on the wrecks from Maryland down through Virginia, and we heard one (unconfirmed) crazy catch type of report this week: a mako was accidentally hooked by a wreck-fishing angler when it attacked a fish on the line.