Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, August 2023

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, August 25 Update:

School is getting ready to start as summer is drawing close to its end across the Chesapeake Bay region. While that may be sad news for some, many anglers welcome this time of year. Water temperatures are warm and there are plenty of fish to be caught. Bottom fishing is great in all the rivers as spot, croaker, and trout are eager to hit a variety of baits dropped down on bottom rigs. Bloodworms, Fishbites, and shrimp work great. Out in deeper water near reefs and bridge pilings, flounder fishing is great. The bigger fish have been preferring live bait drifted along the bottom, but any traditional flounder rig should get these fish biting. Sheepshead are another popular fish to target but require some technical angling to have success. Crab baits such as fiddlers are their preferred bait, and you’ll have to drop them right next to bridge pilings to get a bite. It can be tough to fish in the swift current, but the chance at a trophy fish is worth it for many anglers searching for the sheep. Last weekend David Rudow and Contributor Eric Packard both looked for them at Kiptopeke, but report that hordes of small sea bass pecked their hooks clean one bait after the next and after moving from the ships the only quality fish they tied into was a flounder.

flounder from the kayak
David shifted gears when the sheepshead refused to cooperate, and picked up this flounder.

The red drum bite near the mouth of the Bay has been great and late August/early September is primetime for red hot action on drum. A boat fishing near the islands of the CBBT had a great day targeting reds this week. They landed six fish all between 31 and 37 inches while drifting baits in 25 feet of water. Before heading to the big water, they stopped inside the Little Creek Inlet and caught spot and croaker to use for live bait. They noted that jigging for these fish with artificials did not produce any bites and the fish were much more willing to hit live bait. The inshore red drum bite has also been very good at the inlets and rivers. A few anglers fishing inside the Elizabeth River caught four reds between 21 and 22 inches while throwing paddletials. They also caught six cutlassfish. This time of year, it’s not uncommon to catch other fish than the species you are targeting and just about anything is on the table.

Boats trolling along the oceanfront beaches are catching a mix of bluefish and Spanish mackerel while trolling Drone or Clark spoons. These fish often follow schools of baitfish anywhere between 15 to 40 feet of water. On calm days, you can find them blitzing on bait. This is when you want to break out the light tackle rods with metal spoons for some fun action. While metal lures are best, just about anything you throw into the frenzy will likely get hit. Cutlassfish are also abundant in these same areas. They can be caught by trolling or jigging. If you are trying to mark them on the depth finder, look for vertical marks on your screen as these fish often sit vertically in the water column. Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and cutlassfish are all great to eat, so bring a cooler along to bring home some fish for dinner.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, August 18 Update:

The warm summer waters have been providing ample fishing opportunities all throughout this region of the Bay. Virginia Beach Sport Fishing says that the nearshore action along the beachfront has consisted of bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ribbonfish, and the occasional king mackerel. Many boats are trolling small spoons and absolutely crushing the mackerel. When the fish come up breaking, they offer great fun on light tackle. Casting any variety of metal jig, spoon, or Gotcha plug into the frenzy should have your rod bending in no time. These fish are being caught on the oceanfront and along channel edges in the main stem of the bay anywhere between 15 and 40 feet of water.

king mackerel fishing
Some king mackerel are showing up along the oceanfront (old photo).

Way South correspondent Chuck Harrison checked in after a fishing trip last weekend. Chuck and a close friend went searching for bull reds near the CBBT with their light tackle gear. They were able to hook up twice, but one fish broke off and another pulled the hook. After searching for bulls, they stopped at the first island to search for flounder but didn’t find any willing to bite. That’s a perfect example of why they call it fishing and not catching. The general area around the CBBT is one of the hotspots for targeting the bull reds in the Bay and many anglers target them with artificial lures, but many also catch them by dropping down live croaker or cut bait. An angler targeting spadefish was shocked when he caught a big black drum that ate a fingernail-sized piece of clam on a small number one hook fished near the CBBT. He also reported catching sheepshead, triggerfish, spadefish, sea bass, tautog, and flounder. Another angler had a great day out on the water catching a nearly 40-inch red drum out of his kayak. They then landed a 19-inch sheepshead, two keeper flounder, and plenty of croaker and bluefish.

The southern reaches of the Bay from Cape Charles south are still producing the best cobia action. Sight fishing, live lining eels, or dropping down cut bait will all give you a chance to lure in the man in the big brown suit.

Speckled trout and red drum are biting for light tackle anglers fishing the shallows. Low light hours have been providing good topwater action but once the sun gets up, these fish will usually head to deeper water to find cooler temperatures. Shallow areas with deep water nearby are good areas to search right now.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, August 11 Update:

Fishing this time of year will give you a sampling of almost everything the Chesapeake Bay fishery has to offer. Opportunities are abundant from the inshore rivers to the deep waters offshore and there are plenty of gamefish that have been entertaining anglers.  Virginia Beach Sport Fishing reports that cobia fishing is good throughout the lower Bay. Boats have been finding the best success by sight fishing them as they cruise along the top of the water. When they are spotted, tossing out a live eel or bucktail dressed with a large soft plastic can usually interest them into biting. Anchoring up to bait fish is another popular method but be prepared to deal with rays and sharks as bycatch. At the CBBT, there is a world class sheepshead fishery that many anglers have been enjoying. Many of these fish weigh into the double digits. Dropping down pieces of fiddler crab or other crustaceans on sweeper jigs is the most popular way to catch them. These fish hang close to the pilings, so you’ll have to get close to drop down where the fish are holding.

kayak fishing for redfish
Tim wrangled in a sweet slot fish on the kayak.

The red drum bite has been fantastic anywhere from the shallows out to the deeper waters of the main stem of the Chesapeake. A lot of slot sized fish have been caught inside the rivers and inlets this week on both cut bait and artificial lures. Plenty of other gamefish species are abundant throughout the shallows and it’s not uncommon to catch a few different species during a trip out on the water. One boat fishing in an unspecified location reported catching a three-man limit of red drum. All the drum were caught using peeler crab on fish finder rigs. A fly fisherman casting around the Elizabeth River found some nice slot drum on a trip this week. He also caught five croaker which he said were on the smaller side. Another fly angler reported catching a mixed bag of species including two drum, eight speckled trout, two bluefish, a flounder, croaker, white perch, and oyster toadfish. The fish were biting good early but slowed down once the sun got up. The big bull reds have been cruising around the CBBT and boats have been taking advantage of this amazing fishery. A few anglers fishing north of the CBBT boated three citation sized fish while drifting cut spot during a trip early in the week. The drum bite should remain good throughout the rest of summer and into the fall.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, August 4 Update:

There was some great fishing this week and many anglers are taking advantage of abundant fishing opportunities as we move into late summer on the Chesapeake Bay. Virginia Beach Sport Fishing let us know that king mackerel have been making more of an appearance this week at the nearshore waters. The boats that have been catching them are trolling large spoons or live bait like mullet. They are usually caught anywhere from 15 to 40 feet of water and are commonly seen jumping close to the beaches.

cobia at the cbbt
Matt got into the cobia fishing near the CBBT.

If you want to target other big fish, cobia are a solid option. They are scattered throughout the southern Bay areas with hotspots including the CBBT, Kiptopeke, and Cape Charles, and a reader checked in this week with a pair of 46’s from the CBBT. Many boats enjoy sight fishing for them, but this usually requires a tower. Casting live eels or bucktails works great if you can spot them cruising on top. Another popular way to fish for them is to anchor up and drop down chunks of cut bunker, just be prepared to catch some sharks and rays as bycatch.

Bull reds are hanging around the islands of the CBBT, but you have a chance of running into them just about anywhere in this region. One reader reported finding a hot bite for bull redfish between Kiptopeake and the CBBT. They fished at night and said that the bite was slow to start but once the moon came out it really turned on. They were dropping down big soft plastics and jigging for the reds as they drifted over them. A cool sight that they witnessed was the full moon illuminating the water, which had blue crabs coming up to swim at the top of the water — and the bull reds were coming up to eat them on the surface. During the night they boated multiple fish in the mid to upper 40s.

At the local rivers and inlets, puppy drum, speckled trout, bluefish, and Flounder are all abundant. The Elizabeth River is a historically good location for targeting specked trout and every year there are some giants caught here. The puppy drum bite has been good in the surf on the oceanfront, the James River, and the York River. Paddletails are working great for both the specks and the pups. Flounder have been tempted by Gulp! baits and the bluefish are willing to hit just about any lure or soft plastic. No matter where you are fishing in the Way South region of the Bay, there are plenty of fish willing to bite so get out there and get after them.