Tangier, Pocomoke, and Lower Eastern Shore Fishing Report, January 2024

Tangier Sound, Pocomoke Sound, and Lower Eastern Shore Fishing Report, January 26 Update:

Big news was announced this week for striped bass regulations. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has voted for option B2, setting Chesapeake Bay 2024 striped bass regulations across all jurisdictions in Maryland, Virginia, and the Potomac River. The limit will be one fish per person per day with a slot from 19 to 24 inches. Seasons will remain the same as 2022 through this action, but the State of Maryland in its latest action has proposed eliminating May trophy season plus adding another week during the summer closure to extend it through the first week of August. Maryland DNR announced an “Emergency Regulation” ending trophy season and simultaneously closing catch-and-release fishing during the same period. That “Emergency” action appears to have stalled. The DNR announced that since the Joint Committee on Administration, Executive, and Legislative Review has not taken action, a public comment period on this now-proposed change has been opened. You can click on this link to the DNR Striped Bass – Changes to Season Comment Form to voice your opinion.

bass fishing the tributaries
Hitting the tribs will likely be the most productive move in the area for the immediate future.

Fishing opportunities are limited this time of year as we wait out the cold weather. Anglers on the lower Eastern Shore do have good opportunities for panfish, bass, and pickerel during the winter, however. The Pocomoke River has some excellent crappie fishing, and that bite is happening right now. Sea Hawk Sports Center recommends using live minnows, which they have in stock, for the crappie. Fishing them under a weighted bobber or slow trolling them is very effective. The Eastern Shore mill ponds also have some of the best pickerel fishing in the state. Live minnows work excellent for them as well as artificial lures like spinnerbaits and jerkbaits.

The ASMFC has also voted and set the coastal striped bass regulations for this year. The regulations will maintain the current slot of 28 to 31 inches and the seasons will remain the same. Sector separation has also been eliminated and both recreational and charter boat anglers are limited to one fish per person per day. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission also recently voted to open a special recreational black sea bass season for February 2024. If you are interested in participating, vessel captains can visit the VMRC website to obtain their free permit. Also make sure to read the recreational reporting facts sheet to read more about reporting requirements.

Tangier Sound, Pocomoke Sound, and Lower Eastern Shore Fishing Report, January 19 Update:

It was a cold week with snow and wind keeping many anglers from venturing out on the water. The striped bass bite out on the main stem of the Bay has dialed back a bit and many anglers are waiting for warmer weather to try their hand at them again. This time of year, pan fishing in the lower shore tidal rivers is a popular option when other opportunities are limited. Sea Hawk Sports Center says that the Pocomoke River has some fantastic crappie fishing along with yellow perch, largemouth bass, and pickerel being common bycatches in the winter. Floating live minnows under a bobber is one of the best ways to catch them. If live bait isn’t an option, small shad darts and rubber jigs can work very well too.

summer snakehead on the eastern shore
Yeah, we remember when...

The cold weather has locked up many fishing locations with ice this week. Larger water bodies should still have some open water, but opportunities may be limited until we get a thaw. The pickerel fishing in the Eastern Shore mill ponds has been great to start the year, but with the ice, these locations will likely be difficult to access. Fishing should pick back up right where it left off when the ice does melt. Pickerel will hang around shallow water structures like fallen trees, rocks, and docks as they prefer shallow areas with drop offs nearby. If you haven’t already, make sure to sign up for the CCA Pickerel Championship. There is still a month and a half left to compete against fellow anglers in multiple divisions and Calcuttas.

Tangier Sound, Pocomoke Sound, and Lower Eastern Shore Fishing Report, January 11 Update:

The weather has not been kind to us to start 2024 with strong winds and heavy rains appearing every few days in the Chesapeake region. Storms last weekend and during the middle part of this week has kept most anglers off the water. We even saw wind gusts over 70 mph along the coast and on the Bay Tuesday night. Reports have been very slim, and most anglers are waiting for a turn in the weather before getting back out. When the weather does turn, the lower shore tidal rivers have been productive locations for many of our freshwater species including pickerel, crappie, and bass. The Pocomoke River has some of the best crappie fishing on the Eastern Shore. Throwing small Bettle Spins or drifting live minnows under a bobber near submerged structure are two productive methods. The Eastern Shore mill ponds also offer some of the best pickerel fishing in the state. The winter bite is in full swing, and Contributor Eric Packard reports constant action in the millponds. In fact, on one cloudy morning of drowning minnow from their kayaks he and fellow Contributor David Rudow caught 28 pickerel (plus some bass) between them, up to a whopping 26.5”. We wish the forecast for this weekend looked good for fishing, but it looks less than promising. Very strong winds are forecasted, so fishing trips may have to wait until next week.

tangier sound fishing
When we can make it back out to open water those big fish should still be around... if the weatherman would just cooperate!!

Tangier Sound, Pocomoke Sound, and Lower Eastern Shore Fishing Report, January 5 Update:

Happy New Year everyone! We are looking forward to a great 2024 fishing season. Now that we are in the new year, striped bass season has closed for both Maryland and Virginia waters. Catch and release fishing is still permitted, and big migratory striped bass are still being caught anywhere from Cape Charles up to the Middle Bay grounds along major channel edges. Running out to water depths between 30 and 50 feet will put you in the right zone to start searching for these fish. Locating birds with radar, or a good ole fashioned pair of binoculars, has been leading anglers to actively feeding fish ranging from 20 inches all the way up to the 50-inch mark.

yellow perch from the shore
Herb caught this beautiful yellow perch while on the hunt for pickerel... oh, and he caught some of those toothy critters, too!

Pickerel and perch are also popular winter targets, and they are being caught in the Eastern Shore millponds and tidal rivers such as the Pocomoke. Recent reports from anglers showed that the pickerel are hanging around shallow grass beds in two to three feet of water, near shoreline structures, or are hanging at the ends of creeks in around five feet of water. Any lure with flash is producing bites right now, especially inline spinners paired with paddletails. Pickerel anglers should check out the CCA Pickerel Championship which runs until the end of February. The biggest three fish stringer can earn you some cool prizes and bragging rights among other anglers.

On the seaside there are still some big striped bass out along the coast, but many are just out of range in the Exclusive Economic Zone. When the tuna bite was hot, boats were picking up stripers inside that zone, so there is a chance they are close enough to target. It will take covering ground to find them though, so keep that in mind. Maryland and Virginias coastal striped bass season is open from now until March 31st with a slot of 28- to 31-inches. You can visit the Maryland DNR website and the VMRC website to view a map of the coastal boundary.