Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, September 2020

Coastal Fishing Reports presented by Legendary Trailers

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, September 25 Update:

Anglers: due to all the blustery weather the past week, we had a tough time getting our usual data dump. Reader reports were down and several of our usual sources simply said they haven't been able to get out. We've gathered what info we could, but have to warn everyone that this week's reports are on the thin side.

anglers on the morning star party boat
The Morning Star got out after the blow and had a solid fishing report for sea bass action out of OC.

Thanks to the weather, offshore reports are virtually non-existent. Okay, that’s not accurate: they’re completely non-existent. Inshore, reports from Indian River are of blues in the inlet, hitting on spoons. Old Inlet Bait & Tackle says the surf has been unfishable. Capt. Monty on the Morning Star out of Ocean City managed to make it out after the blow, and reported that the sea bass bite was steady and many of his anglers were limiting out as well as picking up a few flounder. As he had predicted, however, it appears that thanks to the stormy weather the inshore mahi-mahi run of 2020 has reached its end. We also had one reader report of a pair of sheepshead caught on sand fleas from the OC inlet.

As with ports to the north, very few boats have made it out from Virginia Beach in the past week. Thursday was the first decent day and some inshore Spanish mackerel action was reported, but beyond that post-blow action remains a question-mark. Oceans East is prepping up for their Swordfish tournament running the month of October, and if 2020 is like last year there should be some stellar daytime swordfishing action at the canyons — be sure to check out our feature on daytime swording in the new edition of FishTalk, which just hit the streets this week.

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, September 18 Update:

A few boats proved the whites are at the southern canyons in solid fall numbers, but unfortunately, since the difficult weather set in it has shut down much of the offshore fishery recently. Boats up and down the coast from Indian River to Virginia Beach that have stayed closer to home have had great news for anyone who loves catching sea bass. The bite has remained absolutely wonderful with the trend continuing into fall, boats are often having no problems loading up before heading in, and a few are also picking flounder off the reefs. Meanwhile, Capt. Monty on the Morning Star reports that baits tossed around the inshore bass pots off Ocean City are still producing plenty of peanut mahi, although these fish can be expected to abandon the inshore grounds any day now as chilly nights set it. Hey, it’s been great while it lasted and it can’t last forever.

billing a white marlin
Whites are out there, the problem recently is getting to them.

Boats running out of Virginia’s ports have had a better mix of options close to home. Spanish mackerel are just about everywhere inshore, and a handful of decent kings are still being caught a bit farther out on shoals. Some ribbonfish are still in town, too.

In the coastal bays flounder remain plentiful, and mostly small. Gulp! and squid/minnow combos on Fluke Killer rigs are both getting bit, but it takes a lot of weeding through shorts to put fish in the box. One interesting change in a reader report this week: in Ocean City some croaker have shown up, and they’re chunky, eating-sized fish. Squid strips on bottom rigs were doing the catching.

Coastal correspondent John Unkart continues to pluck fish off the beach at Assateague, and reports that although this week the pompano he found last week didn’t continue to stack his cooler, hordes of eating-sized spot plus snapper blues moved in. Spot were being hauled up two at a time, when the tide was right. In the inlets, we’ve heard from readers catching sheepshead at Indian River and Ocean City, being caught along the rocks on sand fleas and crab baits.

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, September 11 Update:

Angler in Chief Lenny Rudow reports that an Adventure Trip to bass pots ranging from 18 to 30 miles off Ocean City produced plenty of mahi-mahi on squid baits and jigs, with no huge fish in the mix but plenty in the five to 10 pound class. What was so adventurous about catching mahi? Check it out:

Meanwhile, two readers reported catches of longfin from the northern canyons. Ballyhoo and Green Machines did the trick. Mahi were in short supply farther out, however, and even when weedlines were spotted they were often barren. There were more mahi in the southern canyons with one angler hitting the Norfolk reporting eight in the box plus a white bite. Anglers shifting to deep drops are getting plenty of tilefish, but if you want in on this action don’t forget you need the new tilefish permit. Interesting note: we also heard about a white bite at the Jack Spot last weekend, from a reader.

anglers catch from offshore fishing
Jonathan tied into this 81-pound wahoo on a TLD20 at the Washington – and won!

Inshore anglers working off of Virginia Beach continue to catch a nice mix of ribbonfish and Spanish mackerel, with one reader reporting a banner day consisting of over a dozen of each species while trolling small spoons and plugs. Those pushing a bit farther out are also catching bigger king mackerel, again on spoons. Out of OC, meanwhile, Capt. Monty on the Morning Star continues to report a mix of sea bass and flounder and he’s also putting plenty of peanut dolphin on the decks.

Back on the beach we heard from Junior J. this week, after he took a successful venture for sheepshead in the OC inlet. Green crabs were the bait of choice. Flounder anglers working the coastal bays have had so-so action in Indian River, but we heard from two vacationers who fished the Thoroughfare in OC several times last week and did quite well overall. The throwback-to-keeper ratio was five to one but the bites were so consistent that the coolers held between three and six keeper fish by the end of the day.

In the surf of Assateague, Coastal Correspondent John Unkart has continued to peck away at kingfish and spot and says that most days, gathering up dinner is not a problem. A bit more exciting, however, is that this week he picked up his first two pompano of the season—and then he focused on them and the next day he had five laid out in the sand. His tip: A strip of squid with a bit of Fishbites bloodworms on small chartreuse doodlebug rigs are the ticket. He also notes that for some reason they weren’t taking fleas, and that they hit best when the rigs were slowly dragged through the trough.

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, September 4 Update:

The hurricane moving up the coast this weekend followed by on and off iffy weather put a serious damper on offshore fishing, but some boats still made it out to the wrecks. The Ocean City Fishing Center reported that sea bass boats coming in reported hefty catches, with none complaining about slim pickings. There have also been mahi in the mix for just about everyone up and down the coast, both inshore and offshore. Captain Cook tells us that along with flounder and bass on the wrecks off Delaware’s coast there are also now lots of triggerfish in town. Captain Monty on the Morning Star has been enjoying a nice mix of flounder, mahi, and some sea bass, though he does note that the bass bite isn't quite as spectacular as it was most of the summer. At the southern end of the spectrum a few boats made the long run to Norfolk in recent days and reported finding some pilot whales with yellowfin hunting nearby.

angler with tuna
The Whites had a great time offshore at the Norfolk, including some nice yellowfin.

Coastal Correspondent John Unkart reports a so-so bite at the beach, with lots of very small fish nibbling away his baits on a regular basis. He says that if you stick to it you’ll still catch your fair share of keeper kingfish plus spot, but plan on bringing plenty of bloodworms, squid strips, and Fishbites, and check your hooks often because they’ve been getting nibbled bare in no time.